Submerged:  Hidden Depths





Genre: Adventure  

Developer & Publisher: Uppercut Games

Released: March 9, 2022            

Requirements: Windows 10

Processor:  Minimum, 4-core 3.0+ GHZ; Recommended, 8-Core 3.2 GHZ

Memory:  Minimum, 6 GB RAM; Recommended, 8 GB RAM 

Graphics:  Minimum, Nvidia Geforce GTX 780 - AMD Raedon R7 260X

Recommended, Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 - AMD Raedon RX 580

DirectX:  Version 11

Storage: 12 GB available storage



















By flotsam


Submerged: Hidden Depths

Uppercut Games

As it turns out, I pretty much told you all you needed to know in my first look. Which isn’t a criticism, rather an acknowledgement that the game continues in the same gentle exploratory vein as it was described.

To recap, Hidden Depths describes itself as a "third person, non-combat, relaxploration adventure", which is an apt description. Miku and her younger brother Taku are exploring a watery city, one in which a large black plant-like mass has taken hold, one which “swallows life and spits out copies.” They are alone, except for strange manifestations of the previous inhabitants which ‘populate’ the inundated buildings, and an array of animals and sea creatures.

The deeper story, both of the city and the siblings, you can discover as you play. It is part of the appeal of the adventure, with a surprise and a rather good end.

You explore by boat, with the watery world completely open to you from the start. It’s a big place, but navigating is part of the fun. Your craft bobs and rocks in the swell, night becomes day, fog rolls in and it might rain. It’s a colourful and detailed environment, on and off the water, and I enjoyed spending time tootling about, seeing what I could see.

The initial part of the game sets up your primary objective, through a brief exploration of The Dome, which is your current location and your home base. Miku finds a large seed, one which needs to be ‘liberated’ and returned to its home. Carrying it to a bowl shaped pod, she watches in amazement as it restores life to the black plant. Sensing another seed nearby and what might be possible, she and Taku take to the sea.

Once aboard, a map becomes available, although the only item identified at this stage is the nearby seed. While you can just head off to potentially explore other buildings you can see, travelling to the nearby seed is a sensible first step. You will arrive at an old library which is a far smaller construction than the rest of the places you will visit, and is designed to help you settle into how the environment works, how you get about and what else you might find and collect.

More than that, finding the seed and finishing that location returns you automatically to The Dome and when you next set off, a telescope is added to your items, a very handy implement indeed. I have no idea whether it will become available if you were to find a different seed as a result of simply sailing off into the watery world, but I can’t see why you would try and find out.

What the telescope does is put things that you see through it onto your map, making getting there easier and keeping track of places found and not yet visited. You can identify all manner of things, not just the location of seeds. Lookouts, landmarks and locations of other items you can collect (diary pages predominantly), as well as boat upgrades which float in the sea and relics which you pull from the depths; all of these will be plotted onto the map.

Needless to say, much like a real telescope your vantage point will determine how much you might be able to discover at any one time, and while I would regularly pause while on the water to have a look through it, I made a point of whenever I was up high to see what I could see, especially in directions I hadn’t yet been. To that end, climbing the lookouts was helpful.

If you do visit a building that wasn’t previously on your map, it will also then appear; but not every building you can see is one that you can visit (that is, get off your boat and explore). However, to my knowledge any place the telescope identifies can be visited, for one purpose or another, so it helps you sort out where to go and where you need not bother.

Not everything you can find will be on your map. In the seed locations there are nine ‘style’ pieces to be found, which when collected enable you to change the look of your boat or perhaps your hair. Its just another piece of the exploration fabric.

Exploring a location is done by one or other of the siblings, generally by Miku (and always when it came to collecting the seeds) but occasionally by Taku (near as I can recall he set out when all that was to be found was a diary page). Whichever character you might be using, they both operate the same. Played in the third person, the WASD keys are used to move the character, while the mouse controls the camera view, and you can usually always shift that view to one that better suits what it is that is going on. I tended to keep it behind me, but on occasion I wanted to pull down to look up in order to see where I might climb, or shift it to around a corner so I could see what the path ahead. I thought it worked well.

You do climb, and jump, and swing on ropes and zoom on ziplines and scuttle up pipes. But you do it without needing to do any of that yourself. If Miku needs to jump a gap, simply having her move towards the gap will result in a jump. Ditto if she swings on a set of ropes; just keeping the W key pressed will cause her to do what is required. And if for someone reason you release the key halfway through, she will just hang on the rope, patiently waiting until you press again, at which time she will start her swing up again and continue on her way.

You might have to make some decisions about eg. where to go next (do I jump to that next ledge or do I drop to the one below) and perhaps a ledge might not be wide enough to walk on but can be traversed by hanging from your fingertips; but there is no dexterity, or timing, or any danger involved. Miku won’t fall, she won’t miss a leap, she can’t die, and nothing she does has a time limit. It accentuates the exploration, encouraging you to look (instead of being put off by potential tragedy) for all those other things there are to be found and which might only be reached by getting off the obvious path (flowers you can find for instance tend to grow halfway up walls), but still gives you a participatory sense of Lara Croft nimbleness. It's rather nifty.

Helping you to get about is a guide colour, which you can set in the options to suit. By default it is red, and you will quickly find how it assists in eg. where you might climb or jump. The character will also turn their head to look towards something of interest, and there are little shimmers and sparkles that you shouldn’t ignore. So too there are audio clues, and a very detailed user manual at the game’s Steam page sets them out (and contains a whole lot of other helpful information).

A little compass ribbon top of screen with images for things to be found can further assist, and once you have found all the items in a location a little pop-up will alert you to that fact. You can’t get stuck, or lost, and the locations are designed in a way which avoids backtracking; but if you do get confused however, you can choose to return to the start of an area without losing your progress.

Within the locations you might have to manage pressure plates, trigger the release of bridges, open gates or even tow a platform with your boat into place. None of it is hard, and all actions are achieved by pressing the ‘E’ key (on the keyboard) when the hotspot is activated. You will also have to move your seed around the location, sometimes by carrying it but also by eg. putting it in a cradle and sending it off somewhere with the pulley mechanism at hand. Same as before, its all straightforward.

Music is used to heighten the mood and is another positive element (as is the sound palette generally). There is some very limited spoken word but it's in a native language you can’t understand. The main story unfolds through pictograms and subtitles, and the collected diary pages add the broader tale of the city. These can be accessed in your journal through a little set of menu buttons bottom right, or viewed on one of the walls of The Dome when you return there. You can also display the relics you find in one room of The Dome, and the flowers on trellises throughout. Your telescope and map icons are also bottom right, as is a button to put certain things down (seeds, pressure balls) should you need to. It autosaves on exit, and just choose continue to start back up where you left off.

You can quick travel to places you have already been, and while restoring a seed automatically returns you to The Dome, this means you can get straight back to wherever if you decide you want to look for things you didn’t find. And assuming you get to the end of the game without finding everything, you can continue to explore, although starting a new game will wipe your single save (which I never like or understand).

There is a lot going on in Hidden Depths, but it really does accentuate the ‘relaxploration.’ It leans into what it is about, and packages it up well. You could argue it’s a bit the same but I spent about 10 hours getting to the end without finding it dull or limiting, and still have about a third of the things to find. I was surprised by how much calm enjoyment it gave me across the several months I dipped in and out of it, and intend to do so again to find those remaining items.

I played on:

OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit

Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz

RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB

Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB



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