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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (310)

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Diluvion 3/5
Seiken Densetsu 3 ( Sec... 2.5/5
Titanfall 2 2.5/5
Treasure Hunter G 3.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Br... 4/5
Shadow Warrior 2 4.5/5
Treasure of the Rudras ... 2/5
Oceanhorn: Monster of U... 2.5/5
The Bard's Tale ( 2004 ) 3/5
Middle-earth: Shadow of... 4/5
Spore 3/5
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdo... 4.5/5
Warhammer: End Times - ... 2/5
Super Mario Odyssey 5/5
Live A Live 3.5/5
Odysseus: Long Way Home 1.5/5
Windward 3/5
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 3.5/5
Vertiginous Golf 4/5
Doki Doki Literature Cl... 3.5/5
Quest for Infamy 2/5
Neutopia 4.5/5
Divinity: Original Sin ... 5/5
Infested 4.5/5
Battleborn 3/5

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Diluvion   PC (Steam) 

Not Quite Ship-Shape    3/5 stars

“Diluvion” is the second title by California-based Indie developer, Arachnid Games. Arachnid Games tends to do visually striking work, as is evident from their first game, the entirely-hand-drawn “Ballpoint Universe.” “Diluvion” follows this theme, but in a strikingly under-represented sub-genre: Submarine Simulator. With the developer’s signature eye candy and the promise of a steampunk, Jules Verne-inspired subnautical adventure to be had, I eagerly snapped-up this title during a Steam sale, only to discover that the entire thing feels half-baked.

Presentation
Visually, “Diluvion” is incredibly impressive. Built in the Unity Engine, “Diluvion” employs both 3D and 2D visuals for different aspects of gameplay. While piloting a submarine through the ocean depths, “Diluvion” is 3D, with interesting sub designs, stylized visual clutter to represent the shorter range of vision while deep under water, and occasional splashes of vibrant color that loom out of the gloomy deep. While docked, however, “Diluvion” switches to a side-view 2D perspective with hand-drawn sprites for people and objects that look like papercraft. These papercraft art assets are minimally animated, but positively ooze style, and give a strong impression of Scandinavian cultural influence. Even the loading screens are attractive and stylistically consistent, however, the font used for text-based cutscenes tends to blend into the background, making it hard to read.

The audio in “Diluvion” is likewise quite impressive. The game is almost never completely silent, with subtle ambient music blending with the sounds of the submarine’s engine and the irregular pings of the sonar. However, as the player explores, the music occasionally swells forth with some truly excellent instrumentation, including (bag)pipes and drums. Despite the considerable quantity of dialog, “Diluvion” is unfortunately unvoiced, with characters merely grunting as they spout a dialog box full of text.

The technical aspect is where “Diluvion” starts to spring a few leaks, though the team at Arachnid Games is still working on patching them up (there’s apparently a big overhaul patch in the works for version 1.2 at time of writing). Controls are very clunky – even for a submarine – however, the developers have patched in an option to choose between Arcade-Style and Sim-Style, where Arcade keeps the ship and its targeting reticle pointing in the same direction while Sim allows them to point in two different directions. I found Sim-Style to be more useful while traveling, as it allows the player to look around without their sub veering side-to-side like a drunken rattlesnake, while simultaneously awful for combat, as even submarines with a ton of gun batteries can only fire forward with any accuracy/speed. Conversely, Arcade-Style works better for combat, but is terrible for exploration. “Diluvion” does support Xinput natively, which was added in yet another patch. Initially, the game’s map didn’t feature a pip for the player’s location, but that was patched-in to address user complaints (which, naturally drew different complaints from insane people who were upset that they no longer had to keep a pad of paper nearby to perform triangulations). In general, though, “Diluvion” just feels unfinished, as it suffers from occasional bouts of freezing-up while in 2D mode, constantly recycles dialogs with the sub crew after every reload (either due to death or quitting and resuming), and occasionally allows the camera to clip into the environment. The save system, which involves passing through clouds of glowing, green fish is also more cumbersome than it needs to be (this is supposedly being replaced with a ‘save anywhere via menu’ option in v1.2). Hell, even the Steam Achievements are borked, with half of the ones I earned in my playthrough not appearing (not that Achievements matter…).

