Con Quantic Dream, big productions like Heavy Rain or Detroit come to mind. But the French company also wants to sponsor smaller and more promising projects within his new imprint Spotlight, oriented to indie games. One of them is Under the Waves, an adventure with a lot of narrative load which will arrive in 2023 on PS4, PS5, One, Series X | S and PC.
Recently, we were able to visit the impressive new Quantic Dream offices in Paris to test first-hand this striking project (the work of Parallel Studio), which we had already told you about in our previous preview of Under the Waves.
The good impressions of the previous game are maintained here, but let’s go in parts. Broadly speaking, the objective is to control Stan, a diver who accepts a long research mission in the North Sea to be able to turn the page before a terrible personal loss who recently lived
Us we control Stan in the third person while moving around in your underwater base or goes out into the open sea to investigate what they are communicating by radio, such as a series of containers sunk in the sea.
The parts of the underwater base will be simple: getting up, activating the coffee maker or talking to our on-board computer will mark the routine that separates a few days in which we do not see sunlight.
Things get interesting when we venture into the sea. Of course, we will have limited oxygen reservesso we will have to keep an eye on them and control how many extra oxygen vials we have left to recharge the tank when it is about to run out.
We will also have the help of a radar that we can use at any time to indicate the location of nearby and important targets, since otherwise it could be easy to miss in the deep sea.
Although we can swim on our own and in any direction, for long distances it will be necessary to resort to Moon, a small submarine with which we will save oxygen and we can move fasteralthough the use of fuel will have to be controlled.
Through exploration with Moon or “bareback” when you have to manipulate precise material, we will be fulfilling our missions. In the brief demo that we were able to test (around a quarter of an hour), we had to unfasten some air circuits based on finding and turning the corresponding valves, which tests our orientation and spatial vision.
Later, the investigation of some containers helped us to scan and fix targetsalthough all this was a plot excuse to take us to the deepest corners of the sea and run into there, lost in time, a strange submarine.
Inside, other small puzzles offered us place mines to burst hatches or regulate the pressure of other devices in order to advance the investigation. To manipulate valves and other objects, we will have to “perch” and stop swimmingwhich is done simply by pressing a button near the surface in question.
At playable level, we like that we have freedom to explore the more open areas and discover not only the main objectives, but also objects to collect (cleaning up ocean trash is part of the deep environmental message of the game) and even craft new tools tools. We even found sea creatures to interact and befriend.
Those moments of free movement, in a huge and unknown environment, they are as relaxing as they are inspiringbecause the game shows us all kinds of beings moving freely around their environment (they have thoroughly researched to represent the real marine fauna and flora of that area) while we continue with the investigation.
But of course, the other facet of the game, beyond environmentalism and relaxation, is stan’s personal drama. As his partner warns him over the radio, staying underwater for so long can take its toll on the coconut and our protagonist begins to experience strange visions: huge glowing jellyfish seem to attract you and key points.
As we follow them, accompanied by a lyrical piano melody, Stan sees… other things. Things that he believes are impossible, because they should no longer be in this world, but that he wants to hold on to.
We promise you that the final shot of the demo, with a distant shot that shows a very intimate moment, has given us goosebumps. It looks like this Under the Waves is going to be a very dramatic game, but also a cathartic one.. Come on, those of us who are more sensitive are going to drop more than one tear and more than two.
But this adventure game also treasures humor, especially when talking to the funny on-board computer or when talking to a colleague on the radio. Yes, they want us to feel melancholy, but also moments of fun and, above all, wonder at what awaits us under the water.
The sea, the last frontier
On a technical level, as usually happens with many indie games, there is one of lime and one of sand. Stan’s model, although it pretends to have a somewhat cartoon tone, suffered from quite a few imperfections in animations and expressiveness, something that clashed with much more expressive English voices. Of course, this was a beta and there is time to polish those details well.
It is also important to highlight the artistic design of the game, which is set in the 70s, but taking on a retro-futuristic aestheticwith some devices that did not exist as such at that time, but at the same time are shown with a look that could well have occurred in those years.
The development team was inspired by the well-known documentaries by Jacques Cousteau and by the adventure movies of the 70s to design this world.
The game interface is simple and allows us to access a minimap, a viewer of our oxygen and the available tools (mines, the oxygen stick…), alternating between them with the crosshead.
It is true that sometimes it was a bit difficult to orientate in such a large and, of course, dark environment, but the developers have already told us that they are working to make the indications of the most immediate objectives clearer when we press the scan button. In any case, the game presents us key areas of the environment that seek to be simple reference points.
In fact, where the game did attract much more attention was in the recreation of the seabed. The moving seaweed, the schools of fish around us, the bubble effects, the dim lighting of our suit and the submarine… It all contributed to the fact that we “believed” that we were really in the enigmatic and beautiful bottom of the sea.
The same thing happened with the music, which was guiding our emotions in the most clamored moments of exploration and those in which surprise invades both the player and the main character. These are serene melodies based on few instruments, which seek to connect with the intimate side of the story.
The control allows us to ascend and descend with the triggers while we control the direction with the stick. As in the real experience of diving, It’s a bit hard at first to get the hang of it, but once we get the hang of it, it’s very nice to navigate through the environments.
So we keep our high expectations about Under the Waves, especially in the narrative and in the recreation of the diving experience. It does not seek to be a first-rate video game at an audiovisual level, but what it already has it is enough and it is left over to bring out the emotions and delve into the search for ourselves tens of meters below the sea surface.
If you’ve missed any announcements from the first big summer event, check out our Summer Games Fest roundup for all the news, plus previews and in-depth looks at the following titles:
With the event over, what do you think of Summer Game Fest 2023? Have you missed any announcement?