The underwater world of depression: a review of Under the Waves – an adventure game about the life of a man at the bottom of the North Sea

by alex

5 reasons to buy Under the Waves:

  • Have you missed scuba diving
  • Have you watched all the films of Jacques-Yves Cousteau
  • You prefer casual gameplay
  • The game skillfully describes the ocean and its problems
  • Picturesque visual that will make you take dozens of screenshots

2 reasons not to buy Under the Waves:

  • Presence of bugs on release
  • Meditation games just aren't for you

Quick transition:

Saving your own life by exploring the underwater world

The story of the game resembles a one-man show. Stan finds himself completely alone in a deep and mysterious sea world, which is now his only salvation. On the surface, he experienced a serious tragedy and now it is up to him whether he can overcome it, or whether he will remain alone, suffering all his life. The only one who will be in constant contact with us is Tim, Stan's acquaintance, who tells him on the radio what to do and can discuss everyday things. Gamers might have already seen something similar in Firewatch, but in Under the Waves you shouldn’t expect such chemistry between the characters; they just chat to themselves, although these conversations are not annoying.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

The main character of this story is Stan

At the beginning, Stan will be given a briefing, and he will perform routine tasks: fix this, explore that, go there. But very soon, while performing one of these missions, Stan finds a submarine from World War II. The desire to explore it is too great, Stan goes there, but finds something that reminds him of his trauma. At first he doesn't believe what's happening. Yes, and you feel strange about these events, because these are the first hours of the game, and you still don’t know what this guy went through. However, very soon the situation becomes clear, and at this moment you begin to worry about Stan. You understand why he is so depressed and you want this story to end well. There is empathy for the character, and in story games this is very important.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

After every working day, Stan has strange nightmares that haunt him

Even later, it becomes clear that Stan has a wife, Emma, ​​but their family life is now so terrible that the husband fled underwater. And these conversations are very emotional. You understand that something happened, something happened between them, but none of them says it directly. It is felt that Emma and Stan love each other, but psychological barriers do not give them the strength to get over it all and live happily. Although we must thank the authors. At the end of the game, all your questions are answered. You end this journey with full understanding of the entire situation.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

In addition to the problems of his own life, Stan will also have to uncover the secrets of UniTech – the corporation for which he works, and which has built a full-fledged infrastructure in the ocean, but not with good intentions

Overall the story was good. It will definitely evoke different feelings for emotional gamers. Somewhere it will be sad, somewhere it will be funny, somewhere there will be a feeling of mystery, someone may even shed a tear. And making this game meditative is a good decision. A person who is going through such an experience is unlikely to do fun things. His life is ordinary, so in Under the Waves we will often slowly do ordinary things, although in the North Sea it is much more interesting to do it. The only thing is that the introduction of the game turned out to be not interesting, so you can’t say much about it. The main thing is to overcome the first hour of the game, and then Under the Waves reveals itself to its maximum.

Underwater and informative world of the game

It’s immediately noticeable that they worked actively on the game world. It feels alive. Fish, octopuses, sharks, whales, jellyfish and other marine inhabitants swim everywhere. And if there are hundreds of small fish, then you won’t see many whales, which also creates a certain realism. There are also reefs, caves and more, so that you don’t just swim in a straight line, but somewhere you can dive deeper, somewhere you can maneuver. It also creates the feeling that you are not on the playing field.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

I also really liked how here you can find objects that “came” here from the surface. As you sail by, you can see old helicopters, cars, planes, ships and containers. And all this can be explored. You saw a plane? Then swim into it and look at it. Most of the “scenery” can be interacted with, and this makes you want to explore the world. There is no point in having a huge ship if it just lies on the bottom. It is much more interesting to spend 3 minutes looking into each compartment. In addition, each such transport has “surprises” for the player, which are often useful during the passage, so the desire to swim everywhere you see intensifies even more.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

But all this would not work so well if not for the cooperation with SFE. Let me give you one example. You are swimming and see sea mines. In Sten's logbook, in the Surfrider Foundation Europe section, information appears about these sea mines. It describes that although they no longer pose a threat, they emit harmful chemicals that pollute the environment. Each such note also includes photos of the items that are described. Therefore, if you still actively read your magazine, then after completing it you can learn many interesting facts about the real seas and oceans of our Earth. In general, the game has a lot of World War II items, because the events take place in the 1970s and not much time has passed since the end of the war.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

1) Mines that can be encountered; 2,3) Information about these mines, which can be read in the Wall magazine

Although the most emotional thing for me was when I saw how a conditional seal could swim with a plastic bottle that got stuck in its mouth, and you need to help it. In general, there is a lot of “human” garbage in the game: tires, plastic, metal, and so on. After this, you have a desire to work in an environmental organization and collect as much garbage from the ocean as possible. The authors coped with the social mission 100%.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Garbage that people throw into the seas and oceans

How to play it?

