By Alaistair J D’ Souza
Let me explain the possible misleading title right now, if you’re one of the ever increasing population of people who expect games to give out every possible instruction/command then stop reading this review and check back two weeks later for another game. No offence intended games are meant to be fun no matter how ‘realistic’ they are and the trend of making ‘the real thing’ type of games these days are at a all time high.On that note here’s Stranded Deep an Open World, Survival game playing out the story of a plane crash survivor whose now stranded somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. At the start of the game your some big shot executive whose obviously loaded since you’re flying all alone (not counting the flight crew which only seems to have the pilots on board) there’s a short demonstration in which the game laughably tries to teach you the crafting mechanics by getting you to make a Martini yourself. Once that’s out of the way something goes terribly wrong and the plane seems to go down. Leaving you at the Pacific Ocean sitting in a life boat and the standard starting gear any survivor would need to get through the first few moments. Usually the game would put you a bit off the closest island hinting that getting to an island is probably your best bet on surviving god knows what. Pick that paddle son and get paddle-ling!
A nifty feature and the closest thing to an on-screen HUD is the ‘looking at your watch’ which along with telling you the time of day, date, temperature and how many days you have survived, the watch also lets you keep track of your vitals and your hunger and thirst levels. Tracking your vitals is simple enough, full bars means good, 0 bars means you’re probably going to die.
A hefty portion of the gameplay is in form of crafting, unlike other games of the genre in Stranded Deep you throw combinations of materials on to the ground and hope that you can make something out of them. There is no help file or any indication on what you can ‘craft’ which ties in pretty well with the whole stranded in an unknown location theme. You will soon realise hopefully before its too late that holding ground at your starter island isn’t really a good idea and the need for exploration arises. Like your island there are many scattered around and the game does a pretty good job of making islands seem closer than they look. The worst thing to happen is going to another island to scavenge for stuff and come back to what you would expect is your home but realise that your are now lost. Well there are sharks in the sea as well but I wouldn’t worry too much about them, they only seem to be interested in knocking you off your boat/raft but I guess that’s how most shark attack movies play out. Bottom line don’t go swimming with the sharks!
Besides islands that look just like the one you left behind are ship wrecks that serves two purposes in the game
1 – a constant reminder that in that world people have died a lot either travelling or trying to navigate the Pacific Ocean
Remember that thing about crafting? So if you throw down a rock, plant fibres (basically a string) and a stick you can craft a Crude axe, now go chop some trees for more sticks/palm leaves for further crafting. But the Crude axe as the name implies takes quite a while to chop down a tree or harvest more plant fibres. This is where the loot from wrecked ships comes into play, if you find a hatchet or a machete then you’re golden. But not for long most of the items crafted or looted have durability factor and will eventually vanish from your inventory when their time is done.
Well you gotta eat and drink in a survival situation right? Eating options are plenty full and could easily fool you into thinking yeah I can just take an extended vacation right here. You can spear fish or crabs with a spear of course. Gather coconuts (which can replenish your thirst levels as well as hunger levels) and if brave enough take on a shark for some real food that is if you can last that long poking the shark with your knife/spear before the shark decides enough is enough. Day/night cycles are fairly well spaced giving you enough time to do stuff either during the day or night whatever it may be. Be vary though if you fall from a great height you can stiffer fall damage and will have broken bones or get poisoned or bleed from shark attacks, all which require a certain medical aid which atm can only be found by looting shipwrecks
Visuals in the game are absolutely beautiful watching the sunset is pretty distracting and never gets old, night time isn’t the usual all dark atmosphere. For some reason there is always a full moon at night so its pretty well lit. Fishing with the spear under water is literally breathtaking first few moments of the game I was in awe with my virtual skills of landing fish after fish with just a spear and spot on aim that I had. Weather elements in the game are decent enough with rain/fog limiting your maximum field of vision. Graphics aren’t next-gen by any stretch of the imagination but they look good none the less.
The game is seriously lacking the said department leaving aside a few basic sounds in the game. For example your watch will beep when one of more of your vitals is dangerously low, or a slightly disturbing sound when a shark is in the vicinity. Possibility of some kind of an audio feedback from your character is very much desired.
The game is currently in Alpha release and can be acquired via the Steam Store for a price of USD 14.99
This ‘Early Access’ gives the developers a chance to improve their game by having a larger group of testers before its official release hence effectively a better final product. Please note that the ‘Early Access’ tag also implies that the game development could possible come to a halt and never get released as a finished product. This is a risk the consumer has to take before committing to an Early Access game on the Steam Network.
Normally it isn’t fair to review and rate Alpha/Beta versions of games but since people have to pay to even try the game out negates it.
Final thoughts Stranded Deep could potentially be one of most fun games to play but a lot of work is required to reach that mark, so far the developers have been releasing updates addressing the various bugs in the game which is always a good thing.
I’d give Stranded Deep a 4/10 with high hopes of decent score by time the finished product is out. (considering the amount of the good work the developers have been putting out so far)