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Uppercut Games’ “Submerged” is a relatively short, combat-free, third-person story set in a post-apocalyptic world that leaves you feeling, well, conflicted.
In the opening scene we fly in on our protagonist, Miku, boating into a sunken city with her brother, Taku, who is injured but we don’t yet know how. Our first task is to find something to stop the bleeding.
After setting Taku down we return to our boat and see a cutscene hint telling us to go to the tall building across the waterway. Along the way you’ll spot whales breaching, dolphins swimming about and birds taking flight.
The scene is serene and really quite beautiful. Designed in Unreal Engine 4, “Submerged” is lovely to look at and you’ll find yourself boating around at first, just checking out the wildlife and its vast (mostly) underwater world.
There are buildings and towers poking out from what appears to be open ocean. There’s even a bridge that looks eerily similar to San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, except it isn’t red (anymore?).
After milling about for a bit, we arrive at the hotel, where we make our way up and around ledges, often marked by flowers, to find another panel for our journal. And then finally a supply crate, which teleports us back to Taku.
This, in a nutshell, is what the game is all about. Scaling buildings, much like in an Assassin’s Creed or Tomb Raider game, and using your telescope to find supplies to help your brother recover.
The best place to use the telescope is of course atop the highest perches in the game, where you’ll spot items that will be added to your map.
All the while you’re left wondering who the mysterious sea people (as I call them) are watching over you as you collect supplies, story cards, propeller upgrades for your boat, and story panels. They’re always just out of reach.
The game’s menus and map system are simple and easy to figure out. There are four tabs in the menu: Our Story (Miku and Taku), The City’s Story (which explains how the city and planet were swallowed by water), Creatures and Landmarks, all with pictograph panels for you to find and unlock.
Most of the story is left for you to figure out. The further you progress, the more panels unlock in the “Our Story” tab. Those will be complete upon finding all of the supply crates.
The map comes up at the push of a button, and there’s also a compass HUD at the top of the screen to direct you, much like in “Skyrim.”
The problem this game suffers from is there isn’t enough variation. Take your boat to this building, climb up and around and find stuff. There are no true puzzles, no enemies to face and you can’t die — which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing.
There’s no real sense of urgency. You’re essentially left to your own devices, to complete the game at your own leisurely pace. It’s almost like a gaming vacation for hardcore gamers.
Sure, it’s pretty to look at and the music sets a nice, somber tone, but there’s very little substance. You have to figure the story for yourself through the pictographs, which isn’t hard if you actually take the time to find them all.
That’s not to say the game is a flop, either. I played for about two hours and then took a break for dinner, planning to finish the game the next night. I won’t spoil the plot twists but while eating I actually found myself wanting to jump back in to see what would happen to them both, but mostly Miku.
So there absolutely is something here that will draw you in.
I struggled to find the last supply drop for a bit. Just keep searching areas for telltale signs, like what appear to be parachutes fluttering on the sides of buildings.
To find the last one I had to search for about a half hour, concentrating on areas showing as not explored on the map.
The ending was nice. I won’t spoil it but as it was about to unfold, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen.
In all, even struggling to find the final supply crate, the game only took me about three hours and 15 minutes to complete, which begs the question as to why it’s $19.99. That seems a bit steep for a game so short.
Finding all of the items as you play through the story will certainly extend the game time. But after the game is over you can go back and explore again to find anything you missed.
After launching back into the game, I wasn’t really compelled to continue looking for the remaining City’s Story (found 33 of 60), Creature (6 of 8) or Landmark panels (6 of 8).
This game certainly isn’t for everybody. I, for one, am just left conflicted.