Occasionally games will take a break from the typical structures of crafting, battling, and leveling, games to present a softer, more idealistic approach to gameplay. Games like this have started to have much, much more of a presence in the gaming world and have started to ping the radar of more players. Indie games offer a player an experience vs. a challenge, and focus more on the ideas and thoughts their characters are experiencing instead of their goals and accomplishments. Submerged, a newly released Indie game, focuses on themes of exploration and emotional storytelling to guide the player through a short but sweet playing experience.
Submerged comes from the minds of a trio of experienced game developers who recently started their own company—Uppercut Games. These three men worked on the hugely successful Bioshock and Bioshock 2 games, and have been delving into mobile games since starting their own company. Submerged is truly their first major success in the gaming world since starting their company, and it is clear that these are men who know how to make inspired games. Submerged is a third-person adventure game that prides itself on being “combat-free” and a truly relaxed gaming experience that focuses on environmental exploration.
Controlling a young girl named Miku, the player finds himself in a desperate search for supplies to help aid Miku’s ailing young brother. With his health declining, Miku adventures out on her own to find him a variety of necessities including medicine, food, water, and fire supplies. With no weapons or tools, Miku is armed only with her climbing prowess and her fearlessness. She is also the owner of a small fishing boat that she can modify with old boat parts to make run faster and boost.
Miku’s story slowly unfolds as she explores a half-sunken city (similar to San Francisco) that is covered in moss, barnacles, and plant life. As she travels from building to building by means of her small boat, she is joined by sea-life that seems to be stricken by the same overgrowth in which the city is covered. As Miku’s personal story unfolds, so that does that of the sunken city and the inhabitants who once lived there and now skulk in the shadows—the same barnacle-like disease covering their skins.
Adventure & Atmosphere
The real success in Submerged comes via the incredible atmosphere that the Uppercut Games team has created. Hauntingly beautiful, the submerged cityscape is intriguing and eerie. With Miku being our only means of human awareness in the city, the player truly starts to feel as if it is himself traveling over the ocean through the towers of the city. A simple, thoughtful and well-told story is there to unravel if you look for the pieces of it scattered through the ruins of the city. One could easily spend time simply steering the boat through the alleyways and exploring the vast, open ocean in calming silence.
While playing Submerged I couldn’t help but be reminded of a game I played not too long ago, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Similar to Submerged, Brothers is a puzzle and story-driven game with simple characters that have great emotional pull. And of course, it has a well-designed and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere to play in. Taking tones from romantic indie games of that ilk as well as the enjoyable nod to the Bioshock rustic-ocean aesthetic, Submerged takes classic ideas and imagery and creates its own unique style. The images and feelings that Submerged leaves with the player will be hard to shake after the game ends. Available since early August, with a modest $20 price tag and overwhelmingly positive reviews, Submerged is an easy choice—and will certainly give you more than what you expected in one way or another.