LifeisXbox’s Submerged: Hidden Depths preview | We received a preview build of Submerged: Hidden Depths, a sequel to a 2015 title that let us explore a flooded world overrun by a plant-like infestation that mimics the people and animals that used to live there. In this sequel, we play as a brother and sister of which the latter has developed special powers that let her interact with “the Mass” and allows her to restore the world to its former glory. This preview is based on a one-hour playthrough of the soon-to-be-released final build.
ℹ️ Previewed on Xbox Series X | Preview code provided by Renaissance PR, this preview is the personal opinion from the writer and is based on the first hour of the game.
I haven’t played the first game yet, but when I saw the trailer for Submerged: Hidden Depths, I immediately looked it up and added it to my wishlist so I can buy it when there will be a sale. I was excited to get an early hands-on with the sequel and luckily I was able to follow along with the story from the get-go.
It’s a stunningly beautiful indie game that truly uses the next-gen power of the Xbox Series X, with detailed environments and some of the best water I’ve seen in an indie title (and there is A LOT of water!)
You traverse most of the world on your boat along with your brother and it’s a pretty relaxed experience where you can take your time to visit different locations that have long been flooded by an unknown cause.
Restoring the world
What’s the gameplay like, you ask? It’s a violence-free game that focuses on exploration and collecting various items. You can find books that give more information on the world, discover animals that have been mimicked by the Mass into fantastic-looking animal/plant hybrids and use your binoculars to highlight landmarks and other points of interest on your map.
The main goal of the game is to climb the post-apocalyptic skyscrapers and recover mysterious orbs that power old electrical devices and bring them towards Mass cores to restore that region to its former, plant-covered glory.
The platforming is effortless and reminded me of Assassin’s Creed more than once. You traverse nearly-destroyed buildings with ease by simply moving in the right direction and see your characters parkour through the debris. A ladder here, a ledge to grab onto there and some ropes to swing from and that’s about all you need to get around.
It’s always clear where to go next because of how the interactable items are highlighted and optional collectables are usually not far from your main path, making backtracking a frustration-free experience.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is not a challenging title, instead, it seems intent on delivering a relaxing experience in a jaw-dropping world. There are a lot of locations to discover, though most of the buildings look somewhat alike (in the first hour).
Some room for improvement
Visually it’s stunning and the main gameplay loop is right up my alley for when I need a chill experience, but it’s not quite perfect yet, something rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn’t immediately spot what it was.
After closer inspection, it seems my issues were with the moments where it took control away from the player, the game is full of tiny “loading sequences” where you see a short animation, like when they lower a bridge or pull down a staircase to climb. If this was actual gameplay, it wouldn’t have felt like small speedbumps artificially placed into the game.
Similarly, in the few moments where the game tries to highlight the relationship between the siblings, it removes all sound effects and most of their voices and instead only puts on a background soundtrack made up of violins and piano chords. It creates a weird distance between the experience and the player and is a sudden reminder that you’re playing a game.
The verdict for now
I had some friends who weren’t very impressed with the first game and that lowered my expectations somewhat, but as soon as I dove into Submerged: Hidden Depths, they vanished like the black muck that covered the buildings.
This is a fantastic-looking title that really brings out the power of the Xbox Series X and has feel-good written all over it. Sure, there isn’t a lot of excitement to be found, but not every game needs to raise your heart rate or pull on your heartstrings. Simply restoring this world and finding its hidden secrets was more than satisfying enough for me and I can’t wait to start over again and complete the full release.
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.