Condemn O.R. Condone – Submerged (PlayStation 4)

As soon as I heard about Submerged I knew I needed to check it out. An exploration-based game that has no combat that is set in a beautiful submerged city is a concept I found very intriguing, and the game perfectly follows through on that initial wonder. It takes a lot of guts to create a video game that features no action to get the blood pumping, but Uppercut Games is able to deliver an experience that’s engaging enough to get by without it.

Submerged subscribes to the simple saying of less is more. The story follows a girl named Miku as she brings her wounded brother Taku to the aforementioned city in search of supplies to help heal him. There is no traditional dialogue that the game offers to tell you exactly what is going on, rather there are a series of drawings that you unlock after you find each of the 10 main supply crates needed to help Taku. These series of drawings give a very blunt but no less incredibly emotional interpretation of what exactly lead the two to the city in the first place.

While the main supply crates are all that are needed to finish the game, there are also 60 collectibles strewn throughout this submerged city that you need to be on the lookout for. Submerged does collectibles right, as rather than just getting them to get some arbitrary trophy you are actually piecing together what exactly happened to this ruined city. Not only that, but these collectibles are often much trickier to locate than the supply crates, requiring you to maneuver your way around many challenging obstacles to finally reach them.

You’ll explore this submerged city on Miku’s little fishing boat, and just sailing through the city is a magical experience. The game’s visuals are breathtaking as you see the ruins of huge monuments and buildings, while also coming across wildlife that are still roaming around. The passage of time is represented beautifully, as you’ll be traveling around with the moonlight, sunlight and all phases in between that create some incredible lighting effects. These experiences are made all the better by the games somber and deeply moving score, which chimes in at key moments to give what you’re witnessing even more punch.

As mentioned previously, much of the game is spent finding supply crates and collectibles, which are all contained on ruined buildings. Miku docks her fishing boat and then must climb pipes, rocks and vines to scale up, down and across buildings ranging from small to massive, and the designs of these segments are really well thought out. While most supply crates will require basic navigation to get to, there were several times I found myself getting stumped in trying to find some of the collectibles. To get to some of them will require zip-lining from neighboring buildings and climbing multiple stories, which brings a great feeling of accomplishment when you finally do end up at the spot where that shiny dot has been hiding.

Submerged is a very relaxing experience and that’s not only because of the gorgeous visuals and soothing score, but also because there’s no combat or way to get a game over screen. The game allows you to take it completely at your own pace and just marvel at the wonders around you, and while that might bore some types of gamers it was something that sucked me in from the very beginning. The little world that this game creates feels so real and the story of the ruined city that you slowly piece together on the journey to save Taku is something that I had to finish even though it wasn’t required. That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments where things get tense, however, as Miku is being watched by these strange and deformed beings that she seemingly finds herself slowly mutating into as the game progresses. It plays off more as mysterious than really scary, which works well with the game’s overall tone.

Submerged is a brief experience, with the main mission only taking a few hours and the collectibles probably doubling tripling that time. While I have no problem with the game’s length as I think it suits this kind of game perfectly, my only real issue is with the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but I felt that there were a couple of important plot points that were left hanging in the air that I was hoping would be resolved that simply weren’t. It’s not a huge deal seeing as the journey to get to that point was stunning, but the ending just felt a little too abrupt.

Submerged is a solid gaming experience that anybody with an interest in the concept should check out. The journey that it takes you on is truly like no other and is able to pack in so much emotion without uttering a single line of comprehensible dialogue. It might not go as deep as I would have liked with the story, I was still able to thoroughly enjoy my time playing it. It’s such a simple concept, but that’s the reason it’s so relatable and why I was completely engrossed in seeing Miku and Taku’s story through to the very end.