Updated: Feb 18
Playing Submerged: Hidden Depths is a weird experience at first. The game starts with the player with next to no information about what is happening or why. However, the game’s slow-burn benefits the entire experience in several ways. Frankly, the entire experience is made by the sum of its parts.
Submerged: Hidden Depths plot is…well it’s complicated.
The player controls a brother and a sister, Taku and Miku, as they explore a destroyed city. The world has been consumed by evil-looking plants that have corrupted every living thing. The evidence of corruption is apparent everywhere you look. Any other human being has been transformed into strange plant-like forms, their camps have been destroyed by the invading plants. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has been submerged in water with the only standing buildings being massive skyscrapers. For the most part, the plot is told through discoverable diary entries and small amounts of exposition. A lot of the plot is told through the interaction of the two siblings.
The siblings themselves are an interesting pair, even though they really don’t talk. The majority of the game focuses on Miku’s journey to save the world by turning the corrupted plants back to their normal state. Miku herself is a character who is full of regret for her actions that have led her and her brother to this place. She knows she has a task to complete but hates the fact that her brother has been forced into this life. Her brother, however, only wants to help his sister. Both characters are given their own motivations and beliefs and the interactions between the two are filled with emotion, even with limited dialogue.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is described as a third-person ‘relaxporation’ adventure. The game focuses on completing puzzles and exploring the sunken world. There is no real combat to speak of and there is no real danger to the characters. Players will enter their boat and sail around the world to find the buildings that have a seed, which they can use to give new life to the world around them. The open-world parts have plenty of other things for the player to find, from pieces of tech to animals and diary entries. Each of these can be used for character customisation or to tell the story of the world.
When it comes to the puzzles the gameplay is simple. The player will need to climb the building to find the seed using a climbing system. It’s relatively simple to use and the controls are easy to understand. There’s no real risk and no chance of the character falling or hurting themselves. I understand that this could be considered boring, at least compared to the more manic experiences on offer. However, there is enough here to keep the player invested and the calming experience is pleasant to play through. This isn’t a game you play through in a manic rush, it needs to be savoured and is great for relaxing. The puzzles are simply in front of you, there’s nothing to worry about other than how to get from A to B.
Helping this feeling of relaxation is the design of the game, and boy howdy does it deliver. While the graphics are not exactly the highest on offer, there is a certain beauty here that is amazing to see. The play of the water and the fish diving out of the waves is all well animated and feels natural. The destroyed buildings jutting out of the rolling crashing surf as the rain pummels down around you is scenic and immersive. It really helps the player feel like they are in a living world. The animation is stellar especially, and I know I might sound like a broken record, the water effects. It’s hard to get water to look right, and this game has done a stellar attempt.
The music is also fantastically done and helps to fit into the idea of ‘relaxploration’. The songs that play slowly match the events that occur on screen, with the roll of the waves being complemented by the rising crescendo of the music. Dear lord does this sound pretentious, but hell it suits the theme of the game so well it’s worth it. Nothing feels out of place and it all helps to make the experience enjoyable.
However, there are faults and it is my job to point them out. Really the main fault lies with what I said before. There is no real risk here and no reason to really want to push the plot forwards. The game is great in short sessions, but it has a hard time keeping players interested for longer periods. Also, if you hate collecting things then this is not the game for you. There is little to do in the world other than find collectables.
Overall, Submerged: Hidden Depths is a game with…well, a lot of depth. There are things on offer here that will speak to fans of this type of adventure, and possibly even some stuff that will bring new fans in. However, certain limitations might turn people away.
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