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SUBMERGED Review: A Post-Apocalyptic Narrative With Elegance

Unique, sprawling post-apocalyptic environments coupled with intriguing and minimalistic storytelling; that’s what Uppercut Games bring to the table with their aquatic, post civilization adventure, Submerged.

Navigating serene landscapes, players are encouraged to enjoy the tranquility of exploration at their leisure in a gameplay experience untainted by cluttering story elements.

Story 

It’s a new take on a classic story about family ties and perseverance. A young girl Miku must face the odds to save her brother, Taku, from fatal injuries. Armed only with a small boat, a telescope, and an incredible amount of climbing stamina, Miku must gather first aid supplies if Taku is to survive.

The story telling in Submerged is conveyed in a series of archetypal story book pages. As each page is uncovered, a moment is spent piecing it into the overarching narrative, allowing the player to interpret and piece the story together as they go. As each page falls into place, the puzzle will piece itself together unraveling not only the story of Miku and Taku’s origins, but also the history beneath the flooded city.

The simplicity of this storytelling dictates that only a few moments are spent on this narrative assembly and encourage the player to dive back into the exploration process. There is plenty of breathing room in Submerged, and for that you will be thankful.

Gameplay

At the center of this exploration adventure, Submerged uses platforming, by way of climbing mazes, to carry players through its narrative. Buildings with crumbling ledges, drain pipes, ladders, and vines creeping along the walls provide routes upward, oftentimes sporting multiple pathways leading to various objectives. As Miku traverses the city in her fishing boat, she will fill in her map, pinpointing locations with promise of supplies. Her telescope allows a closer look at some of the more distant or taller buildings in order to scope out potential access routes or even pinpoint potential collectibles. Ques to climbable locations are marked fairly noticeably, allowing players to plan their route before even approaching the building.

The climbing puzzles in Submerged provide a majority of the gameplay but that is hardly the real takeaway. Sure, each building offers its own series of challenges and missing a pathway could mean missing a piece of the story. But while technically complex and generally entertaining, Submerged doesn’t play like a game that is focused on its moment to moment gameplay. The true experience of the game does not come from finding the correct routes along the building and solving the puzzle, but instead in the moments of scenic bliss as you find ledges and rooftops that offer moments to forget the objective based gameplay, and instead simply soak in the surroundings.

Sound and Graphics

As sun drifts into the horizon, silhouettes of buildings against the sunset disappear into the sea below. Dolphins leap from the waters behind you, whistling and following the boat as you coast along. Weaving in and out of buildings, a whale leaps into the air ahead of you before splashing back down into the sea and swimming ahead.

The sound and visuals in Submerged are, inarguably, it’s most charming feature. Made with Unreal 4, the environments and character models are crisp and vibrant.  Sure, upon a closer look, flaws may be noticed. Transitioning from day to night can occasionally produce some strange outcomes. But moving through the city as it unfolds ahead of you, it’s easy to get lost in the beautiful scenery. Graphically, Submerged doesn’t disappoint.

Control and Movement 

If there is anything in Submerged that could perhaps use some tweaking, it would be with the controls. The general movement is fine. Players will never find themselves burdened or limited due to poor controls. That said, they do have some strange tendencies.

Limits in movements due to camera direction relative to the character, unrealistic turning in the boat, and odd character movement; Most of these issues minor, but assuming a player pays any attention to these types of actions, they can stick out like a sore thumb. In no way would they affect gameplay, but it can break a certain level of immersion when the boat spins a full 360 in place or when Miku cannot move forward while walking a narrow plank once the camera is spun around to look behind her.

Again, these control issues pose no real threat to the gameplay; they feel like a small amount of polishing could have made a good experience, great.

Replayability

Submerged contains clues to its lore scattered through the world and trophies that offer more than just the central narrative. Climbing to the top of the tallest building, reaching all of the edges of the map and simply filling in the gaps of the secondary narrative, all offer completionist and die hard players a reason to dive back in after finishing the story.

Obtaining all of the glyphs and seeing all of the landmarks can be just as rewarding as gathering supplies to save Miku’s brother from his wounds.

All in All 

Submerged uses minimalistic storytelling to captivate its audience, accompanied by magnificent scenery and atmosphere to bring the full concept to fruition. Fans of short narratives such as Journey or Gone Home will surely find gratification. The experience is brief, taking only a few hours to complete.

The game doesn’t overstay its welcome. Instead, timing it’s ending perfectly to leave players longing to dive back in, seeking the remaining story fragments, trophy hunting or simply sightseeing. Submerged is the perfect game for anyone interested in unique settings or just seeking a short and sweet, but involved narrative.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Cover image via

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Categories: Video Game Reviews

Author:Tommy Robbins

Lover of video games. Writer of blogs. Eater of pizzas. Writing about nerd junk at AnotherCastle and chasing the carrot down the rabbit hole of Video Games Journalism. It's dark in here.

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One Comment on “SUBMERGED Review: A Post-Apocalyptic Narrative With Elegance”

  1. Tommy Robbins
    08/30/2015 at 5:46 PM #

    Reblogged this on GamerFuqs.

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