by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Under the sea
Despite making up the majority of our planet, not many games explore the underwater depths of the oceans. A place which is just as likely to strike you with rare beauty as it is to throw terrifying sights at you, seems an obvious place to set a game. Diluvion is here to show you both sides of the seas. Sometimes you will be struck by flashes of gorgeous colour, while other times you will feel lost in the darkness. The game itself follows the same trend. Moments of brilliance attempt to shine through the lack of polish and clunky mechanics, and when they do, everything seems worth it.
Diluvion is set after a great flood where humanity has been trapped beneath an impenetrable layer of ice. Legends say something has been left at the bottom of the ocean as a last hope for humanity, and you are determined to find it. To do so, you will need to form a crew for your submarine, gather supplies and upgrades, and delve deeper to see if the rumours are true. To start with, you will choose from three submarines, all of them very basic. You have got your slow, tanky submarine designed to blast enemies out of existence. You have got your speedy sub which is better suited to running away than sticking around for a fight. And you have got your jack of all trades sub, not too slow, and not bad in a fight either.
Take it from me
All of the subs are upgradeable, and indeed itís entirely necessary to upgrade them, as at the beginning they wonít be able to handle the pressure below a certain depth. Go too deep and the metal and rivets will start to give way, and you are well advised to go back towards the surface lest you be totally crushed. As you progress you will also be adding new workstations to your submarine, all of which can be manned by a crew you will be hiring as you play. Add crew to the engine room and your submarine will go faster. Add them to the gunnerís cabin and your shots will be more accurate. If you want to be able to use your sonar more effectively, add some crew to that room. If your submarine is powerful enough to have a torpedo tube, crew manning that station will help you lock on faster.
Most of the game takes place in a 3D space, with you controlling your submarine from behind. The controls arenít great, whether you are using a keyboard and mouse or a controller. Using the mouse to look around doesnít feel accurate enough, and using a gamepad has its own frustrations when you enter the 2D sections of the game. If you want to talk to anyone in the world, whether it is inside your sub or at a station you are docking at, you are drawn in from your sub into a 2D area where you move your cursor around and click on people like a point and click adventure game. With a gamepad, your cursor will fling you off to the edges of the screen if you venture too far with it. There are a lot of cut and paste characters with nothing to say in these interior environments, and the characters which do speak often donít give you as much information as you need. ďOf course I know the way,Ē said one of my crew, without actually divulging the direction of my next objective. You will also be making real time adjustments to your crew inside your sub, even while battle rages on outside. This is a fairly tense affair, made worse by awkward controls and mechanics for actually swapping your crew around to different areas of the sub.
Darling itís better down where itís wetter
Itís a sense of being lost in a vast underwater world that Diluvion is trying to convey to you. You will find a map early on, but you wonít be marked on it. Instead you will need to navigate based on landmarks you discover as you travel around. The one attempt at pointing you in the right direction comes at these landmarks, as schools of golden fish will guide you for a few seconds if you sail near them. Itís a beautiful sight, but never that helpful, especially when they appear to simply swim into a solid wall as they did on several occasions for me. Blue schools of fish near important locations also serve as save points. Again, nice to look at when you arrive there, but not that helpful as they are few and far between. You can get plenty done before going back to a save point, and if you just happen to get ambushed by a dangerous pirate on the way, you are liable to lose a ton of progress.
Luckily, simply exploring the world Diluvion has to offer is often reward enough in itself. You could spend minutes in a vast chasm, pinging your sonar desperately trying to find any sign of life. Then you might come across a tiny ďtownĒ of cobbled together metal structures and submarines, or a giant ice structure stretching hundreds of metres down from the surface, or perhaps a huge shipwreck from an ancient time. Scavenging these areas for the vital food you need to keep your crew happy, or finding somewhere to refill your air tanks is fun for a while, but this core gameplay loop certainly runs dry after a few hours.
Diluvion is at its best when allowing you to pilot your sub wherever you want at your leisure. Itís almost marred by the addition of any combat, as awkward and inaccurate controls often make it more frustrating than exciting. Itís gently sailing around huge underwater mines which open up as if evilly grinning at you as you go by, or avoiding strong currents which would take you away from your destination which is interesting and dramatic. Diluvion is almost there, it just needed a few more golden schools of fish to guide it.
Act of exploration is terrific, real sense of being lost in the ocean.
Awkward controls, clunky mechanics.