Submerged (Uppercut Games) Review By MelodicEnmity:
Uppercut Games’ “Submerged,” is the penultimate visualization of immersion, much like how your mind imagines you reaching into a beautiful painting. Like your favorite painting, you want to “take it all in.” You want to see every detail, notice how every brush stroke complements the last, and eventually how everything comes together. In doing so, it creates that emotional attachment that one develops towards that piece of art; possibly best describing what Uppercut Games has accomplished with Submerged.
While playing Submerged, you cannot help but take notice of the similarities between it and the PS2 game, Shadow of the Colossus. In fact, some aspects are completely uncanny, yet I can still sit here and assure you that this is completely a different experience. Submerged, by nature, is non-combative, risk free, and meant for the player to take in the sights that Uppercut Games have provided. In interviews, Uppercut describes the experience as something relaxing; and indeed, it is.
Submerged is something new to the scene and is the type of game for those of you who are able to lose yourself in art, whether it is your own or someone else’s. For those of you who prefer shooters or other high-action packed video gaming, Submerged probably is not for you. If you are looking for a more contemplative exploration piece and can go in with an open mind, I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised.
The story is fairly simple, and, like any piece of art, is up to your own interpretations. Submerged begins as the player takes control of an unnamed female protagonist who sails into a desolate, underwater city in ruins in order to find help and care for her passenger, who happens to be her sick, kid brother, Taku. Upon arriving, she stops to set up home base in an old abandoned clock tower at the center of the city. From there, her goal is to find supplies to aid in her brother’s recovery. Along the way, there are collectibles scattered around the map, such as pictures that help the player understand and interpret the city’s origin story. These come in the form of rudimentary drawings that are very similar to those of cave paintings or children’s art. That is another aspect that I love about Submerged; the vagueness of the story itself grants the player the ability to get creative and interpret what they feel these sets of drawings actually mean. Additionally, found within the map are the last set of collectables and upgrades for your boat. These boat parts inherently do not do much other than allow you to boost your speed and ultimately collect a trophy. Since the game is primarily meant for exploration and relaxation anyways, why the rush?
Progressing through the open landscape, our female protagonist begins to realize that she is not alone. Statuesque, grey, mossy creatures begin peering over you from above…their presence unknown to her. As she begins to collect the life-saving supplies which save Taku’s life, she, in turn, becomes ill. She begins to change, and we do not know why. Although her condition progressively worsens, she continues on her journey to save her brother’s life.
To add another layer to Submerged’s artistic value is the addition of BAFTA award winning composer, Jeff Van Dyck, who is responsible for the games soundtrack. His hauntingly beautiful piano score fits perfectly with the atmospheric approach to the game. The music is quiet and melancholic while the player traverses this desolate landscape, leaving you with a loneliness as you try to search for signs of life. The music crescendos when majestic animals swim up next to your boat and jump out of the water, leaving you with feelings of joy and awe. The score brilliantly adapts into a mood full of curiosity right after the player docks their boat and begins ascending the depths of these giant, ruined structures. In Submerged, the combination of score and gameplay highly affects how the player will treat each and every destination. It is meant to tug at the heart strings and awe inspire the player as they speed along the algae infested waterways. Suddenly, coming out into the open, a pack of dolphins or giant killer whale lead the way, side by side; making the player feel at one with nature, as is so perfectly portrayed in Submerged.
The key role in this game is exploration. Although sandboxed, the map is quite large, and each of its 8 sections are a breathtaking sight to behold. Finding the elements in the game is made easier by the help of your handy-dandy telescope. From any point on the map, in your boat, or on the very top of any building, you can pull it out and conduct a search of that area. The telescope is your lifeline to finding everything in Submerged. By using it in various locations to search, you will eventually come across all supply locations, all secrets, and all boat upgrades.
The gameplay in Submerged is fairly simple and automatic. In any other game, that would be a huge negative. But, Submerged, being what it is meant to be, fits. There is a lot of platforming, as some of the structures are monstrous in size. If the player could fall to their death, I feel it would become frustrating and ruin the entire purpose of the game. Instead, the challenge comes within finding the divergent paths to the secret items that relay the city’s origin story to the player. Unfortunately, from the moment the player picks up the main supply item, they are immediately sent back to home base so that they may administer whatever was found to Taku. Therefore, they are not given the chance to decline back down the building, to pick up any of the possible missed secret items.
Ultimately, there are only 10 supplies to collect before end-game, making the entire experience between 2-6 hours (depending on whether the player is a perfectionist). Although Submerged could have been longer (I did not want it to end!), its length actually saves it from the couple of minor downfalls. Mainly, the platforming can start to feel rather monotonous, and would have begun to feel more repetitive if the game had say, another 5 buildings to ascend for the main story. I felt that everything else made up for that.
This is a landmark occasion for New Transcendence, making Submerged the first game to open our brand new video game review section of our publication. For each upcoming review, we would like to pose the question as to whether or not the game at hand transcends the norm. Here at New Transcendence, we pride ourselves on finding art that breaks the mold in some way, shape, or form; and, with this new division, those standards will continue to hold true.
Does “Submerged” transcend? Absolutely! If this game did not, I do not know what would!
Submerged is the first game in its class, and it was an honor to review it. Even though you can draw comparisons from other ground-breaking video games of the past, Submerged holds its own and branches out to create something entirely new and exciting. I can only imagine what other games and ideas could come from this new style of gaming.
Submerged is available for purchase now via Steam (PC), PS4 (digital), and XBOX ONE (digital).
(This review was performed on a PS4 courtesy of Uppercut Games)
Replay Value: 4/5
Total Score: 4.5/5