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I was excited to play Submerged. I’ve always been a sucker for boats and exploring water filled worlds. Something about making your way from island to island, or in this case building to building, has always been something I enjoyed. The idea of exploring a long abandoned city, a city that has been flooded, sounded great. And the look and music in Submerged made me even more excited to get lost exploring. But the more I played Submerged the more I found myself disappointed.
Even worse, I found myself getting bored.
Submerged is a simple game with a simple setup. You and your younger brother are adrift in a world like ours, but covered in water. The cities are in ruin and English or any language seems to have disappeared. You enter the flooded city and find a place to rest. Your brother is hurt and needs supplies like medicine, food, water and bandages. So with each day you go out and using a boat you explore, hoping to find a supply box that will help you save your brother.
The story is simple but that isn’t a bad thing. There is very little dialogue and the what little dialogue you hear is in a gibberish language. (It could very well be a real language. If it is I am sorry I just called your language gibberish. I’m a dumb American. Sorry.) Most of the story is told using music, crudely drawn pieces of art or the characters’ animation. It’s effective and I wanted to see my little brother get healthy and survive. And I was also concerned as the big sister, the character you play as, got more tired and sick with each passing day.
I won’t ruin the ending but I was hoping for more than the short cutscene that I got. It felt rushed and didn’t seem like a satisfying conclusion, there was no pay off or real sense of character growth or change. It didn’t feel like enough.
That is the overall feel I got from playing Submerged. It doesn’t feel like enough. The music is great and the art style is really nice, but everything else left much to be desired.
The animations and character movement felt janky and really rough. Spinning around in a circle looked awful and many animations felt like they were snapping in and out. Playing Submerged didn’t feel great and a lot of the time it didn’t look much better.
A nice art style is one thing but you need to make sure the other visual aspects of your game are strong as well. Which is not the case with Submerged. Textures looked messy and were clearly being reused. I understand that all games reuse textures, but Submerged doesn’t even try to hide it. Seeing the same lion statue or the same broken window over and over and over it became hard to ignore and it made the game feel cheap and thrown together.
Making all of this worse is the crappy framerate. It constantly dips well below 30. Sometimes it felt like I was playing a Powerpoint presentation. I don’t mind some slowdown, but in Submerged it got to a point where it was causing me to run into buildings or miss turns.
Even when the framerate is solid the gameplay leaves much to be desired. The basic gameplay loop is this: You explore the flooded city. You use your telescope to find new areas to checkout and eventually you find a supply drop. You then make your way to that building and then climb the building. Once you reach the supply drop you get cutscene where you take the supplies back to your brother. Then you go to sleep and wake up and do it all over again. And that’s it. Driving the boat around the city is fine but there isn’t much challenge or skill to it. And climbing is boring. You just press up on the analog stick and sometimes you have to go left or right. There is no timing or risk of falling. So even when you are on top of some giant tower there is no fear or tension. You can’t jump over any railing and you can’t fall.
I quickly found myself bored with Submerged. Which is shame. This game has a nice look to it and I really enjoyed the world it created. The way it tells its story is great and the idea of exploring a large flooded city sounds fantastic.
But a crappy framerate, bad controls, cheap looking animations and uninteresting gameplay make Submerged feel like a cheap and poorly made Early Access game.
I wanted to like Submerged. And I did enjoy parts of it. But I was so relieved to reach the end. Not because I was excited to see how the story ended. No I was relieved to reach the end of Submerged because I was bored and tired of playing it.