by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
Booting up one system at a time: diagnostics, vitals and then scanning, the world and depths of In Other Waters slowly ebbs its way into clarity as you take upon the role and functions of marine xenobiologist Ellery Vas and her automated diving suit. Principally, you are the AI in control of said suit. Steering and directing Ellery betwixt the valleys and trenches of an unexplored underwater planetary reef. It’s a simple yet empowering range of motion and control. The perspective of this exploration is displayed through the topographical view of a nautical compass, where peaks and troughs of the reef’s floor are visualized through a minimalistic design. Movement is tracked through a cardinal direction system via waypoints that you discover by scanning the seabed. This is all displayed through an intuitive and sleek user interface which reflects the diagnostic capabilities of your abilities as an AI companion.
Blue Planet IV?
Contracted by an unnamed corporation, Ellery’s job is to investigate and classify new worlds rendered uninhabited before the aforementioned corporation will arrive to strip bare its natural resources. In aid to Ellery, you act as the assisting operating system and sometime confidant of her discoveries. It soon becomes apparent that on this world, Gliese 667Cc, life exists in a complex network of intelligent fungal life. Scanning and classifying these new lifeforms forms the majority of In Other Waters exposition as Ellery meticulously details their appearance and behaviors in conversation with the suit’s AI (you) and in her computer logs accessible at mid-game waypoints. Much of this presentation is told through dots and lines, but through Ellery’s dialogue and some wonderful sound design to accompany these moments, your imagination runs wild with the vivid imagery that this game invokes.
The collection and categorization of the world’s biota is satisfyingly expressed through the transition between the pink-colored unknown variables into the yellow-colored ‘logged’ factors. Soon, the once expansive and mysterious ocean becomes familiar and pleasant. This sense of exploration and belonging is only aided by the wonderful scoring from audio composer Amos Roddy. The ambient, oscillating melodies in In Other Waters cast a wonderful spell over this sub-aquatic world where adventure feels both enticing and relaxing.
Ellery, and by extent In Other Waters itself, asks beautiful and profound questions to the player; about worlds and their ecosystems and our place as humans within them. Whether we can ever truly understand the vastness and complexities of what habitats and the creatures that they call home can come to represent. The search for understanding the motivations of this intelligent life drives Ellery ever deeper into the sea with the possibility of answers lying just beyond the next horizon. Yet questions in In Other Waters always beget more questions. Analysing the bits and pieces that you’re able to snag in the ocean provides titbits of information on the behaviours and functions of the newfound species, but always with more questions about what new discoveries might shed light on their design.
Unfortunately, this is where my review of In Other Waters hit a snag. One evening when hoping to resume my session with In Other Waters I found that upon loading my save file from the main menu that the initial title sequence, I presume only supposed to be seen after initiating a new game, began playing again. Disconcerted - I waited, until all I could see was my stranded diving suit stuck at one of the game’s waystations with no UI or extra interface able to guide me. With no UI loading in, I had no way of moving to further waypoints and with that, my game was over. New save files and fresh installations didn’t fix this issue either.
This was a very unfortunate and underwhelming ending to what I considered to be one of the best titles I have covered on Hooked Gamers to date. As such, the review score will reflect this result. However, I do still recommend this game to anyone who has had their curiosity piqued by this title’s setting and enrapturing environment. From what I can see online, I’m in a minority of those who have encountered this game-ending bug. As such, I encourage your own exploration of In Other Waters into the depths that I just couldn’t reach.
Immersive sound design and soundtrack, provoking writing and design