If you were stuck on a deserted island with only three items, what would they be? I’m sure you’ve been asked this question multiple times, over a job interview or a late night chat or even an icebreaker when meeting people. But have you ever stopped to think if you were stuck on a deserted island, which instinct would kick in first? Would you seek shelter, find food, immediately start screaming? Luckily, Stranded Deep helps you live through this without actually having to. Unfortunately though, you don’t get to choose three items to help you in your fight for survival.
Stranded Deep is a tense, first-person survival game developed by Beam Team Games. The game originally launched in 2015, but has recently crash landed on Nintendo Switch. Challenging all your natural instincts and kicking in your fight or flight straight away, it’s definitely not a game for the faint of heart. At first, you feel stuck on your island. But you quickly learn that there is far more to it than meets the eye.
It’s time to dive into these shark infested waters and see what Stranded Deep on Nintendo Switch really has to offer.
Story: let’s dive right in
You take on the role of our only survivor. At first, everything seemed fine. You ‘awaken’ almost in a private aircraft. No one else is around and you can’t see the pilot. There are a few seconds of peace where you can look around to see where you are, but as expected, this doesn’t last long. To anyone who has watched the trailer and then played the game, this whole opening dialogue is somewhat spoiled. I definitely knew what was happening; the trailer shows the gameplay in the first few seconds. Even though the title somewhat gives away the game’s concept, I still would’ve preferred some element of surprise. This is by far one of the most tense parts of the game, so already knowing it happens definitely dampens the immersion.
Like sand running through your fingers
Before you know it, sirens are wailing and your aircraft is plummeting to the ground. As the plane begins to fill with water, you have to fight for your life. You are given one simple instruction: Get to the life raft outside of the plane. This definitely adds to the tension, which I imagine is what Beam Team Games were aiming for when creating Stranded Deep. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t much instruction aside from that. It’s basically a bloodbath of learning controls whilst trying not to drown. It’s not clear where you have to go, or how to get out of the plane, so after several laps of the same area you might be lucky and find your escape. Which is where the real survival aspects of this adventure begin.
Although Stranded Deep has a fantastic premise, there really isn’t much story to it. You don’t learn about your character or what life would be like if the plane hadn’t crashed. You basically dive into the deep end of survival and never get to develop a personal relationship with your character. For a game built up to be one of the best survivals on the Nintendo Switch, I find it just seems quite empty. There’s not a whole lot of substance to it; you spend a few hours doing repetitive tasks before realising it takes over 10 hours to really get anywhere. Even then you get to the end of a task and feel like you’ve hardly achieved anything. I found it to be a little too slow for what was advertised as a tense, action-packed survival adventure.
Gameplay: swimming with the sharks until we drown
After watching the launch trailer for Stranded Deep on Nintendo Switch, I expected the gameplay to be at least above subpar. The trailer promised a smooth running, high quality gaming experience, but unfortunately I cannot say that it was delivered during my playthrough. The Nintendo Switch is renowned for dampening the quality of games due to constantly changing from handheld to docked. Stranded Deep potentially fell victim to this, as the game felt laggy and it was nowhere near as high quality as it looked in the trailer.
To begin with, this is undeniably an enjoyable game. Getting yourself set up and exploring the island is fun, and you learn pretty quickly how to use the environment to survive. The controls, however, are a different story. I’d imagine they’d be much easier to pick up on either PC or Xbox, but they do not translate well to the Nintendo Switch. Even after spending a good few hours I will admit I still have no idea what button is responsible for what.
The controls feel unnatural, on both joycons and a GameCube controller. One minute you’re flicking through your crafting list and with the slip of a finger you’ve opened your inventory and equipped a crab you found ten seconds earlier. There’s no tutorial or guide on buttons either, so you really do have to fend for yourself.
Blocky beaches and laggy lifeforms
Elements of the map spawned pixelated. Sand textures were cubes rather than breathtaking clear beaches and the creatures found on the island seemed to run with very few frames per second. There were several occasions where I plunged into the water and encountered a shark but rather than having a clean swimming animation before attack, they just stuttered towards you and before you know it, you’re dead. Additionally, shelling a crab is quite amusing as the animation doesn’t actually go anywhere near the creature. Magically waving your sharp stone in the air seems to mean you’ve collected crab meat.
I really enjoyed how Beam Team Games featured basic necessities in the game as well. Not only are you responsible for feeding yourself, or staying away from anything that could kill you. You also have to remember to keep hydrated, but you can’t drink the saltwater. Or if you stay in the sun too long, you get burned. There’s a lot more depth to staying alive than I expected from this game.
At first I thought the unknown laying at the bottom of the ocean would be more of a threat than the world around me, but that’s not the case. You have to make sure you’re functioning as a normal human as well as being an explorer. On several occasions I didn’t have the resources on me when I became dehydrated or overheated, so you have to make sure you’re prepared for everything.
Once again, and I know I’m starting to repeat myself, the concept of Stranded Deep is excellent. I do enjoy the game, but the appearance on Nintendo Switch definitely let it down. With blocky graphics and sticky controls I found myself getting more frustrated than enthused. If everything had run smoothly on Nintendo Switch I definitely would have been able to confidently announce my excitement with this title. But unfortunately, it definitely did result in a lot of frustrated button pressing to get anywhere I needed to be.
Audio and graphics: there’s nothing like the sound of the sea
As mentioned, the graphics on Nintendo Switch do not promote Stranded Deep with a spotlight and high praise. After looking into other playthroughs of the game, it’s clear that this is just an issue for the Switch. When on the right console, it’s a beautiful game and everything does run smoothly. Unfortunately, it just seems the Switch isn’t capable of showcasing this. The Switch makes Stranded Deep appear almost unfinished.
There are patches where the game feels like it could definitely do with more work. But after watching multiple playthroughs of the game on a variety of platforms, it’s obvious to me now that this isn’t a reflection of the game, but rather a reflection of the Switch’s capability to support a high quality, realistic title.
The soundtrack and audio is beautiful though. Gentle piano welcomes you to your first evening on the island, and natural sound is featured throughout gameplay. Weather cycles are also supported through diegetic sounds and the beaches have that classic rolling wave sounds. Sitting by your campfire in front of the sunset, with nothing but the sound of the sea and crackling wood is terrifically soothing. Even if you are facing a life or death situation.
For a second you can stop to admire the beauty of the world, even if it is virtual. Stranded Deep is a visually stunning game, even though it has its wobbly moments. To suggest that it isn’t quite a peaceful experience when you finally stop fending for yourself is completely inaccurate. Sometimes you need to stop shelling crabs or foraging leaves and really sit and admire the beauty behind it.
A world of wonderful weather
I am an absolute fanatic of a well executed weather cycle in a game, and Stranded Deep definitely provides that. Not every day is spent underneath the blazing sun. There’s tropical storms and heavy rain to keep your confidence at bay. Quite literally – as there’s no use in sailing whilst in the peak of a storm. (Save yourself the hassle.) So at least when you find tasks are becoming repetitive, there’s always a change in weather to shake things up.
This has the potential to be an incredible survival adventure. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t translate well on Nintendo Switch. Though this is no fault of the developers. It’s a shame, as I can definitely see the potential in it. But if I only have this game on one console I can’t see myself picking it up again any time soon. I’ll save it for my own rainy days.
Stranded Deep was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a key provided by Beam Team Games.