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Still Wakes the Deep review – A haunting terror we won’t forget in a hurry

Home » Reviews » Still Wakes the Deep review – A haunting terror we won’t forget in a hurry

Nothing good happens on an oil rig. It’s what media has taught us over the years and The Chinese Room’s Still Wakes the Deep wants to take that fear to the next level. Mixing the isolated location of a North Sea offshore oil rig with the Lovecraftian horrors that lurk beneath the murky waters is a recipe for success — and sheer terror — and the story of Still Wakes the Deep is one that’s not going to be leaving us any time soon.

It all starts out rather subdued. It’s coming up to Christmas on Beira D, one of a number of oil rigs off the coast of Scotland. We take the role of Caz, an electrician who’s taken a job on the rig much to the chagrin of his wife, left at home with their two young children. Caz has reasons for wanting to be there — and we’ll discover a little of his background as we progress — but ultimately it’s not that important. What is important are the terrible events that are about to unfold, and Still Wakes the Deep doesn’t waste any time in getting there.

You hardly have any time to acquaint yourself with your crewmates and your surroundings before ‘The Event’, as it’s known. It seems like something has been drilled into that shouldn’t have been. It doesn’t seem so bad to start with: a few broken walkways, and a rig that’s perhaps not as secure as it should be. But as Caz tries to evacuate, it seems like the problems onboard Beria D are worse than they first seemed. Much, much worse.

Still Wakes the Deep screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

To say too much of the horrors that await you on the oil rig will be to spoil much of what makes Still Wakes the Deep so wonderful. But needless to say, horror is doled out not sparingly, but at perfect intervals to keep you forever on edge, always unsure of what’s waiting for you around each corner. There are plenty of thrilling moments of sheer terror, where you’re being pursued. But even when you’re not, the atmosphere onboard the Beira D is so thick with tension that you’ll always be on the edge of your seat.

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Caz may be our protagonist, but the Beira D feels like a character in itself, particularly how it changes as the game progresses. Areas become flooded or ruined, perhaps even otherworldly in their appearance: some parts of the rig we may pass through three or four times, and each time it’s evolved in a new way, eventually becoming something beyond recognition. It’s fascinating and terrifying at the same time. After all, an oil rig is ominous enough to begin with.

Still Wakes the Deep screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

It helps that the Beira D has been incredibly well designed. This is a beautiful game that really pushes realistic graphics as far as it can; at times it’s almost photorealistic. It is, however, unfortunately let down by a few graphical hiccups, presumably as a result of how hard Still Wakes the Deep wants to push your hardware. Playing on PS5, we’ve had a few issues of slowdown (even when playing on the performance-favouring mode as opposed to the graphics mode) along with a few graphical anomalies making some areas look blurrier than they should.

It’s not a huge problem, though, and we’re fairly confident that a post-launch patch will fix things up. There’s nothing too egregious that it’s ruined our experience with the game, although a drop in framerate can be somewhat immersion-breaking at times.

The thing that has really made Still Wakes the Deep stand out is its characterisation — and just how unapologetically British it is. Our main character, Caz, is Scottish, as are most of the characters you meet. There are a couple of English fellas too, and you’ll undoubtedly laugh as they’re berated in the way that only English people can be by the Scottish. The dialogue has been masterfully written, making not only the characters feel real and believable, but also authentic: there’s a great use of Scots dialect here which has really helped the game feel alive to us — although we do wonder how players from other parts of the world may feel about it.

Still Wakes the Deep screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

Due to those believable and well-written characters, Still Wakes the Deep has some moments of surprising emotion — something you don’t often expect to feel in what is otherwise essentially a horror game. Some conversations, particularly later on in the game, are loaded with emotion: the events you’re living through may be fantastical in nature but there’s a huge focus on the human element and how the happenings of the game are affecting each character. It’s impossible not to feel for them, as if they’re real people experiencing something extraordinarily terrifying — and tragic.

Ultimately, it’s this blend of the human and supernatural that makes Still Wakes the Deep such a successful piece of storytelling. Its sublime visuals help, of course, and the oil rig is a fascinating place to be. We wish we had a little more opportunity to freely explore: for the most part, you’re pushed along by the narrative without much chance to stray from the beaten path, and we’d have liked to have snooped around the Beira D a little more before disaster hit. Regardless, it’s a setting, and a story, that we’re not going to forget in a hurry, and even with the odd technical glitch, there’s no denying that this is an absolute success for The Chinese Room.

This review of Still Wakes the Deep is based on the PS5 version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Still Wakes the Deep review - GameSpew's score

Still Wakes the Deep
8 10 0 1
Impeccably weaving Lovecraftian horror with real human emotion, Still Wakes the Deep is a fantastic, tense tale that we're not going to forget in a hurry. It's just the right amount of horrifying in all the right places, brought to life with characters who feel as believable as people you'd meet on the street. Only a few technical issues bring it down a little, but they're not enough to truly sully the experience.
Impeccably weaving Lovecraftian horror with real human emotion, Still Wakes the Deep is a fantastic, tense tale that we're not going to forget in a hurry. It's just the right amount of horrifying in all the right places, brought to life with characters who feel as believable as people you'd meet on the street. Only a few technical issues bring it down a little, but they're not enough to truly sully the experience.
8/10
Total Score

We like...

  • Absolutely fantastic setting
  • Beautiful design that's photorealistic at times
  • Perfect balance of tension and fear
  • Excellent characterisation

We don't like...

  • A few technical issues
  • We would have liked to be able to freely explore the oil rig a little more

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