Story
In some sort of alternate universe, the Earth suffered a catastrophic climate change, which saw the land and the surface of the water entirely encroached upon by an impossibly thick sheet of ice. Rather than going extinct, however, humanity sought refuge beneath the sea. In the present – hundreds of years after the initial deep freeze – humans live in the air-filled ruins of their past civilization and travel the depths in a variety of steampunk (or perhaps nuclearpunk, as they never seem to run out of fuel) submarines, trying to scrape by. Several noble factions have arisen among the people, while a group of scientists tries to drill its way through the ice and regain the surface and a group of priests spouts superstitious nonsense.

Our hero is the unnamed captain and silent protagonist of a submarine helmed by the dogged Jay Treadwasser, a veteran of noble-on-noble conflicts of the recent past. Hero and Jay have decided to participate in an annual event in which adventurers and submarine crews from across the world attempt to dive to the bottom of an abyssally-deep sea trench, where legends claim lies some sort of gift from the last god of the world that will allow humanity to break free from their underwater prison.

From its humble beginning to its “2001: A Space Odyssey”-esque end, “Diluvion” does a decent job of laying out the world’s lore. There are also a few moments of real development among the sub’s growing crew. Though, while competent, the narrative feels rushed and somewhat shallow, especially in the third (and final) chapter. There really isn’t that much exploration to do, as there isn’t much – if any – in the way of side content. Over the course of its 3 chapters, “Diluvion” lasts roughly 14 hours (and that was with a reasonable amount of farming money/resources).

Gameplay
As mentioned under technical issues, “Diluvion” is a fairly clunky game to play. As a fairly casual Sub-Sim, the controls aren’t overly complex, but they just feel sluggish. The player’s sub has 6 possible speeds: Slow, Half, Full, Overdrive (which drains a meter), Half-Back, and Full-Back. These speeds, once set, make the sub tool along on its own while the player controls both its vertical depth and its bearing. Each chapter of the game sees the player in pursuit of a sub upgrade that will allow it to dive deeper without being crushed. From the outset, the player can choose between three sub models, emphasizing speed, cargo capacity, or offense. I went with speed, but regretted it almost immediately, as cargo capacity is far more important. Fortunately, there are a number of other subs available for purchase that make that initial choice far less permanent.

Upgrading/purchasing subs requires gold and materials. These can be found by salvaging from defeated enemy subs or scrounging around in the abandoned ruins on the ocean floor. Gold, for the most part, is earned by selling the junk found while salvaging. Unfortunately, a large number of these optional sub upgrades are entirely useless, as – while they may have much better stats – their larger sizes and awkwardly-placed docking ports mean they can’t really do anything.

In addition to buying/upgrading submarines, the player can upgrade their home base (which, stupidly, doesn’t appear as a landmark on the map), unlocking shop options. These home base shops (as well as a few other shops around the world) allow the player to buy new gear for their subs (all of it is shared), including bolt cannons (the primary weapon that fires… junk), torpedo tubes, air canisters, and paintjobs.

Operating the submarine also requires crew. While a series of important NPCs join the crew to man each of the four key stations (Helm, Artillery, Sonar, and Torpedoes) as part of the story, the stats and performance of each of these stations can be drastically improved by hiring (with gold) randomly-generated crew who either appear in towns/home base or in salvage points.

“Diluvion” employs two survival-based mechanics that have received a significant amount of blow-back from players. First is air, which can be refilled for free by docking with pretty much anything. The other is food, which must be purchased. Without food, every crew member except for the station heads stops working and lies around in the common area. This can cause a significant performance hit to the sub. While I never ran out of air with the 6 tanks I accumulated, I did find that keeping food on the table was rather onerous, as the larger the crew, the faster they consume it. At least the crew will continue to repair damage taken by the sub while starving. The constant consumption of these two resources makes exploring – and subsequently, accumulating salvage – a game of diminishing returns. There has been talk of reducing the consumption rate and/or cost of food in v1.2, so we’ll see.

Outside of the Action/Adventure staples of improving one’s capabilities through upgrades, “Diluvion” follows a very linear mission structure. Each mission is tracked in the captain’s logbook, and it’s very difficult to become truly lost when in pursuit of these mandatory objectives due to a trail of bright orange fish that lead the way from one objective to the next.

Overall
A short and reasonably entertaining underwater adventure, “Diluvion” is marred by an overall lack of polish. The game’s technical issues, design issues, and balance issues would be more bearable one at a time, but combined, they drag-down what would otherwise be a very unique and intriguing little game. The team at Arachnid Games is still actively working on “Diluvion,” though, so it’s entirely possible it’ll deserve a score bump in the future… unfortunately that score bump won’t be coming from me, as I’ve already played it. Honestly, this game should have a big, fat Early Access label slapped on it.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5

 

 


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