Have you ever wondered what it was like to play a game of cat and mouse… underwater? Depth, the creatively terrifying indie game developed by Digital Confectioners, involving man-eating sharks and armed divers will satisfy your curiosity, and will leave you on the edge of your seat.
The game is built around a cat and mouse style, the sharks are in constant pursuit of the human divers, who are able to almost escape their destiny of death in the depths of the ocean. Playing as a shark in third person allows you to absorb the ocean surroundings fully, with shipwrecks, coral, fish and other underwater life. As the shark you are able to most swiftly and silently simultaneously, with the occasional sonar pulse showing you the location of the prey. As you pick off the divers one by one, tearing them apart, upgrade points become available, allowing the evolution of the shark until it becomes the undisputed force of the ocean. If the shark happens to have taken critical damage, there is wildlife to feed off of to recover the health lost and continue terrorizing the divers. Like any horror movie or game, the less you are seen, the better.
The sharks have a distinct advantage, with a wide ocean, many entrance points to surprise and take out the divers, the dark environment suits the swift, stealthy and stalker like approach in order to assert your dominance in the shark’s terrain.
By playing as the sharks, the ocean is at the tip of your fins.
For humans, close quarter combat underwater is futile. To counter the shark threat, the humans send down four divers to collect treasure in different locations and armed them with ranged weapons. As a diver, the game must be played in first person, making the game an asymmetrical first person shooter in this aspect. Starting with a basic pistol, like the sharks, divers are able to unlock superior gear as they turn in more treasure in an interface that is strikingly similar to Counter Strike: Global Offensive’s buy window. Whilst having a nice arsenal is good, in the deep, dark, dangerous ocean with purposefully restricted vision, the divers are never safe. As you unlock shark detection gear, it becomes progressively easier to survive. Awareness and teamwork are crucial aspects to the diver gameplay, without it, it is difficult to survive. You must also protect S.T.E.V.E, the gold digging droid. Unlike being a shark, playing as a diver creates a heightened sense of tension, as water is an unfamiliar environment. Lack of visibility, the unsettling feeling of being surrounded by darkness, just like going to sleep as a young child, afraid of what creatures could be around you, or right under you.
Sometimes your imagination is your best friend; sometimes it can be your worst nightmare. In dark, claustrophobic places, it projects fear.
However, in this kind of environment it is important not to forget the number one tool for survival in a dangerous environment.
Basic human instinct.
The diver’s heartbeat is the best indication of whether or not a shark is around the corner, or has already bitten off half of your fellow divers. This game requires you to keep your eyes and ears open, but always watch your back.
Psychological warfare is a key aspect of this game, especially for the sharks. Hovering around the divers, increasing their heart rates before suddenly vanishing, and then reappearing as glimpses through windows and gaps as the sharks swiftly move around, circling their prey. The more terrified the divers are, the greater advantage the sharks have. While shark advantage lies in stealth, human advantage lies in direct ranged combat, which provides an interesting gameplay mechanism as both sides try to cloak their weaknesses in an attempt to defeat the other.
The sound in the game has been well made. A good headset provides both sides with an advantage. As a diver, heartbeats can be heard and it allows for a few seconds preparation of what is to come, if you can. As a shark, it allows you to hear gunshots and take the diver by surprise. Even the little things like the diver breathing, the shark swimming. The sound is key in immersing you in the underwater realm, and welcomes you to the darkness of the deep sea.
To compliment the sound, the visuals of the underwater world are spectacular. The environment is somewhat destructible, and along with the sound of the game, provides the player with a calm yet somewhat unsettling feeling of being in such a big place that can feel small at times.
Upgrades are bought with gold for divers and kills for sharks, otherwise that’s it. There is nothing to physically represent your progress in game – aside from achievements – through items like skins or cosmetic items. Visual customization for sharks is an entirely absent feature, whilst divers only have three preset skins in the game. After the match you lose all weapon upgrades and start fresh the next game. There is physically no way to tell the difference between someone who has clocked 100 hours, and someone who has clocked 1 hour in the game.
After a while the game may get tedious, since it is the same tactic every game depending on the side you are on, however the individuals you play with may provide a few twists. There is only one game mode, which is a large part of the eventual tediousness and repetitiveness of the game. Depth has a lot of potential, but the lack of game modes are preventing the potential from being unleashed.
Depth provides a tense, tactical and unsettling environment through the well-crafted sounds and maps, which provide visual appeal and dismay as players must adapt and fight for survival. Playing as a diver or shark has it’s own feel and unique experience, in which you must carefully use each sides advantages and exploit the disadvantages of your enemy. The single game mode and lack of customization are it’s only major downfall, but overall, Depth’s attractive twist on cat and mouse gameplay makes people look past what it lacks.
Review by Jonah Raj