There haven’t been too many underwater games in the past, which is odd considering our oceans make up 70% of the planet’s surface. Diluvion from Arachnid Games is the latest title to take players beneath the oceans to solve a mystery.
In Diluvion, the future planet is going to be submerged, and mankind trapped under an ice cap. The gods are angered by the actions of the human race, but mankind has been thrown a lifeline by one god who has hidden a secret in the depths. This is a secret you must find, in order to put end to mankind’s dependence on the oceans for survival.
Diluvion takes some inspiration from Jules Verne and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. There are three different subs to choose from at the start each with their own specialties. These effectively boils down to a faster, more vulnerable, ship versus a slower, heavily armoured, ship and one all-rounder in between.
At the start of the game you are alone, but over time you need to build a crew to each man a specific station on the ship. These individuals are hired as the player travels to various landmarks and underwater stations. Their labour costs money of course, which means cash has to be earned by looting wrecks and trading loot items at vendors at the various locations you uncover.
The main mission progresses as more NPCs are discovered, each offering hints as to where to go next to either discover a new landmark or give you instructions on how to improve your sub.
Discovering new locations is not easy at the start. There’s no map, so you end up floundering around a bit; and because you are stuck under this ice cap it can be a little tricky to maneuver when spaces get tight. After the start zone, this becomes less of a problem as maps open up, but it crops up from time to time making maneuvering a frustrating experience.
The subs are controlled with a WASD system, along with Q and E to move the ship up and down in the vertical axis. Early in the game the sub can only dive to around 200m before the outside pressure starts damaging the ship. Upgrades solve this problem as the story progresses and new NPCs are discovered.
Visibility can be quite poor, and it’s not helped by some of the visual effects of swirling ocean currents and weird blue streaks. The current will help you move faster, but it’s also quite overwhelming. It becomes so much easier to control the sub and navigate when there’s less going on. There’s also a compass which appears around the ship to help with direction but, again, this can get obscured when close to objects. There are issues with visibility when close to any other objects such as some of the main landmarks or the sides of the map. This is mainly due to the third-person camera moving around as you move the mouse left and right. The game has a tendency to move the camera behind the edges which causes all kinds of visual weirdness.
As you progress there are basic maps, but you are never told precisely where you are. Instead, you need to navigate via the landmarks which can be a little tricky. There are some tips; the directions of discovered landmarks are shown on the compass, and fish can even be used to help navigate a little. Shoals of goldfish indicate a direction to something of significance, but they also tend to just drop away. Checkpoints are also indicated by green fish but the checkpoint system is quite flawed. More often than not I found loading the last checkpoint would take me back too far and significant progress would be lost. More frustration.
Diluvion is really about survival while exploring. The sub will have to be stocked up with vital supplies such as air to breathe and food for the crew. Food can be looted, or purchased from a trader, and air automatically replenishes when you dock with one of the major hubs using your tow rope. There’s no complex docking procedure to learn here, as long as you are close enough and reasonably lined up the sub will dock.
Once inside a landmark location there are NPCs who can be hired to join the crew, trade with you, offer quests, or generally talk gibberish. There’s no voice acting, they just make acknowledgment noises which is a little disappointing. Should you revisit one of these locations the NPCs will say the same stuff, and the game treats a second encounter almost as if you’ve never been there before or talked to that NPC. Again, a little disappointing.
When crew members are hired, their stats boost the overall sub stats as they are slotted or moved into key positions. Crew members can also die as I discovered when docked with an abandoned ship and responded to a cry behind a door. I was given the option to open it with a crowbar and the result was death for one of my crew. There wasn’t really any explanation of what had happened to the unlucky crew member.
When traveling around there are enemy ships that will attack you, and sea creatures that will engage as well. Enemy ships will also attack each other, which means there’s often an opportunity to wait for one to take the other out and then jump in to destroy the second ship. Combat is a straightforward point the crosshair and shoot affair, and, like a flight or space sim, you need to preempt where the enemy ship will be when the incoming fire arrives at the target. The combat is quite simple.
I’ve struggled to really enjoy Diluvion. The concept is sound, the art style is at least a little different, but it became repetitive and frustrating quite quickly. With the visuals a bit glitchy, and sometimes a little overwhelming, it also became a pain to navigate around the maps making exploring (a significant part of the game) or looking for a new landmark feel like a chore.
Those would-be Captain Nemos who enjoy some exploration with a bit of survival thrown in may get a kick out of this, but it feels lacking.