Where’s Kevin Kostner?
Submerged: Hidden Depths plays like Waterworld: The Videogame. With a reference that old I may be betraying my age there, but such a comparison is easy to make. A large, open-world, where ruins lay scattered and decaying in a flooded post-apocalyptic world; travel between ruins conducted by boat – throw in Kevin Costner and you can see why such a comparison was forefront in my mind as I played.
The main difference between Submerged: Hidden Depths and Waterworld is the fact that Submerged is actually good. Intricate and beautifully designed environments with plenty of things to collect, Submerged feels like a nice, slower-paced cleanser to the abundance of open-world games we have had at our disposal recently.
Release Date: March 9th, 2022 (PSN, Microsoft Store, PC) | December 3rd, 2020 (Stadia)
Developer: Uppercut Games
Publisher: Uppercut Games
Availability: PSN, Microsoft Store, Steam, Stadia
With a huge focus on exploration, Submerged: Hidden Depths has a more relaxed and chilled out vibe when compared to other games in the genre, feeling more like Journey rather than a Horizon. Lacking any combat, or in fact any form of fail state that would result in death at all, Submerged: Hidden Depths is a game that many will enjoy while others bemoan about how easy it is.
The story revolves around a mysterious black mass that has taken over the landscape and turned all living creatures into strange, plant like statues, while sparing the brother and sister duo you control. Uncovering the mystery is the basis of the story, as you travel the land by foot and boat, with the blanks in the story slowly revealed the more you explore.
Initially, exploration is a little overwhelming as there are so many items to collect and areas to uncover. Boat parts, relics, diary entries, new costumes – all are hidden throughout the world waiting to be discovered. To some, this could be a huge turnoff, but luckily the world is relatively simple to navigate which means you are never too far away from something else to do.
As you discover ruins (which can be quickly spotted and pinned to the map using your telescope), you must first dock your boat before venturing forward on foot. Some ruins contain nothing more than a diary entry which serves to slowly drip feed you the story, but others serve a larger purpose with more to unlock and discover.
These larger ruins not only contain diary entries but further collectables in the shape of cosmetics and strange flowers that grow in hidden, hard to reach places. Hidden somewhere within these larger structures lies a large root, and it is your job to first find and then plant within it a strange seed. Doing so will then cleanse the black tendrils from the ruins, and unlock that structure as a fast travel destination should you wish to return later.
This is the basis of the gameplay in Submerged: Hidden depths, with each area basically following the same pattern. Thankfully, each structure does feel uniquely designed so exploration doesn’t get old, but don’t expect any overly taxing puzzles. The ruins, although well designed in terms of how appearance, are very linear when it comes to making your way through them. Granted there are a few dead ends or shortcuts that make mopping up any collectables a little easier, but overall they have one single route through them from beginning to end.
Adding to that, one of the most frustrating aspects for me was when I would near the end of one of the larger ruins but having missed a collectable or item on your way. Even with any newly opened shortcuts, having to retrace your steps from beginning to end can feel like a chore, especially as there is no sprint button to speak of.
In fact, there is not much use for many of the buttons at all. Controlling both characters is down to the analogue stick, with all actions (other than picking up items) contextual to the surroundings. Want to jump? You have to look for the red-painted platforms that indicate where a jump is possible, then simply run into them to jump forward automatically. The same goes for swinging on ropes or climbing on ledges.
Overall this does make for a stress-free game, but it also feels like it takes some of the challenge away. I wasn’t worried when it came to exploring a ruin as I knew there were no enemies laying in wait or tricky jumps that might scupper a run, as every calculated movement was taken out of my hands. Although this does remove most if not all of the stress of playing, it does feel a little cheap at the same time.
Controlling the boat does offer a bit more in terms of variety, and is surprisingly fun to do. Blasting over the waves and looking for boat parts in enjoyable, and in short bursts serves as a nice way to break up the on-foot exploration.
For some, Submerged: Hidden Depths will be a short but joyous exploration of a strange and sunken world, while others will moan about the number of collectables and lack of challenge. Both are equal and valid points, but for me Submerged: Hidden Depths does just enough to mean that overall I did enjoy the time I spent with it. With a story that is interesting enough to keep you playing until the end and lush environments that are fun to explore, Submerged: Hidden Depths is a decent enough game if you are looking for something that isn’t too difficult or taxing.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5
Submerged: Hidden Depths ReviewSubmerged: Hidden Depths Review
- Lush environments to explore
- Simple controls - easy to pick up and play without too much thinking
- Great tracking system that helps you keep on top of nearly everything
- Can feel a bit repetitive as you hunt for the last collectible in one ruin only to sail to another to do it all again
- Simple controls take away any feeling of challenge of accomplishment in what you are doing