#28 Submerged Hidden Depths
Submerged Hidden Depths comes from Australian indie studio, Uppercut Games. They have developed and published this stand-alone sequel to their award winning 2015 release, Submerged.
Uppercut Games was founded in 2011 by Andrew James, Ryan Lancaster and Ed Orman, when the trio decided to leave the dark side – sorry, I mean their AAA backgrounds – to become independent developers. The team would grow over the next few years to include John Travers, Evan Zachariadis, and Ben Driehuis.
Submerged was a third-person combat-free game in which you uncover a mysterious flooded city. The sequel, and today’s promotion, follows very much the same suit, with the absence of combat meaning there is a specific focus on what the developers are terming as ‘relaxploration’. I like it and it perfectly describes the experience.
Submerged Hidden Depths began life as a Stadia exclusive but now surfaces on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.
Boat, climb, interact and explore in the beautiful ruins of a sunken world.
We all game for different reasons. For the longest of times, I gamed simply because I like stories and solving puzzles. It wasn’t until I began running my own business, and especially navigating said business through the murky waters of a pandemic, that my gaming needs changed, or at least took on additional requirements. These days, I want to escape once in a while, and games that offer that – that truly offer that – with no other motive of hidden agenda, well they are rare to come by.
Thankfully, Submerged Hidden Depths prides itself on being a relaxing game, and so it should. It should calmly shout it from the rooftops.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world where climate change and global warming has caused the sea level to rise to where entire cities have been submerged. Skyscrapers poke out of the ocean and as your small boat chugs by the many abandoned ruins, they’ll continue to crumble before you.
You’ll spend a lot of your time on the water and it is testament to the game’s relaxing prowess that even someone like myself, who suffers from thalassophobia (the fear of deep bodies of water), loved being at sea. The world created here is stunningly beautiful. The clear, clean water glistens as you bob over small waves, moving from ruin to ruin in search of answers and hope. The light changes as the game cycles through day and night, adding contrasting and complimentary charm and warmth. All of it overseen by mournful violins and haunting piano breaks, composed by BAFTA winner Jeff Van Dyck. He has created musical interludes that come and go as they please, as if calling out to you from afar.
Primitive settlements have been forged over what little habitable space remains, but throughout your entire playthrough, you won’t meet a single NPC you can interact with. You’ll find many signs of life but not life itself. Outside of the two characters you control, you are on your own and that is not a complaint – it only adds to the de-stressing core of the premise and purpose of play.
Miku and Taku, our two protagonists, are sister and brother. Once the oceans rose, a monster known as ‘Mass’ followed. Mass is a black entity that has spread throughout the world, contaminating the sea as well as wrapping itself endlessly around buildings and landmarks. Miku and Taku were told stories of how the Mass swallowed all life and spat out hollow imitations. Miku was touched by the Mass but she didn’t die. Instead, she was given a gift and she now takes it upon herself, with the reluctant aid of her brother, to rid the world of Mass.
You fight back by scouring the city for seeds. There are ten to find in total, all within a relatively small map, given the genre. From the get go, you have total freedom to explore, setting sail from your new home, located within a large dome in the centre of the map.
Each seed location will include some basic puzzle solving. These mini levels are strictly linear and difficult to get wrong. Remember, the game wants you to relax. The puzzles shouldn’t tax you in the slightest, each one involving getting from A to B, retrieving a seed, and offering it to the Mass. After each level you’ll be automatically brought back to your base, in order to go again.
Using your telescope or by scaling watchtowers, you can mark important locations on your map. As you’d expect from an open world game, there is plenty to collect including diary entries, animals, boat upgrades, flowers, clothing and boat cosmetics, and relics from the forgotten world, which you can display at your base.
Without spoiling anything, the last seed location on my playthrough was great fun. I was climbing to the top of a very large and exposed building, during a heavy thunderstorm, and all I’ll say is I wasn’t alone…
I played Submerged Hidden Depths on my MSI GF65 gaming laptop, which has an i7 and an RTX3060. I ran everything on ultra with no issues. The game offers full controller support and there are Steam achievements to earn. I rolled credits after almost four hours but once the story is done you can stick around to gather up the remaining treasures and trinkets.
This game has been designed from the ground up as pure escapism. It doesn’t want to work you too hard, it wants you to breathe and just be. The bustle and burden of NPCs and the cacophony of combat have both been replaced with the soporific sounds of rain and waves, both complimenting the aforementioned musical score. The world is stunning and deeply detailed, the premise is concise, puzzles are easily telegraphed, collectibles don’t outstay their welcome, and seed locations have been contained to a tidy ten. This is a game of simple pleasures and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
If you’re in need of an escape, I’d highly recommend Submerged Hidden Depths.