LifeisXbox’s Submerged: Hidden Depths review | Submerged: Hidden Depths is a direct 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.
Submerged: Hidden Depths first released on Google Stadia in December 2020 and sadly doesn’t seem to have garnered a lot of attention because it was a Stadia exclusive. Especially the gaming press has mostly ignored the cloud streaming platform and hence, this feels like a brand-new release to most, including myself, but I’m very happy to have discovered this indie gem!
Most Memorable Moment
While the coolest moment in the game is probably when the towering Mass monster started walking around, I’m choosing the blissful feeling I got from navigating my motorboat across the gorgeous videogame water and seeing the mimicked animals swim beside me.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by Renaissance PR, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we Liked!
- The submerged world | It’s in the title, but I could very much appreciate the aesthetics of the towering buildings and statues half-way covered with water. You can really tell how people adapted to this new reality and sought higher places to continue their lives. They even worship our technology like radios, televisions and even vacuum cleaners.
- Gorgeous use of colour | Submerged: Hidden Depths immediately drew me in with its trailer as a game I simply had to experience and I wasn’t disappointed. The blue water contrasts with the almost luminescent green vines that cover the buildings and colourful flowers add nice little touches that make it all feel very peaceful.
- The plantlife | The black Mass has started mimicking the animals and people that used to live here, perhaps in an attempt to not feel lonely. It’s a really creative idea and looks stunning in action, especially when a plant-whale breaches the water or plant-dolphins start swimming beside you. The plant-people however, are rooted in place and almost seem to worship you as you walk among them.
- The collectables | There are a ton of optional collectables scattered across the world and most of them even have a use. You can find flowers to decorate your hub, new outfits, hairstyles or boat skins and the boat upgrades make you skid across the water even faster. It feels very rewarding and it’s a joy to 100% complete this game.
- The Platforming | Getting around in Submerged: Hidden Depths feels effortless. Much like the Assassin’s Creed games, it suffices to hold the analog stick in the desired direction and other than a few buttons pushes to interact with vines or ladders, the siblings auto-parkour across even the most dangerous obstacles. It’s also very reassuring that there isn’t a fail-state: you can’t fall down and the game will never force you to climb back up.
- Perfect length | Submerged: Hidden Depths doesn’t overstay its welcome and has an ideal runtime with about 4 hours to beat the story and along the way you’ll probably find about 60-70% of the collectables already. With an extra three hours, you should be able to complete it. It also saves after every noteworthy discovery, making it the perfect pick up & play game for a weekend full of fun.
- The giant Mass monster | While there isn’t a lot of explanation on the Mass other than the journals you find in the game, there is a towering creature that starts roaming the waters at the halfway point. Its booming footsteps never fail to drawn your attention and seeing it walk by when you climb a skyscraper or driving your boat between its legs is a chilling experience, reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus. (but no, you can’t climb it)
- Photo mode | While I can always appreciate a photo mode in games, especially in pretty ones like this, I do want to have free control of the camera and some filter effects. In Submerged: Hidden Depths, the camera rotates around your main character, so you often won’t be able to get the exact angle on your shot that you desire.
- The telescope | While I think the looking glass is actually a great touch: tagging the collectables on the horizon that you need to explore, it’s very easy to miss a few optional ones because something might be obscuring your line of sight. I loved it at first, but the hunt for the final three boat upgrades took me way too long and ended up frustrating me when I had to open the spyglass every few minutes.
What we Disliked
- The cutscenes | After each location you restore, a cutscene is triggered which annoyingly brings you back to the hub even though you may have wanted to explore the location more. But what turned me off were the sibling’s interactions: while they talk in their own language during the gameplay, the cutscenes have no voice or sound other than the background music and this really ripped me out of the immersion.
- The camera | I’m listing this as a dislike, but it really only bothered me twice. In rare platforming instances, the camera will shift and change your directional inputs. It’s annoying when you want to go in one direction, but your character stubbornly walks in the opposite one.
Want to get a better feel for the game? Watch the first hour here:
How long to beat the story | 4 hours
How long to get all achievements | ~7 hours
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.