Submerged is a third-person combat-free exploration game set in a mysterious open world flooded city, made by Australian studio Uppercut Games, whose earlier work included the Bioshock franchise for 2k and the Epoch franchise on mobile. You control a girl called Miku, who has brought her injured brother to the city with the hope of patching him up and leaving for pastures new.
You arrive in a small fishing boat which you explore the city by sailing around in, collecting rudder upgrades, hidden objects, landmarks, wildlife and for the story progression, supply drops which are around hotel roofs, collecting these will help you get your brother back to full health.
The story progresses by finding these supply drops of which there are 9 but it’s not plain sailing to get to them. Once you have found the locations of the hotels you need to scale the buildings by climbing around them, finding the right openings and eventually finding your way to the drop. There map is helpful in showing you where the supply drops are (in explored areas) and the locations of any nearby hidden objects.
Being a combat-free game there is obviously a heavy exploration element which is what the game is about and its fun to sail around the map and see new things. In particular there are wildlife and landmarks which you can find during your cruising around and these are added in your picture book style progression which has some nice art for the story, city, landmarks and wildlife.
The problem I had with Submerged was that whilst the gameplay itself was sufficient it lacked depth as does the story. Telling your tale by finding items around the city is fine and it certainly has intrigue but you really need one of these two elements to stand out somewhat and unfortunately they don’t. Climbing around buildings is quite fun although it’s not really a challenge, the paths are set out and if you go off path you’ll end up finding one of the hidden objects before you go back on the path.
It also lacks an atmosphere, in a game like this that sense of wonder and discovery would have really helped it and whilst finding landmarks and animals etc was fun it didn’t have a huge effect on me personally. You can also scout things out using the telescope but which can help you look around and see things but again it felt somewhat lacking.
I played the game on Xbox One and did find it had some performance issues although they weren’t constant, the frame-rate seems alright but there appeared to be some pacing issues which plagued it quite a lot although it was better in some places, it might be that it was loading the next part of the map and I didn’t feel it affected the experience too much although that could be because of the lack of action segments in the game more than anything else.
Outside of those issues though the game does look nice on Unreal Engine 4, the art style complements it well and something I noticed in comparison to other indie titles also using the same engine were that the faces in particular look a bit better than those titles. Also the way the water ripples and leaves move in the wind were particularly nice effects.
Submerged is an enjoyable game, despite the criticisms I had for it although I did hope there would be a bit more to it, action-free exploration games are quite popular at the moment and having recently played something like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter I did feel it lacked in a few areas to really make it stand out against other similar titles. There is fun to be had in exploring the world though, fun things to discover and it’s certainly an interesting title to play.