I’m actually going to go reverse style on this review and give the verdict first, then continue to pointing out why that is and why exactly you need to open your steam launcher right now and BUY.THE.GAME … did I also emphasized on the word “now”? No? Then, NOW! Anyway, Song of the deep, everyone, gets a full on 8/10 from me, which is a must buy in my opinion, well if you fancy such games and even if you don’t, give it a try.
Song of the Deep reminds me so much of Ori and the Blind Forest, which personally for me is a masterpiece, and I can only be saddened that I cannot experience it again, without knowing the plot (amnesia, I need you, NOW!). In truth, I might even say that it follows the same gameplay basics, with a few minor differences, but what I like about Song of the Deep and what actually makes it so unique is that the game takes place underwater … which I find utterly great, because I love underwater settings and not many games utilize this type of gameplay/background/etc. I’m a sucker for scenery and especially underwater scenery so here I can state the fact of having 0 regrets when it comes to Song of the Deep. Not to mention that the game is really relaxing, like seriously. The first time I started playing it, I was actually kind of pissed off and somewhere around 10 to 20 minutes into the game I was completely relaxed and at the same time focused entirely on gameplay + beautiful music. So I did actually use it as an anger management method (on a couple of occasions in fact).
Speaking of music, did I mention that most of the tracks in Song of the Deep made me tear up and wanna cry – well, that’s how good it was. All of the tracks feature a very calm, melodic, piano theme and some even come close to one of my absolute favorite type of earcandy – the music box tunes (now those take me way back). I believe that most if not all, feature a choir, performed by a female vocal. I honestly do not know who it was but, I wish to congratulate her as well. Given the main heroine and the setting of the game, I think it was rather fitting, not to mention that, and I actually want to give props here to the developers, it is remembering and God I cannot emphasize enough how much memorable music is important to games because it is definitely not the same without a great OST to enrichen the experience and be remembered by.
Story-wise you control Merryn, a little girl, who lives with her father. He tells her stories of the deep oceanworld every night, however one day he doesn’t return from sailing (surprise, surprise). Despite that, Merryn doesn’t give in to sorrow and she decides to go and find her father. She does so by building a submarine and so the journey begins! As Merryn ventures further into the ocean she is shocked to find that most of her father’s tales are actually true. Merryn’s adventurous tales are narrated by Siobhán Hewlett, as I read her name was, a very talented Irish actress, who I think contributed greatly for the feel of the plot. Just to mention, the story is mostly portrayed through in-game narration with just a few cutscenes. Here, I want to imply something really sweet. I did actually read that Song of the Deep was supposed to be a project, envisioned by Brian Hastings (the creative officer), for his daughter, because he wanted to make Merryn a heroine to be looked up to. Also, apparently the game’s setting itself was inspired by Irish mythology (hence the Irish narrator and such). All in all, I believe the world is beautiful and definitely varying to keep the player’s interest. As simple as the story is, I actually believe it is really powerful, because it showcases that so precious father-daughter bond.
When it comes to gameplay, Song of the Deep is a 2D sidescroller with tons of exploration and a bit of puzzling. As usual in these types of games, the player progresses through the main storyline pretty smoothly, but oh you collectionists, you lucky souls, there is a lot of backtracking to be done here, especially when the game features 200+ treasures. However, and this is something I particularly liked, which was not working as such in Ori and the Blind Forest, the map actually tells you where all the collectables and treasures are, while in Ori you had to explore everything, everywhere, everytime (unless you unlock some upgrades to help you out with that). There is a nifty little detail here … some dead sailors’ skeletons sometimes point the way to these treasures, I don’t know why, since we have the map, but it was kind of a cute thing to see. Beside treasures, the player collects upgrades for Merryn’s submarine (which basically boosts her HP) and coins (apart from all the treasure which accounts for coins), which are used to purchase upgrades for the submarine. Trust me, you’ll do a lot of collecting and a lot of the places require a specific acquired weapon or skill in order to reach them, so unlike I did in Ori where my collecting was zone by zone progressive, I really recommend you just wait to get everything and then backtrack. I wanna mention the shop here, which is a small crab, offering some nifty upgrades. Oh, my God, it is just the most adorable thing when he waves goodbye to Merryn, when she leaved the shop.
A problem I have here is that puzzles quickly get repetitive, varying only to the following two:
- Locate a statue head and bring it to the statue
- Drag a bomb from location A to location B
Problem further strengthens when the puzzles are specifically designed to be replayed a few times (especially the bomb ones, since the bomb is so fragile, basically one environmental touch and well played, time to start over, by getting a new bomb. Now repeat this one too many times and guess the result. It’s a pity, since Song of the Deep has so many possibilities for puzzles.
Apart from those, combat consists of a grappling hook, 3 torpedo types and a flashlight (I’m not sure why this is here, probably because some creatures react to light and move away, all of which are gathered as we progress. I myself kind of saved the energy for the torpedoes on walls, which block me, and preferred to chuck down enemies with the grappling hook (apart from using it to grapple objects and drag them somewhere in puzzles). Beside that, a unique mechanic is how you can actually control Merryn herself and get out of the submarine to explore narrower places, where the sub cannot fit. Speaking of combat enemy variety visually was a lot, but gameplay-wise not so much. Each enemy basically either hits an area around it, or shoot projectiles at Merryn, which he must dodge.
I cannot of course forget to mention art. This game is amazing to look at. All the backgrounds are so stunningly beautiful and quite frankly Song of the Deep is such a pleasant game to look at. Not to mention the fairy tale children book motive which seems to be pre-dominating visually (even more so on loading screens). Now combine all of this amazing art with the beautiful melodies, which sound provides and you get 100% pure awesomeness. I have to say, even the story contributes to this, because of certain lines like when Merryn dies, the narrator states how it was just a bad dream, showing a possible future path. In general, I love how it smoothens everything, in a professional way.
Just another thing I want to briefly mention, before concluding is the lack of trophy or to be precise – the lack of trophy variety. Out of all 10 present trophies most are plot related ones (like defeat whatever or do whatever) and props for the one where you have to leave a flower at the final resting place of the watcher after defeating her (I guess). It may not be a particularly bad thing for most, but when the game promotes so much backtracking and to spend time in exploration and collecting or doing a speed/deathless run, maybe a rewarding trophy or two would have been nice. Usually I mostly collect 100% of all stuff if there is a trophy for that and the lack of such in Song of the Deep, makes me question why I’m doing it, hence why I didn’t do it. This considerably shortens playtime from a possible 10-15 hours to 7-8 tops (if the player only follows the story and skips all backtracking as such). However if you do decide to backtrack, remember – fast travel goes a long way,
I gave my verdict at the beginning, so no numbers here, but I will finish off with a few words. Song of the Deep is a very beautiful game, complemented by great art/music/story/setting. It is definitely worth the time and money and I would say that even with the lack of a consistent trophy system, the game does feature a lot of replayability value. I would say there are some things to be desired from this game and that it is not quite on the level of Ori (since I did compare it to that game a lot), but I definitely say that the overall experience I had with it, is very pleasant. So, without any back thoughts or regrets, I can definitely recommend Song of the Deep to everyone.