By Patrick Morris
Indie titles have made a habit of overpromising and under delivering of late and no I’m not talking about that one that Murray guy made; I’m talking about a title called Submerged. This game had everything good going for it, a fantastic aesthetic, unbelievable music, what looked to be an intriguing story, and an atmosphere that would rival the likes of The Last of Us and Journey. Unfortunately for me and everyone else who foolishly bought this game on Sony’s mid-summer sale it delivered on none of its laundry list of potential.
As always I will try to look at the glass as half full and address the good in the game first but I’m sorry to say that almost everything good that came from Submerged was before I ever played it. Marketing can make or break a game and Submerged falls into the strange territory in which the marketing gave me significantly more enjoyment than the actual game. In two minutes the trailer convinced me that this was going to be an incredible fairytale like experience the likes of which I hadn’t enjoyed since Windwaker. It took two minutes to convince me that I was going to absolutely love submerged and I still believe I could if Uppercut Games would just finish it.
What really bums me out about Submerged is the list of things that is wrong with the game. I walked away from it feeling more upset about the fact that the list was so long than I was about any one thing on that list in particular. The sound design was generic and repetitive, the graphics looked like an up-resed PS2 title, the world was small and empty, the story was abstract and not in a good way, the characters experienced almost no development, and the mysterious creatures had no resolution. I could go on and on about what Submerged does wrong but we will just concentrate on the few that I felt were most misleading.
Atmosphere is what hooked me in the trailer. This game was sold as an incredible story driven narrative that was set in post apocalyptic world in which human history had been forgotten. What I was expecting and excited for was a story in which we uncovered the mystery of an ancient race that had been wiped from the planet only to watch the characters as they came to the realization that the race responsible for all the ancient ruins and architecture was in fact their own species. I hoped for an adventure that started as a quest to save my brother and ended in uncovering the secrets of how the world had wound up in this state of abandonment.
Sound and level design were also major letdowns. A massive city that was literally Submerged in water leaves almost infinite interesting possibilities for both sound and level design experimentation. The ocean makes about eleven different sounds on a loop throughout the entirety of the game and the fact that I am exploring a sunken city and there are a grand total of zero underwater levels is simply ridiculous. I know that everyone hates water levels but I have always been of the belief that when done right a water level can offer an experience that cannot be achieved in any other environment. I wanted to be tasked with getting to the ocean floor and feeling claustrophobia set in as the light grew dimmer and dimmer and the weight of the water on top of me made me feel as though I would never see the sun again.
Submerged plays like a PS2 tech demo; it’s what would have been considered a huge open world in the sixth generation of consoles that is completely empty and provides nothing but visual fidelity to show off. For a PS4 game Submerged doesn’t stack up against even the flimsiest of competition and the entire time I was playing this hurt even more because Uppercut had the makings of a truly amazing game on their hands that they refused to finish.
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