Submerged is an indie game developed & published by Uppercut Games, it released in 2015. From a third-person perspective, you control a young girl named Miku. As Miku, you explore a dystopian future where global warming has flooded the world. Submerged was made by a team of former BioShock developers and was chiefly inspired by Journey and Shadow of the Colossus. The game focuses on exploration; it involves no enemies or combat, and Miku cannot be killed.
Siblings Miku and her younger brother Taku drift in to a city partially submerged within ocean water with only the tallest buildings protruding from the sea.
Taking refuge within the top of a clock tower, Miku begins to explore the city in her fishing boat equipped with a motor. Your main objective is to search for supplies to treat Taku, who is severely injured. You climb the buildings, locating relief crates that had been parachuted in during the crisis. In between, you’ll traverse the sunken environment in the motorized boat.
The whole time you’re observed by aquatic beings who are revealed to be survivors of the city that have undergone a complete mutation to better thrive in their new environment. Miku also realizes to her shock that she herself is now mutating in a similar way.
Submerged is an ambitious video game, considering the obvious limitations. Visually, I found it to be rather ugly at first. However, as time went on I somewhat saw things differently. Flying through the water in the boat as the sun is setting, with the crumbling city as a backdrop certainly has its moments. Still, textures regularly pop-in and are often choppy.
Gameplay is simplistic, with your primary goal always a fetch quest. Submerged encourages exploration but there just isn’t enough to see or do. I would love to see this type of game done on a much larger scale. You can cram in 80+ collectibles but it doesn’t stop the world from feeling empty. Aside from a boost upgrade for the boat, these have to be some of the most purposeless collectibles I’ve ever seen.
Talking of the boat, this is the strongest gameplay element in Submerged. The controls are simple but very responsive. Sailing from one end of the admittedly small map to the other is a lot of fun. The illusive lifeform that stalks you throughout the game is one of its most intriguing aspects. While their origin is obvious, I would have liked for it to have been explored more. They are evolved lifeforms but that suddenly gives them magical powers to cure Miku?
Floating through the sunken city with only the ocean sounds and marine life surrounding you does generate an almost creepy atmosphere.
You’ll be doing a fair amount of platforming in Submerged. Unfortunately, climbing often feels clunky as Miku moves very robotically. I will say, there is a nice sense of scale in Submerged. Also, the soundtrack adds a lot to the atmosphere in the game.
For whatever reason, I cannot say that I felt emotionally invested in the tale. The whole thing lacks any real impact. I rooted for Miku to succeed as anyone would. As a story, it’s seriously lacking in depth.
Overall, Submerged is worth playing if you can pick it up on the cheap. While I have my issues, I cannot deny that my time with it gave me a sense of tranquillity. It does manage to generate a sort of elegant ambience at times. At the very least, it’s a nice change of pace. A game that isn’t at all attempting to stress the player.