by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Delve into the Depths
The ocean is a beautiful, mysterious place, and many games over the years have attempted to capture its majesty. This is done via a variety of genres, but quite often this takes the form of a survival experience with limited oxygen or potential dangers. In the case of Under the Waves, however, the focus is more on a narratively driven experience.
Players of Under the Waves take on the role of Stan, who is beginning a new, isolated job at the bottom of the North Sea. Even early on it is clear that Stan has a lot of turmoil, though this reviewer can't go too deeply into that at the request of Parallel Studio, the game's developer. Over the course of the game Stan will traverse both the ocean as well as his inner thoughts, acting as reflections of one another as he deals with the isolation and solitude of his new life.
The world of Under the Waves is a fascinating sight, the blue depths spreading out near endlessly, marine life drifting along, even wreckages of sunken ships or reclaimed technology add to the tranquillity of the atmosphere. This is enhanced by the fact that there are very limited threats to the player in the game, allowing them for the most part to take in the sights at a leisurely and relaxed pace that encourages exploration.
Parallel Studio, the developers of Under the Waves, actually worked closely with Surfrider Foundation Europe, a preservation society that work to clean and care for the world's oceans. Surfrider Foundation provided research documents to the developer team, allowing for Stan's journey to be even further fleshed out. This is primarily through log entries, but added info can be found on even the achievements in game! This was done in part to make the experience of Under the Waves even more deep, making the world feel almost alive. With the focus on our oceans, that was certainly a fitting goal.
Scavenging and Crafting
While exploring the depths of Under the Waves, players will find resources that can be used in order to craft items that will further their exploratory abilities. They aren't necessarily required for the most part, but they do make travelling the oceanic depths for all the optional items much easier. Most craftable items are consumable, meaning that players may need to keep an eye on their resources if they plan on expending a lot of items for further exploration. While an optional part of the game, just like finding anything and everything, it adds to the cumulative experience in a really engaging way.
With how beautifully rendered and styled the ocean floor and even the technology in Under the Waves is, gamers might be taken aback by the way that Stan almost appears crude by comparison. This is one of the few flaws with the game, but considering Stan is the main protagonist and as such can be seen in a vast portion of the game, his facial expressions and body language can make for a large part of the emotional impact of the game. The voice work is certainly impressive, and while the character design does leave something to be desired it isn't enough to take away from the weight of Under the Waves. From an artistic standpoint, one might even see it as an intentional design choice based on how much of the game is a story about Stan and his isolation and depression.
Leaving Things to be Discovered
This reviewer can't go into too much detail about the story of Stan and Under the Waves - some things are best experienced by the player first hand after all, and the story that is spun along the seafloor is definitely one of those. Players will learn more about Stan through his isolation, all the while exploring the beautiful ocean. If you're a fan of oceanic visage, emotional stories, crafting mechanics, wide ranging exploration, or some combination of them all, Under the Waves might just be the game for you
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Beautiful and Emotional
Stan's Appearance starkly contrasts the game's gorgeous design