The game is divided into 17 days. True, some days will be skipped so as not to stretch the timing for dozens of hours. Every morning we start in his underwater base, which is divided into 3 main sections: Wall's room, where he has a computer, books, radio, bed and other decorative items to create a cozy atmosphere. There is also a kitchen with a TV where Stan drinks coffee every morning and a workshop where Stan collects all the interesting marine finds, creates or improves his arsenal, and can also beat a punching bag. All these 3 compartments are united by a small corridor where there is a descent into the water, a radio to contact Tim, an AI assistant Mercury who will try to communicate with us and an on-board computer where we can receive tasks. They are divided into two types: basic and routine (analogous to additional tasks). Having received all the tasks and instructions from Tim, we descend from our base, and the main stage of the game begins.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

1) Room Wall; 2) Kitchen; 3) Workshop; 4) Main corridor

We have access to a certain area of ​​the North Sea. Its size is enough to find something interesting for yourself within 6-8 hours of playthrough. And moving on your own two feet through such terrain would be boring, so we have a submersible, which Stan called Luna. It is very easy to operate. By also pressing a special button on the gamepad or keyboard, the bathyscaphe can be better maneuvered. This function is used when you need to swim between narrow areas.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Map in the game

During the game day we have complete freedom. You can even swim for two real hours, and no one will urge you on. As for the tasks, it turns out to be a paradox. Stan seems to be doing mundane things, but I've never repaired a radio deep underwater in any game, so these processes become interesting. And when at the end you start to unravel the secrets of the corporation, you want to play it even more.

The side missions are also good. Most of them are formed on the long-familiar “bring-and-give” pattern, but the total number of additional quests in the game is so small that they simply don’t have time to get boring. And again, this is a game world that is rarely used, and a routine task can be turned into an interesting mini-adventure.

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Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Some tasks are done in the style of a psychological thriller, which immerses Stan even more into the story In addition to tasks, there are several more minor activities: explore a sunken vehicle (mentioned above), collect plastic (to clean the sea), you can simply swim and look at fish, various objects and immerse yourself in an atmosphere of loneliness. And no less important is to open special chests that contain useful and collectible items.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

There are about 20 such chests in the game. Some of them are easy to find if you just look at the map

How the Wall Arsenal upgrade works?

Stan has a small but useful inventory. First and most importantly, when you leave the submersible, you have a limited supply of oxygen. To restore it, you need to use special oxygen sticks. You can find them in different areas or create them yourself in the workshop. To create one such stick you need three seaweed and two plastic bottles. There are also small mines (for blowing up blocked doors), a kit for repairing the bathyscaphe (if you damaged it badly) and fuel, because on the same bathyscaphe you can accelerate, and this is what fuel is needed for, as well as a few other items that will help in passing .

Certain things can still be improved. To do this, you just need to find the very chests that provide access to this opportunity. You can improve your oxygen cylinders or the fuel supply of the submersible. Not much, but for a game that takes less than 10 hours to complete, it’s enough. In conclusion, I note that there are also collectible items: music cassettes, stickers and various things from a guitar case to paintings by famous artists. All this can then be examined in more detail at the Sten base.

To create and improve inventory, we collect algae, plastic, electronics and two types of stones. But if you explore the world at least minimally, then there will be no problems with resources. I always had a sufficient supply of oxygen, fuel, repair tools and mines. The developers here also made a good decision and do not “strangle” you by collecting everything in the world. The game gives you the opportunity to enjoy, and not collect 1000 stones like a vacuum cleaner, and this is very good. And one more important detail – the game is casual, so our inventory has no limit on collected items and resources.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Workbench where Stan can create items or improve them

Overall the gameplay was also good. The submersible is a lot of fun to drive, you don't have to collect a lot of resources, there are interesting places to see, and overall the exploration process is very well implemented.

If you're tired of shooters and other action games and just want to swim around and discover something new (because there aren't that many ocean games), Under the Waves is worth a look. And most of the new products in the industry now cost $70, but this game is only $30.

