Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Uppercut Games
Developer: Uppercut Games
There's a very easy way to determine whether you'll enjoy Submerged: is climbing your favourite part of Uncharted? Do you like the parkour elements of Assassin's Creed more than anything else in that series? If yes, then Submerged will be right up your alley. If not, you'll probably hate it.
I know that's a pretty simplistic way of looking at things, but Submerged is a pretty simplistic game. There's no combat. No enemies. No clock or timer looming over your head. No dialogue. No way to die. It's just you and your boat, exploring a city's waterlogged ruins.
Admittedly, there's a bit of a story pushing everything forward: you're looking for supplies to help save your brother's life. And that, in turn, informs your in-game actions, at least to an extent — your exploration will end up being driven largely by telltale glimpses of shiny objects (which indicate emergency rations are close by) and red flowers (which mean you'll be able to climb into the ruined building to look around).
But it only pushes you forward to the extent you let it. Without a clock, you can simply drift around the city for days on end, taking in the sights and occasional sounds of a drowned, mostly deserted city. In fact, for players for whom the exploration is the main draw, finding rations may actually be a disincentive, since once you uncover those the game automatically cuts your exploration short, and you instantly get taken back to your home base and your brother.
This is actually a really odd design choice, since Submerged is clearly meant to be all about exploration. The developers put a lot of effort into creating a world that's meant to be discovered, with little hints of what life was like pre-disaster scattered everywhere. There are the big, obvious signs that you're looking around what used to be a thriving metropolis: the skeletal remains of a stadium's lights, a giant statue towering over everything, some gorgeous hotels. But there are also the smaller details that make the world feel lived in: a pig-shaped butcher sign here, billboards and ads ads painted on the sides of buildings there. It's things like this that transform the game from being just a pretty-looking tech demo to being something worth playing — and why I don't understand the game's reasoning behind reducing the amount of time you spend looking around, particularly when it's a fairly short game as it is.
Should you devote the time to it, though? Again, it goes back to that initial question: how much do you like climbing and exploring? On the whole, I think it's worth it, since Subdmerged's world is absolutely gorgeous, and it's relaxing to just drift along on the current as dolphins and sting rays and whales swim by. If you want a deeper, meatier experience, though, you'd probably be better served looking elsewhere, because this game just doesn't have that.