Underwater exploration has always been a fascination of mine, so any game I come across exploring the subject calls for me to pick up the controller to give it a go. Speaking as someone who grew up just a few minutes away from Monterey Bay in California, exploring the watery depths is not a new subject to me.
Arachnid Games’ Diluvion caught my eye right from the start as it comes off as an RPG with a few unique elements thrown in for good measure. I went in with mixed expectations, mostly just wanting to explore an underwater world, but instead ended up with something special.
Diluvion kicks off with a setting similar to the infamous movie Waterworld, directed and starred a gilled-up Kevin Costner, released back in 1995. Humanity was at its peak in technology and peace had finally been achieved, but there were still a greedy few who weren’t satisfied with the plentiful bounty all around. Isn’t that always the case?
Here’s the backstory: the gods damned the world, making the waters rise and swallow up all the dry land. However, one god deep beneath the waves believed that humanity deserved a second chance and granted them the ability to survive in this wet new world. Now it’s up to humanity to redeem themselves and build a new world.
Diluvion is pretty cool right from the start; there’s a choice between three submarines to choose from to get started on this watery adventure. I chose to go with the Iron Minnow as it had a good balance of speed, defenses, and the biggest inventory space out of the three. I expected to dive right in, do some exploring, and get into a few underwater sea battles. While I definitely got this and more, some familiar elements really surprised me in all the right ways.
The main objective is to collect items and debris from the ocean floor in the form of abandoned stations and to bring them to populated areas. These items can then be exchanged for gold currency which can be used to purchase extra air tanks, food for the crew, and extra weaponry to defend the sub.
Throughout the adventure, I also gained extra crew members to pilot the Iron Minnow and utilize other tools it’s equipped with, but had no access too. During a prison raid, I gained a gunner captain named Kat and just a few minutes later another man who allowed me to use the Iron Minnow’s sonar to track down stations. There’s also quests available to improve the submarine so it can dive deeper for access to better loot and exploring the world of Diluvion.
There are two separate mechanics going on: piloting and battling with my submarine takes fine-tuning to adjustments, having a good grasp of water physics, and just a pinch of patience. Turning the Iron Minnow in a new direction while it’s moving forward takes practice, since making sharp turns usually ends up sending it spinning out of control with just a few quick movements. I found starting out slow, studying the environment, and then inching the speed up in increments served to be the best way to travel without crashing into the wall.
Submarine battles were impressive, but there’s a steep learning curve to mastering all their movements. Not every submarine in Diluvion is hostile, but the ones who are will aim to fire at you until the sub goes down. The turning radius and ability aim leave a lot to be desired here, most of the time I missed my target completely. Forcing me to flee most battles and rush to the next area.
The second mechanic is viewing characters in a 2D-style with a comic book layout. I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first, but eventually came to love it. During this 2D view I could talk to characters, search through rooms for loot, and even hire crew members. This view is also available when piloting my sub to quickly get feedback from my crew members and hints about where to head off next. When docking at stations I had to talk with other characters to gain new missions and to gain new information about where I needed to go. These small interactions were a nice break from adventuring and fleshed out the world of Diluvion.
There’s a heavy steampunk-style over everything, from the way submarines are designed to how the characters interact with each other. I loved looked at the cogs, wheels, and the broken-down machinery I came across when exploring certain environments. Abandoned mining stations are scattered across the ocean floor to dock and loot before moving onto the next area. Thick chains trailing down from the surface and the floor of the ocean the only thing holding stations in place for trading or to refill air tanks.
The atmosphere of Diluvion lingers between utter hopelessness and every man for himself. This watery world isn’t kind to survivors and finding a decent soul is as rare as coming across dry land. Still, there’s a hardiness, too, as people continue to exist and live their underwater lives. Traveling through narrow canyons and seeing the glowing lights of stations off in the distance sets a peaceful mood even when little is happening. The sense of time and that life is continuing, despite such harsh setbacks, left me oddly inspired.
Colors are also mellow, with shades of blue and the bright glow of other subs or underwater wildlife off in the distance. Even when I’m traveling in open spaces instead of diving down into the depths, the world feels alive. The music is relaxing, too, and sets a nice ambiance when scavenging the depths of the ocean.
For the most part, Diluvion is a calming, RPG-styled experience that’s heavy on steampunk attitude – and submarines. The premise isn’t one we see everyday, and having one sporting its own unique flavor and sense of (underwater) exploration makes it worth your consideration. Just remember to come up for air.