The latest in the veteran series of underwater shooters, does Aquanox: Deep Descent sink or swim?
In the future, the world’s gone to hell and everybody lives underwater. Awoken from cryogenic sleep, players get sucked into an undersea conflict.
Back in 1996 Blue-Byte’s Archimedean Dynasty served up the first part of what would become the Aquanox series. Aquanox: Deep Descent is the third game to carry the Aquanox title.
As with the previous games, Deep Decent plays like a first-person-shooter, but I’d have preferred something with a bit more realism. As fun as it is, the game never seems to impart the feeling of being in control of a submarine. The sub moves too swiftly and precisely for something moving through water.
Deep Descent is a good-looking game. It uses a depth of field to realistically depict murky water, with bubbles and detritus adding to the undersea feel. Rather than pitch-black ocean depths, fumbling around in the dark making for a boring game, the denizens of the undersea world of Aqua have installed some mood lighting. This and photo-luminescent plants light the player’s way.
I found the game a bit slow to get into. In time, though, it develops into a great mission-based shooter with some trading and RPG elements thrown in for good measure. In many ways it’s an undersea Elite-style game, but with a plot.
The game isn’t really open-world, with players mainly restricted to labyrinthian corridor-like tunnels and chamber areas. Areas like the surface are blocked by dangerous “nano-plankton”. There are large capital subs and structures that game be docked with for missions, trade, and outfitting.
The combat is not bad, but with the constraints of the environments playing a part my restricting moving, somewhat. Taking on enemy subs is a lot more fun than the weird infected fauna that mindlessly comes at your sub.
The story for the most part is engaging. The game does a good job of world-building, with the oceans carved up into several political factions. Different areas of the ocean are traversed using gates, which provides a gameplay solution to the player travelling vast distances in the story.
The narrative is conveyed by radio transmission and interaction with the occupants of the various city structures and underwater craft in the game. The development budget didn’t stretch to animated interactions, instead, the dialogue is complemented by illustrated depictions of the various characters.
As well as the main missions, players can take on extra bounty-hunting jobs to earn more cash for upgrades. There’s also salvage to be gathered that can also be used to equip the sub.
The game never pretends to be a AAA title, but still, the developers have done a pretty good job of polishing it up. It’s a nicely presented game, if not the most engrossing. It does however offer some decent underwater action and sci-fi submarine combat, which there’s just not enough of.
Aquanox: Deep Descent is not going to be for everybody, but if you like the idea of piloting your own futuristic submarine in a post-apocalyptic future, you might want to give it a try.