Not all games need to be complicated. In fact, some of the most critically acclaimed and highly-regarded games of all-time are born from small concepts with relatively simple execution. Journey is a great example of this; it's more than just the sum of its parts. But not all simple games are great either. Without depth, you need nuance and creative mechanics to engage players — or at least a captivating story. Submerged: Hidden Depths, unfortunately, has neither.
Submerged: Hidden Depths feels mostly lost at sea amidst the growing swarm of excellent games on Stadia on its course to deliver a compelling adventure. It's instead arriving at a ho-hum amalgamation of loose ideas. It's not a game, but it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Submerged: Hidden Depths Story and Presentation
|Title||Submerged: Hidden Depths|
|Publisher||Stadia Games and Entertainment|
|Play Time||6 hours|
Submerged: Hidden Depths tells the story of a young woman on a journey to cure a world of an insidious and dangerous evil that's slowly spreading and swallowing the last remnants of civilization. The catch here is that the world has been flooded and you must travel across the open sea with a young man as your companion to uncover the secrets of what has happened and dispel the plague that's consuming everything.
Submerged feels like it's missing some finishing touches.
Visually, Submerged certainly has its moments. During the opening cinematic you get a great glimpse of just how sweeping and beautiful the vistas can be, especially from a distance. The way the water ebbs and flows beneath your boat is hypnotic and the lighting, while not overly impressive up close, casts some great distant shadows.
Character models are a completely different story though with stiff movements and playdough-looking hair. They really look out of place when placed against the serene water. They also interact with each other oddly, looking at each other, as if expecting one another to speak, but not uttering any words at all. At first, I thought the game was broken, but it seems to be a creative choice that mostly comes off as baffling. Overall, the game feels like it's missing some finishing touches.
Submerged: Hidden Depths Gameplay and Difficulty
Just like the story, the gameplay is suggestive and doesn't go out of its way to present anything for you to actually do. It consists of sailing between outposts, exploring areas, collecting diary pages and pieces of debris, and then relocating a large green orb into a weird plant pocket that magically cures everything in the area. That's essentially the entire game.
Some elements spruce up the monotony of the plot (if you could call it that). One small minor effect I liked is the subtlety of the environmental changes. Since much of the area that's infected looks decayed by default, everything literally comes to life when you walk past carrying the orb.
I appreciate when the subtle nuance shines through narratively.
Plants start to appear in a trail behind you and the ashen silhouettes of long-gone people slowly start to perk up and move around a bit, like echoes of their past selves. In moments like this, I appreciated when the subtle nuance shines through and helps communicate what Submerged is trying to go for narratively.
But the majority of the time it felt like a watered-down version of something I've already played a dozen times.
Submerged makes having "no combat" a key selling point, but no combat doesn't necessarily have to mean zero fun things to do. Games like Abzu, Journey, The Pathless, and others have zero or very limited combat and still manage to be entertaining in other ways. Since there's not much to do in Submerged beyond locating items and locating orbs, the gameplay loop gets stagnant fast.
The main issue here seems to be to not include anything overtly violent or troublesome. In this way, the experience loses all tension and sense of accomplishment. In fact, you could argue the entire premise is backward because there is no impetus for you to eradicate the dark plant energy since it's not actually harming you as far as you can tell.
Submerged: Hidden Depths Stadia Performance and Platforms
Inexplicably Submerged: Hidden Depths is a Stadia platform- exclusive published by Stadia Games and Entertainment. As a sequel to an obscure five-year-old indie title it was already a surprising release, but with zero features that take advantage of the platform, it doesn't seem to make much sense.
This is a slow-paced, six-hour, singleplayer indie game so there's no Crowd Play, State Share, or anything else that appears to leverage Stadia. That isn't necessary for a Stadia platform-exclusive, but with so few exclusives at this stage, you'd expect it to push boundaries in some way.
In terms of performance, Submerged plays just fine. Some of the water effects and distance vistas look nice, but overall it's not the most visually demanding game on the platform. Over Wi-Fi, my connection was at approximately 200 Mb/s down and 25 Mb/s up, which is more than sufficient for a quality Stadia connection.
It looks and plays great on web browsers, Chromecast, and the mobile app with no issues on controllers or keyboard and mouse formats. In fact, due to how simple of a game it is, it's actually one of the most playable titles on Stadia right now.
Submerged: Hidden Depths Should you buy it?
Submerged: Hidden Depths is admittedly a tough sell. For $20 you can get a lot of value on the Stadia store with a great selection of smaller games or hold out while waiting for a deep sale.
If you're a Stadia Pro subscriber then you can check the game out for no extra charge instantly just by clicking down below. But even then, unless you're a big fan of slow-paced, low-action, subtle narratives then you might struggle to find the fun here.
Submerged: Hidden Depths does have some nice ideas buried beneath the surface. The story of a young duo of stranged survivors slowly healing an estranged world is beautiful and poignant in a unique way, but it's all wrapped up in an adventure that's too full of tedium to be worth the journey for most.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.