QCF: Submerged

f there’s one thing that any action video game needs, it’s a sense of stimulus, something that engages a reaction, and response to whatever’s happening on screen, and more often than not, the very first go to for the violent route—good old fashioned combat.

So imagine if you will, a title that endorses action and peril, but no combat, or violence of any kind to threaten you? It’s a game that completely relies on the agency of exploration and world building in a story that’s centers around the human condition during a time of tragedy, and hopelessness.

This is Submerged from Uppercut Games, an apocalyptic setting with veiled premise that attributes global warming to be the culprit behind the tragic setting, where a woman and her injured little one find what little refuge they can within a dilapidated building that’s floating alongside the remains of buildings for miles, upon miles in view.

The gameplay of Submerged centers on the world it subtly builds over the course of the game.

Surveying the manmade archipelagos of the surfaced ruins that stand above of the surface of the unforgiving water around you, it’s your job to seek out, and recover any, and all supplies that you can get your hands on in order to ensure of the survival of the little boy in your care.

Whatever pace you choose to take is up to you, and the direction of the campaign is entirely up to that, and where ever you plan to start from after the initial caches of supplies you recover—it’s a weird juxtaposition of feeling overwhelmed, and liberated all at once.

It’s all thanks to the ambience at work. Submerged is surprisingly able to make navigating a forlorn seascape of endless water without any sort of threat looming over you is a venture that proves to be more pleasant than you would ever imagine it being because of the inconsistent exchange of vibrant life in one instance, and quiet stillness the next.

The beauty of the title’s presentation is also ingenious towards how it naturally plays into driving one of the game’s biggest mechanics. The activity and stir of Submerged’s world instills a motivation to be curious about everything within sight; influencing you to scan each, and every detail you can while sailing through the stifling waves of the ocean, and helping you reach the objective you in the process.

If blind seafaring doesn’t seem all that appealing then fret not, you do have a telescope in your arsenal that you can use to better search for these vital supply locations, and it has wonderful design where it begins to focus on any special points of interest the instant you broach your view near anything important.

Once you’ve set your sights on some supplies, you can start the long ascent up the ancient building side of the waterlogged, ramshackle of a skyscraper until you reach your destination—this is the most quote unquote “intense” that Submerged is ever gets.

Spotting the paths available to you on the climb is fairly easy after you’ve gathered a few supply loads; anything from red rose pedals to ledges that protrude from the wall in any way, possessing their own limitations in how you go about scaling them as well. The climbing system is sound, and there’s a lot of variety within the placement of the obstacles to throw players off of their climbing game, but the fact of the matter is that these segments only get to be more tedious before they ever get to be difficult, or challenging.

To be more specific, the dynamics to ascend the various scaffoldings are as simple as maneuvering the control stick in the direction you want to go, and inputting the action command on your action button in a contextually sensitive area that presents itself.

And with that, I’ve honestly covered the only two things you really when playing Submerged—sail and climb, watch an ambiguous cutscene, sail and climb, get some veiled clues to the back story of the game that’re so cryptic that they’re not worth the effort deciphering, then sail, and climb, again.

While one of the big selling points to this title is the total lack of violence or failure, the creative direction unintentionally stifles the pace of the title by removing any possibility of failing to complete the objective of the game, which in turn, makes it predictable.

Granted, the addition of extra trinkets to collect for completion add a little complexity to the gameplay, as they feature their own route on whatever structure you’re climbing that’s distinct from the main supply pickup, but in the end; it’s just more climbing.

Don’t get me wrong, the world of Submerged and the flooded disrepair of its environment is beautiful to observe, and captivating enough to enjoyably explore; but then the whole thing drags on a lot longer than it should, leading to the whole experience gradually losing its charm in the process.

Overall, I still think the game is worth a look, but only if the idea of getting lost within a world that’s gorgeously, and vibrantly presented, sounds like something you’d be into—because everything else Submerged offers is a bit of a letdown.

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