Diluvion is a deep-sea exploration and RPG game from the creative folk at Arachnid Games, published in conjunction with Gambitious Digital Entertainment. In its marketing, the game has been compared to titles such as Dark Souls and FTL, both of which are very well regarded by gamers. Diluvion however offers plenty of its own creativity and charm, and expressed it through a unique futuristic vision of our world…
In Diluvion, the story goes that mankind was once a highly technologically advanced race during a time when much of the Earth was covered by land. Greed drove humanity to war however, and this malice led the Gods to intervene and flood the Earth as we know it. One God however still saw hope for humanity, and hid an artefact which, if found, could return humans to their former glory. Numerous explorers have set out in search of the artefact, whatever it may be, and that is where our story in the game begins.
Before things really get going, you must choose a vessel. The options here reminded me distinctly of Freelancer; one is a sub with impressive speed and manoeuvrability, another is an all-rounder with an extensive storage capacity, or finally there is a heavily-armoured and combat-ready tank of an underwater machine. The parameters surrounding your choice are ambiguous the first time around, as you have no experience yet of what lies on the road ahead. All you can truly do is choose based on your most likely play style, so personally I went for the speed and movement option. My choice worked out well in some respects, but was problematic in others.
Playing on a keyboard, I found remembering the controls a complicated process at first. Despite a clear tutorial on movement, for which the game should certainly be praised, I found remembering which keys operated the speed and which the depth to be a bit of a muddle when I first started. Arguably, the best way to play the game would be with a joystick, an option for which is in the menus. In lieu of that option, I persisted. What makes moving your vessel even more tricky however is the camera angle, which is centred strangely to the side of your sub. Like all good things, this all gets easier with practice, but not before a few embarrassing crashes happen first.
Once you nail navigation of your sub, you can begin to investigate some of the other features of the game. One of these is the dynamic combination of 2D and 3D gameplay. This takes you from the vast depth of Diluvion’s dark oceans and into the depths of your vessel, where you can communicate with and manage your crew. This is where the game’s FTL-style elements come into play, but I didn’t really feel as though they were entirely necessary to the game. The more I interacted with this system, the more I pined for something more along the lines of Guns of Icarus. The ability to enjoy a bustling crew in full force an action would suit Diluvion perfectly, especially in navigating treacherous environments or during combat situations.
The system that is present however works well for the game’s management aspects; both of crew and resources. A large part of Diluvion revolves around hiring crew members and subsequently keeping them alive on your adventures. Acquiring crew and resources, most notably food, oxygen and parts to repair your vessel, is achieved by docking with the various bases dotted around the world. From bars to prisons, any structure could offer opportunity to those bold enough to enter. The pirate-like attitude of their inhabitants also gives the game a rather Tortuga-style feel, which in a way suits it well. You are pirates of sorts, after all!
Management comes across in Diluvion as a rather side seat task. It serves a purpose, but is hardly and inspiring part, nor the most important part, of the game. This comes not in the form of hiring, survival or base building, but most certainly in the exploration factor. After all, there are many mysteries to be found in Diluvion’s deepest, darkest waters. A back story and gentle nudges into missions carry the game along just fine, but heading off the beaten path and making your own story is a much more fulfilling adventure, if you can stomach it. Again, this is a game which has been likened to Dark Souls, and whilst the gameplay doesn’t match up there is a reason for that. It can be very hard.
Me and my now fully-manned speedy submarine felt that a scrap might be a good way to test the waters on my first playthrough. I was quite wrong. My combat capabilities were distinctly obsolete against a more armoured AI vessel, and I was swiftly defeated. Not only did this underline the edge of the game’s difficulty, but it also made abundantly clear the need for me to seek to upgrade and ultimately replace my sub with something more suitably violent for the road ahead.
It is easy in the early game to obtain some rudimentary weapon upgrades and the like to set you on your way, but the true enhancements will cost you. If you want a new and shinier sub than you can start with for example, you are probably going to need to find some treasure. The game’s freedom to explore allows you to search high and low, outside of the parameters of your current mission, as you so please. Sonar is hugely important in doing this, as not only does it help you find what you are looking for, it can also keep you out of trouble. As I allowed myself to wonder semi-aimlessly around the dauntingly-large world, I almost found myself falling victim to one of Diluvion’s exceedingly large sea creatures. A near miss taught me quickly how excellent the game’s sonar system really is.
The long and short of Diluvion’s gameplay is that it is fascinating and free; perhaps almost liberating at times. The control scheme and odd camera anchoring however bring it down somewhat, taking away from an otherwise delightfully immersive experience. This fact is also largely down to the game’s artistry, which is fantastic. The previous development from Arachnid Games was a title named Ballpoint Universe, which underlines their passion for creative worlds. Diluvion is no exception, and the depth, darkness and all-round design of the underwater world is encapsulating. You can easily lose yourself in this drowned Earth.
Diluvion draws you into its depths as if part of you wants to drown in its watery world from the off. The gameplay doesn’t do everything in perhaps the best way it could, and the controls and camera are lacking in intuitiveness. You certainly shouldn’t expect to enjoy an easy ride either. Despite this, it is easy to be drawn in, so the game clearly does something right. A few tweaks here and there could improve things further, but for me Diluvion is never going to be exactly what I want it to be. I might prefer a more active, bustling, drowned city-filled underwater action adventure. For others, however, it could be the otherworldly adventure they’ve been looking for.