What about optimization, visual and audio support?

There are some optimization issues with the game and it would have been better to release it a week later to get things fixed. And we’re not talking about the loss of personnel, everything is fine with that, but about bugs. Some bugs are minor and some are very annoying. A bug that confused me from time to time – the activities that I completed remain on the map. Some chests and areas with plastic remained on the map until the end of the passage, although I had been there for a long time and collected everything. There was also a bug during one story mission, when you had to lower 5 levers. The last lever was already lowered, but the game showed that I lowered 4. As it turned out, there was another lever at the end of the location, and I needed to lower this one, although the minimap pointed to a completely different one.

There was another terrible bug. I don’t know if it’s available on other platforms, but on the PlayStation 5, every couple of minutes the message “something is wrong with your saves” appeared on the entire screen. I click “OK”, play further, a few minutes pass and again the same error. I already started to think that all my saves had disappeared, I restarted the game, but they were all there, and the game continued to show that there was something wrong with them. This was very, very annoying, in places it spoiled the impression of the game, especially in moments where you need to carefully maneuver the bathyscaphe. Fortunately, the last two hours of this alert were gone. But all this needs to be fixed as quickly as possible, because I played Under the Waves after release, and all these bugs are still in the game.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

A notification that was constantly annoying and did not always allow you to enjoy the game

Game visuals show all the beauty of the North Sea

The visuals are one of the best aspects of Under the Waves. The graphics resemble a 3D cartoon, but as cinematic as possible. This feeling is created thanks to several simple but effective solutions. First, in the game you can completely disable the interface with one button. Towards the end of the game, when I was already well oriented, I almost always turned it off and enjoyed the landscapes of the underwater world, where not a single element on the screen was distracting. The game was also given a grainy effect and small black stripes at the top and bottom, which always add to the atmosphere and that very cinematic feel.

And the developers made the North Sea itself very beautiful. It is both captivating and frightening with its unknown depth. In the game Under the Waves, you just get on the submersible, sail in an unknown direction, enjoy this picture, and that’s all you need now. Added to this is the diversity in the form of industrial objects, marine inhabitants, reefs, corals, vegetation, and here it is – one of the most beautiful games about the underwater world.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Incredible underwater visual Under the Waves

Audio that enhances the atmosphere of loneliness

When you are swimming, there is no music in the background. In the submersible, only the muffled sound of the sea is heard, which describes Stan's emotions. If he is not busy with anything serious, then all he hears are his thoughts, which do not allow him to live fully. I won’t say that this effect is depressing, but sometimes orphans appeared on the skin.

However, there is still music in the game. It usually sounds in scenes. The compositions here are different: calm, dramatic, melancholic, epic. Each sounds at the right moment and further enhances the atmosphere of adventure. And you can even play guitar while at the base. It reminded me of The Last of Us Part II, which had similar mechanics.

What I didn’t like

The first minus (apart from bugs) is related to the animation of Stan's face. Compared to the beautiful visuals of the game, his face during a conversation looks like it was created by a first-year student in one evening. The lips move strangely and are almost never in sync with his conversations. That is, first he speaks, the line ends, and only then his lips begin to move. During the entire passage, we see only Stan and there are not many scenes where his face is visible in close-up. Couldn't they have spent a little more time and made these animations at a decent level?

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

The second minus is the drawn-out ending. Stan's last day at sea lasts a very long time. This also takes into account the fact that I did not perform other activities, but only completed the final task. I would shorten the final act by about 20 minutes. The game wouldn't lose much from this, and the player would have more emotions, which would make the ending even better.

Подводный мир депрессии: обзор Under the Waves - приключенческой игры о жизни мужчины на дне Северного моря

Most of the time in the final task we do the same routine things. After 8 hours of playthrough, it gets a little boring, but the situation is saved by the last 20 minutes of the game

Three things you need to know about Under the Waves

  • The game captivates with the seascapes of the North Sea
  • Collaboration with SFE helped gamers get acquainted with the problems of real seas and oceans
  • The developers failed to fix all the bugs before release
Under the Waves
Genre Narrative-driven adventure
Platforms PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series, Xbox One, PC
Number of players Single-user
Developer Parallel Studio
Publisher Quantic Dream
Time to complete 6-9 hours
Release date August 29, 2023

For those who want to know more

Gratitude

The editors thank the publisher Quantic Dream for kindly providing the game for review

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