This week’s preview comes to us courtesy of Beam Team Games. I was skeptical when I first fired this game up I mean, how enticing can a game be when it’s still lacking the ability to actually WIN it.
Yes you heard right, you can’t WIN at Stranded Deep. That is, you are a castaway and you can’t actually be rescued. Yet.
Winning in games isn’t all about the cut scene at the end with the cheesy music, sometimes just surviving in the face of adversity is reward enough.
Enter Stranded Deep. It’s punishing in that if you don’t plan ahead, and make sensible decisions, YOU WILL DIE.
You find yourself the unlucky occupant of a plane crash which puts you in the middle of the ocean with just an emergency blow up raft and a bottle of Evian Natural Spring Mineral water. A far cry from the luxury of the plane you were just on and the Martini you just poured.
Ah luxury. What is a luxury? One man’s definition of trash can be another’s treasure. This game taught me that when you are stranded on an island, something as mundane as a dead crab can be considered a luxury. A bucket to store sea water in to boil into fresh water is a luxury. A couple of bandages – well that’s just downright decadent!
In the words of the developers, Stranded Deep is “infinitely procedurally-generated and full of different biomes. Areas will not be incomplete or locked off; instead, the biomes and world generation will evolve as development progresses.”
In other words, the game is entirely open world. It generates new areas on the fly. This ranges from new islands to explore, ocean floors, ship wrecks, etc.
Stranded Deep is different every time you play it.
Essentially the game requires you to set up camp, scavenge for bits and pieces to make yourself more comfortable, make weapons, hunt animals, pick plants, cook, build dwellings and chill out, when you get a spare moment. I say that because you wear a fancy watch which monitors your food intake and hydration levels as well as your overall health, and the thing drops bars frequently, beeping to remind you to pay better attention to your vital signs. Remember those things from the 90’s that were like virtual pets – Tamagotchi’s? This watch is your Tamagotchi. Respect it!
Crucially, the Tamagotchi watch tells you how many days you have survived as a castaway. It’s worth bragging to your mates if you can get through a week without carking it!
The islands are cruelly only big enough to sustain you for a while, maybe a week or two, you are then placed in a situation where you have no more firewood to cook food with anymore and you have to head out onto the cruel sea to find another item or shipwreck to scavenge resources.
I’m hoping not to sound overly dramatic here, but I have to say it’s this point where you are leaving behind “home” where the game is incredibly moving. Without any proper way to navigate (until you find a compass), there is a very good chance you will not find your way “home” and will never see it again.
It happened to me, suffice to say it was hugely disappointing, however before I knew it I had set up camp on a new island and pretty much forgotten about the old one!
Maritime navigation is a huge part of this game. Once I spent an entire evening sailing to a distant island which looked promising only to get disoriented and end up back at the island I had started at!
This might sound crazy but you would be surprised how disoriented you can get when you can see 7 or 8 islands on the horizon, all at different distances and you are on a blow up raft, getting belted around by winds and sharks.
Another time I sailed to another island to get wood, using the sun to navigate and feeling pretty smug about it, got blown around in a gale and lost visibility due to a storm. I thought I’d never see home again, but somehow found it, talk about a relief!
There are moments the game is punishing and difficult, sharks will frequently try to rip you to pieces (you do get some warning when they are approaching in the form of some daunting music). Found a cool item like a pair of binoculars or some morphine? Awesome, don’t put it in your raft and expect it to be there when you get back to your island. Stuff just falls out! Once or twice I found myself in desperation, digging around on the ocean floor trying to find something that had evacuated itself from my raft.
Cook your food. Because raw food gives you Delhi Belly. But you know what, toughen up Princess. Nature takes no prisoners!
Items have durability and need to be managed. Cutting down palm trees blunts a pocket knife pretty quick as you’d imagine. The beautiful thing is you can stockpile items like homemade axes and hammers and store them in your self-made shack where they are safe. You can go travelling for days and visit other islands galore only to return to your fabulous island to find your shack with all the items in it just as you left them!
Graphically this is a great looking game, sunlight and moonlight create dappled shadows through the trees that add a lot of atmosphere and realism. Items exhibit ragdoll physics that appear very realistic, for example the wonderful effect of felling a palm tree and watching it crash to the ground.
There are a few bugs to iron out, as you’d expect with any Alpha release.
Shipwrecks can spawn on islands and it’s possible to get stuck in them.
I found the equivalent of “Wilson” from the Tom Hanks Movie Castaway, I was so excited I accidentally threw him and he landed IN, yes IN a rock and I couldn’t retrieve him. The whole experienced reduced me to tears in true Tom Hanks fashion.
There are some other things – i.e. not a single bird in the game, limited variety in fish, animals and predators, but it’s to be expected in an early release.
Beam Team Games are onto something pretty special here. I really hope they open this one up to the Modding community at some point. I’d also love to see a co-op mode, this sort of survival game would be perfect for that, one member could gather wood whilst the other hunted etc. etc.
Stranded Deep is currently tracking as “Very Positive” on Steam user ratings with just over 6000 votes so it comes as highly recommended, even at this early stage.
LOADS OF WOOD TO BUILD STUFF WITH, AND SOMEONE GAVE ME CRABS!
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