Diluvion's submerged world may be interesting, and its gameplay might be fun – but it's not quite as often or for as long as it should be.
Gambitious Digital Entertainment publishes this 3D underwater exploration game developed by Arachnid Games. In this submerged world you, as a captain, are searching the waters for secrets of the past. Presented with a choice of three submarines, each having their pros and cons, Diluvion descends into exploring these waters, picking up crew, and meeting a variety of people along the way down into the pitch-black depths in search of those secrets.
"The deeper you go, the darker it becomes and the more unsettling it feels to be out in the open water. Pair that with an effective use of sound design, and it makes for some tense moments of frantically looking around to check for giant sea monsters."
The deep sea world of Diluvion is split into three zones, each progressively more interesting than the last. In the first zone I had a few navigational problems. Early on, it's explained that at landmarks there will be orange fish to point you in the direction of your objective; however in the first zone I had two docks pointing at each other rather than the actual objective. Thankfully, those fish are much more useful in the following two zones. On top of that, there are nooks and crannies everywhere in the first zone which were hard to navigate through so early on. The map doesn't help as it isn't very detailed, making it difficult to clearly see where you can and can't go. Although the last zone is the most interesting, it also seems to be the smallest and shortest to complete of the three. The last zone had me extremely tense on the first venture in due to how much darker it was, how many odd shapes came into view, and the enemies faintly appearing ahead of me. Between landmarks there's a sense of vast emptiness, and while this works given the context of the open ocean, in practice it's rather boring to travel through.
Diluvion's submarine combat is what you'd expect, but their superior movement over conventional submarines ups the pace of the encounters. Movement is achieved through a Guns of Icarus style of piloting with set movement speeds you can easily switch between. Torpedoes can be a liability and tend to fly off to the right and explode more than I'd like; I mainly only used torpedoes in stickier situations – especially considering that torpedoes, along with food, cannon ammo, and repair kits, are resources to keep track of. On first inspection I thought the resource management would be a giant pain, but thankfully I never had too many issues with it. Through upgrades and purchases you can work your way from one very slow cannon to six cannons and a torpedo bay – at that point though there's so many explosions onscreen it almost becomes a spray-and-pray situation. Positioning is key in all combat encounters, but before too long combat becomes an annoyance as these waters are littered with enemies. The music cue to tell you you're in combat sometimes just invokes the need to run away and avoid the fight altogether.
Besides upgrading your ship, progression comes from a crew management system that allows you to make certain aspects of your submarine more efficient. There are crew members that stay with you throughout, such as Jay Treadwasser (no really, that's his name) at the helm, and Kat Smith in the gunner position. Each are given their own personalities with, Jay receiving the most backstory out of all the crew members in Diluvion. Most crew members' names and stats are randomly generated and you can pay them a one-time fee to join your ship. Each member needs to be assigned to a specific position – Helm, Sonar, Gunner, or Torpedo – with varying stats in each of Endurance, Perception, Intelligence,and Strength. Crew management is relatively easy and changes to the submarine with the four stats in mind were noticeable.
Progression through the story is accomplished by quests primarily guided through by your main crew, and you'll never really have any more than two quests going at the same time. The way some of these missions work further adds to navigational problems in Diluvion; Jay knows almost everything about all three zones, and most of the time he'll only tell you where you're going, but not any indication on which direction it actually is – and the best you get out of any crew member is that it's "nearby". It makes navigating something of a guessing game at times. On one occasion in the first zone I spent about an hour going around the entire map trying to find where I needed to go. I like the idea of feeling like we're exploring these areas for the first time, but story-wise these characters have been here, so why can't they just give me some direction?
"The post apocalyptic world of Diluvion has a steampunk mixed with sci-fi feel to it, and the story reflects that too. I just wish there was less travelling from A to B, or a busier, more detailed landscape to explore along the way."
I've written before about my fear when approaching underwater exploration games, and Diluvion hits several aspects that at times genuinely made me feel uncomfortable and tense as I plunged deeper into the abyss. Graphically, it understands the notion of only seeing within a certain area around you, while sonar can pick up unknown entities in the distance that you creep towards. Diluvion's luminescent plant life helps add an unsettling glow across its underwater landscapes. The deeper you go, the darker it becomes and the more unsettling it feels to be out in the open water. Pair that with an effective use of sound design, and it makes for some tense moments of frantically looking around to check for giant sea monsters. That descent into the final zone reminded me of doing the same thing in FarSky; Diluvion has a darker tone and aesthetic than FarSky, making that final descent exceedingly more tense.
I like Diluvion, but there's so much of it that's just not quite there. What it gets right, it really gets right, and what it gets wrong just needs a little more polish. Despite its issues, it's a competent underwater exploration game that is still worth your time. The moments of pure tension really make Diluvion stand out, but those moments unfortunately don't appear as often as I'd like as the combat seems to take the fore. The post apocalyptic world has a steampunk mixed with sci-fi feel to it, and the story reflects that too. I just wish there was less travelling from A to B, or a busier, more detailed landscape to explore along the way.
Update: since posting our review, Diluvion's developers have been committed to taking on feedback and have already rolled out a couple of patches to improve the experience and fix bugs. The update notes can be found here.