Submerged is minimalistic "relaxporation" adventure developed by Uppercut Games that puts you in a post-disaster world where you mosly scavenge for supplies to save a dying boy's life. Submerged is completely combat free and, instead, focuses all it's efforts on story and gameplay. With the post-apocalyptic art style of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and the beauty and relaxed gameplay of Journey, will Submerged sink or swim?
Submerged begins with Miku and her wounded brother, Taku, arriving in a flooded and abandoned city in order to find supplies to keep Taku alive from his injuries.
The story seems simple enough and it remains that way until you begin finding story art cards that provide backstory on Miku and Taku before arriving in the city, and the flooded city as well.
I never really found myself caring all that much about Taku, but I did find myself very much caring about Miku and the city itself. I cared more about Miku's safety than Taku's, but that's probably because Taku spends the majority of the game lying on a bench and not doing anything. Though, to be fair, he is dying, but Miku's safety came first in my eyes.
The city's story and what happened to the people is also quite interesting. It's also quite interesting with how these stories unfold. You have to boat around the ruined city and collect story art cards that piece everything together, but you won't find them in order of story events. The story won't become completely clear until all the story cards have been collected.
Also, the developers created an entirely new language to further emphasize just how far society has fallen. If that's not impressive then I don't know what is. Though, I do have a gripe with the story. (The next tidbit isn't REALLY a spoiler, but rather, a broad statement with no specifics.) [spoiler]Over the course of Submerged, the game, begins heavily implying that there's going to an emotionally devastating ending that will leave you in tears, but there's a complete cop out. I wish it had gone with the course it was going because it was shaping up to be one of those endings you're going to remember forever; like Telltale's The Walking Dead and The Last of Us.[/spoiler]
Made with the Unreal 4 engine, Submerged, can look downright beautiful. The beauty is especially realized when the day becomes night and rain begins to pour down.
It's clear the developers knew just how beautiful the game is because there's a "Make Postcard" option that allows the player to stop time and rotate the camera around Miku and create absolutely gorgeous screenshots.
Allow me to put it like this: Submerged is so beautiful that I ended up using the "Make Postcard" option to take beautiful screenshots every time I was in game. Every time I started up the game; I saw something new and beautiful. Unfortunately, though, the graphics aren't perfect.
Upon closer inspection, some noticeable textures seem blurred and a bit dull. The framerate will even drop quite frequently and, seemingly, out of nowhere. At one moment, the framerate dropped so low that the entire game stopped and I thought it had crashed but, fortunately, it came back in a split second.
The gameplay in Submerged mainly consists of climbing and navigating the city streets with your boat. This creates a strong sense of relaxation.
Watching waves roar around as whales and dolphins swim by feels so relaxing. From an artistic standpoint, it's great, but from a gaming standpoint; not so much.
Sadly, the gameplay in Submerged gets redundant pretty quick. Gameplay in Submerged can be summarized in this order: boat, climb, collect ration; rinse and repeat. This was something I was afraid of and my fears were realized.
At first, I didn't think this would be an issue, but it slowly began feeling tedious and I realized that I wanted to do was sail around and admire the beauty. You can do just that, but you have to boat, climb, collect ration to progress the story. Once you complete the game, you unlock an "Explore" mode that allows you to explore the game world and collect missed story cards and boat upgrades free from distractions. This was my favorite aspect of gameplay.
The soundtrack is where Submerged REALLY shines. Composed by BAFTA-Award Winner Jeff Van Dyck, Submerged's soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful and intensely elevates the sense that you are alone in this post-apocalyptic world.
From somber melodies to more uplifting tracks, Submerged's soundtrack is one I hope to purchase and listen to whenever. It's quite amazing to stand on the edge of a decaying ruin with nothing but the wind and a quiet song playing evoking many emotions.
Submerged is just one of those games that help further the proof that video games are capable of becoming high art, but the redundant gameplay and weak ending hold Submerged back from realizing it's true potential. This beautiful apocalypse accompanied by gorgeous visuals and a haunting soundtrack makes Submerged an experience I won't soon forget.
If you care for the artistic nature of Submerged then I highly recommend it to you, but if you don't care about any of that then this may not be for you. Otherwise, Submerged is an experience worth checking out.