Drowning In The Shallows

HIGH The setting is truly promising.

LOW The world is big, but empty!

WTF Why can’t I just die?

 Submerged: Hidden Depths is a relaxing exploration adventure that tells an emotional story about love and nature. It’s the second installment in the Submerged series.

In this world, megalopolises have been devoured by the ocean and dilapidated skyscrapers are the only landmarks left from once-great civilizations.  The game follows a sister and brother, Miku and Taku, on their quest to save the world from a global curse called Black Mass.

The player controls Miku who has a strange power — she can destroy the Black Mass by breathing life into giant magical seeds scattered across the land, thereby restoring life to nature. As such, players will roam the ocean in a small boat and move from one island to another to cure these cursed lands.

Achieving this is simple. From a third-person perspective, find 10 magical seeds, take them to a specific location, and then activate them.

Hidden Depths is astonishing at first. Visiting a post-apocalyptic world that’s been reclaimed by the nature is always interesting, especially when it’s painted with vibrant and lively colors as it is here. It’s really a feast for the eyes, and its messages about the value of nature and the need to respect and restore it before it’s too late is something that worth covering in a videogames. Unfortunately, while the setting and worldbuilding are noteworthy, that glow doesn’t last long.

Part of the issue is that the experience is focused on relaxation, and the gameplay is devoid of any combat. There are no enemies in the classical sense here, just the Black Mass that can only be destroyed by the magical seeds.

This lack of combat is acceptable for a project focused on ‘restoration’ and ‘life’ but what is not acceptable is the lack of any challenge. There are some platforming and puzzle-solving elements in Hidden Depths, but getting past them doesn’t provide a sense of progress because there is no fail state. Players literally can’t fall off edges or cliffs, and the puzzles are too simple — things like bringing a seed from point A to point B by crossing a few minor obstacles. To put it simply, nothing can go wrong in Submerged: Hidden Depths — the player will succeed by simply pushing forward, and that’s kind of dull. Once they reactivate 10 seeds, the game is over.

Submerged: Hidden Depths offers a relatively big world and there are different things to look for such as journal pages that tell stories from the lost civilization, different animals that can be found across the ocean and land, watchtowers that can show interesting parts of the map, and so forth. However, in a general sense, all of the above fall under the ‘collectible’ category, and it’s not substantial enough to make time spent exploring the game feel worthwhile — the only thing I really looked for were boat upgrades that helped me move faster.

Submerged: Hidden Depths is the definition of wasted potential. The setting is a rare treat that deserve to be experienced, but the world is too empty of significant content and the gameplay is too straightforward without any challenging aspects. This ocean might be quite beautiful, but it’s far too shallow.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Uppercut Games. It is currently available on PC, PS4/5 and XBO/X/S. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PC. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player modes, and the game was completed.

Parents: The game was is rated E by the ESRB. The official description reads as follows: This is a third-person exploration game in which players control a pair of siblings as they navigate partially submerged ruins. Players can traverse a variety of structures while searching for collectibles and diaries.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not available, but the players can change the color of environmental hints such as movable objects and paint markings that show the way.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has subtitles, but they cannot be resized or altered. There are no audio cues in the gameplay, and the game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game’s controls are remappable.

Ali Arkani
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