Ah, the good old apocalypse. The bread and butter of the video game writer. At this point, whether the world ends with zombies or nuclear Armageddon most of us have prepared mentally for what we would do and where we would go. However, do you ever feel that at this point we're too one note? Like maybe we're only filling out two or three squares on the apocalypse bingo card? Well, now with Diluvion by Arachnid Games, we have a flood-mageddon and with that I think with the free space on my board I have an apocalypse bingo. Though I did have some issues with the subplots, camera, and 2-d sections, I found myself really absorbed into the beautiful and dangerous world of a sunken earth.
Diluvion is available on Steam for $19.99.
The backstory of this game is absolutely flawless. It centers around an earth on which mankind grew to be too greedy and corrupt for our own good, and so the gods punished the earth by sinking literally all of the landmass and covering the surface in a barrier of ice. However, there one goddess decided mankind may deserve a second chance, and so she hid that chance at the end of the Endless Corridor. The one who reaches the end of the treacherous journey would bring back the land, and mankind can once again breathe fresh air. Until then, resources are scarce, mankind is constrained to their tiny airtight enclosures, and submarines are the only way to get around. The world building is impeccable, and the steampunk aesthetic really works with the setting. There are also two warring houses, there used to be three but the third was annihilated. I don't want to get into too much detail for worries of venturing into spoiler territory, but I was really impressed by the creativity in the setting.
I do have a couple issues with the story, mainly centering around your crew. Your helm officer, Jay, has a great story that is executed well at first, but it just kind of ends before it goes much of anywhere. He was the only crew I was really intrigued by. In fact, I found it difficult to even connect with the other members. There is one point at which a member of your crew dies after a surprise attack, but I knew so little about them that my reaction was more or less "Oh…that sucks." The death is handled well and your crew is obviously torn up about it because he would interact with them, but if it was going for shocking it would have helped if I would have known him a bit more. As it is if you decide to just talk to a random crew member to get a better sense of who they are, you will be disappointed. There are a ton of awesome plot threads that never really go anywhere, which I think is a real shame.
The gameplay is divided into two sections: The 3-d overworld in which you adventure around in your submarine and the 2-d towns. The brunt of the gameplay takes place in the overworld, and towns are pretty much just clicking to interact with things and people.
We all live in a steampunk submarine
At the beginning, you are given the choice to choose between the three typical vehicle archetypes: Fast but weak, slow but powerful, and balanced. i chose to go with the balanced choice, and that seemed to be a good call as i did indeed feel like I had a bit of everything rather than all of nothing, as some balanced options go. They say there are nine ships you can pilot, but I think they just mean there are three levels of the three starting ships. If there are more, they certainly aren't worth it. Money is tough to come by in vast quantities, so just be sure you'll be satisfied with your choice. You could use the resources to get a new submarine or you can upgrade your own with better guns and torpedoes.
What's a captain without his crew? In all fairness, that depends on the captain. In Diluvion, you should probably be sure to have a good crew on hand. You have your four officers for the helm, sonar, torpedo, and gunner stations. However, they don't really grow or improve over time. You can find new crew with varying stats that you can put in those different stations in order to boost their effectiveness. I personally enjoyed the fact that one bad stat didn't mean the crew was useless. If you have someone with terrible endurance but good strength and perception, you can put them in the gunner's station to improve accuracy and fire rate. Or perhaps they're all brawn and no brains, with great endurance and strength but no intelligence or perception. Put them in the engine room and enjoy your increased engine power. Alternatively, you can just keep them on standby and they will passively repair your sub. Be sure you're prepared though, because the enemy won't wait around for you to be sure everything is optimized. You have your "captain's time," which slows time enough to help you get your bearings, but you need to have an idea in your head because that captain's time lasts only briefly.
Your submarine controls very intuitively in three dimensions, and it doesn't take long to get the feeling for how to get around the underwater world. You can open up an in-game compass to help you find landmarks you have marked on your charts. If you don't have them marked, you will be led at least partially there by the goldenfish, which swarm around landmarks and help keep you from wandering aimlessly. To mark the landmarks, you need to find a chart somewhere around the landmark. With these factors adventuring around was rewarding but not tedious. You know where you're going but you're still able to find something cool. For example it's possible to have a home base, but it isn't on the map. You just find a capsule floating around in the ocean and there's an engineer in there who offers to continually upgrade it, which is a great way to find high-quality crew and items. You have to be sure to make frequent stops at towns too, because you have a finite amount of air and food and your crew won't perform their duties if they're hungry or dead.
What would a game like this be without epic submarine fights? The answer: it would be boring. I was about ready to tear into this game for how frustrated I was when I couldn't equip the weapons I bought and how inaccurate the gunning was, especially for when I couldn't hit enemies at point blank range. This was all solved when I finally figured out you can scroll through your guns in-combat with "I" and your various torpedo types with "O". Once I figured that out, the entire combat system fell into place. The inaccuracy was just due to the starting gun being a piece of literal garbage, and I found myself ripping pirate ships to shreds after a while. I found the combat fun but it never made me feel like I had turned god mode on and was just obliterating all my enemies with minimal effort.
However, the random encounters can either make or break your experience. Let me tell you a story of two times I fought the same boss. The first time I managed to take out enough to board the ship, I got what I needed, and I barely managed to get out intact. I then, with my two health left, was seen by a pirate who managed to finish what the boss had started in a matter of seconds. The second time, I was attacked before the boss fight. My ship was at full health, so after a bit of a scuffle I brought the thing down. On the empty ship I managed to find some torpedoes and ammo, which are what allowed me to beat the boss by a much larger margin.
I feel the need to address this one. The camera works fine in the first two acts, in which you're in more or less open ocean and can move it freely. Then the third act comes around and it becomes an absolute nightmare. For the final few bits you will be going through some enclosed areas and when you're in too close of quarters it begins rebelling. I couldn't see anything at one point in time, and I wound up needing to restart the ending portion but with the enemies having respawned. I was completely furious.
Graphics and audio
The three-dimensional bits for this are absolutely gorgeous, aesthetically and audibly. I was just blown away by how gorgeous a flooded earth could be and the instrumental score in the background. The designs for the ships are fantastic, the backgrounds are fantastic, and the music goes from a soothing ocean song to a percussive war anthem in a matter of seconds when you're under attack. Then when you start going into the trenches the music stops and you have deep sea ambiance, which takes the game from an epic swashbuckling adventure to almost a deep-sea horror feel. If you go into open ocean it can get a bit empty, so I wouldn't say it's as good as something like Abzu, but still, the 3-d parts are a treat for your eyes and ears.
The two-dimensional bits are…well two-dimensional. They didn't grate on my senses at all, but I felt like I was in a basket of the hand-me-downs from the remastered edition of Monkey Island. The sprites had very little movement and sometimes they looked like an awkward dancer at a high school prom. The unique sprites for major NPCs are designed well, but they move as much as a generation 3 Pokemon sprite. These two sections really clash, they almost feel like two different games.
When you're piloting a submarine around the ruins of a sunken earth, this game is mostly great with some unbelievably frustrating bits and a few lackluster bits. All in all, I think the game is worth checking out if this sounds like your thing. If you're looking for constant fast-paced action and a crew that you can really connect to, play Mass Effect. However, if you're willing to forgive an occasionally clunky camera and the lack of subplots that really go anywhere for a great overarching story, expertly crafted game world, and overall fun submarine combat, I would say give it a look.
|+ Beautiful 3-d environments||– Underwhelming 2-d sections|
|+ Intuitive submarine controls||– Erratic camera in close quarters|
|+ Strong overarching story||– Weak/non-existent subplots|