VR allows you to do things you can’t in real life, such as become a wizard or fly through the sky, and also things you don’t want to do, such as die via suffocation in outer space (thanks Detached). One of my biggest fears is the sea, I nearly drowned when I was five so I stay as far away from it as I can, so deciding I wanted to review FREEDIVER: Triton Down – Extended Cut wasn’t an easy decision to make. However, despite the realism and the panic-inducing moments I had whilst playing the game, the experience was (literally) breathtaking and something I’m glad I had a chance to play.
Archiact Interactive are no strangers to VR, they’ve developed and published a number of games across all major VR platforms, yet I believe this is their best title yet as I’ve not felt so afraid within VR for a long time. As I said, I have a fear of the sea, so this game brought on feelings and emotions which impacted me more than a cheap jump scare game would, almost in line with the anxiety I felt whilst playing Intruders a while back.
However, I made it all the way through to the end of this particular part of the story and would like to tell you all how awesome this game is…
You are Ren Tanaka, a ‘freediver’ who has return to duty after being landlocked for months. A ‘freediver’ is a person who can hold their breath for very long periods of time, investigating the ocean without having a tank of oxygen on their back, allowing them to fit into much tighter spaces. The downside to this is, once you run out of air, it’s game over. She’s been summoned by her mentor to investigate an underwater cavern which he believes is a brilliant new discovery and is hiding many secrets due to its elaborate doorway.
Once you’ve fully investigated the cave and resurfaced with information on what you found, you return home and that’s the end of the game. At least, that’s what would have happened had your ship not been capsized and begun to fill with water from every direction. Similar to the film Poseidon, you must make your way through the gradually sinking ship as you seek out survivors and try to find a way out. For me, this whole situation was beyond intense as moving around with limited oxygen, seeing the water rise around you eventually leaving you submerged, and furiously trying to open a door whilst you breathe your last breath, was all too familiar to me.
As I stated previously though, this isn’t a ‘complete’ game as such, the game ends at a point where you know there’s going to be more. I feel the price the developers are asking for this first part is fine, I would happily pay the £11.99 for the experience I just had, even if it left me traumatised once more! However, although it’s not ‘complete’, this part does have it’s own self-contained story – get off the boat – so it’s not like anything was ‘cut’ from the overall experience.
First of all – thank you Archiact Interactive for causing my arms to go limp for about two days! I rarely exercise my arms – I’m quite lazy – yet one of the modes within FREEDIVER: Triton Down is a realistic movement mode. This option requires you to actually swim in real life in order to move your character around underwater. The first time I turned this on it was amazing, I felt like I was actually swimming around as you could adjust how fast you swam and what direction just by altering your arm movements. But, then the pain crept in, forcing me to switch to the simple option where you just hold a button to swim – and I never looked back!
Whichever movement style you choose, the immersion doesn’t stop there. Although our protagonist can hold her breath for a very long time, she isn’t a fish. As such, she needs air from time to time, either via the oxygen tanks around the ship or air pockets which can sometimes be found. You’ll find yourself often returning to one of these as you try and figure out where you’re going and how to progress through locked doors or blocked passageways – unlike most games, there is no directions or guidance to help you other than the voice of your mentor via the radio.
Aside from the above, there are also environmental hazards such as fires, falling debris, and rising water levels, all of which will kill you if you’re not careful. If you really wanted to increase the immersion and difficulty of the game, you could do what people over on the Steam Forums and Reddit recommend – hold your breath in real life every time the protagonist does. Don’t listen to, or look at, the in-game oxygen meter, go and get a burst of o2 when YOU need air, create the illusion that you’re actually underwater and drowning. Yeah, I think I’ll pass on this idea, but it sounds interesting…
On a side note, there’s no HUD in FREEDIVER Triton Down, your vitals are shown on your arm via a watch-like device. You must remember to check this regularly otherwise you’ll run out of oxygen and have no o2 tank nearby. This further enhances the realism and fear. You can also opt to turn ‘hints’ on or off which, when enabled, makes the items you can pick up or interact with ‘shimmy’ when you look at them.
Just like that scene in the first Resident Evil film, you’ll regularly come across the lifeless bodies of your former crew, often floating right up into your face before you even realise they’re there! Although there is a trophy for finding all of these poor souls in a single playthrough, I had more fun simply locating them then throwing them around as if they were dummies. Sure, it’s disrespectful and something you should never do, but it made the situation a bit more light-hearted!
This brings me nicely onto the physics within the game. I’ve recently reviewed the incredible Paper Beast, a game in which physics play a major role in both solving the puzzles and progressing through the story. In FREEDIVER: Triton Down, physics are also important, but not really in regards to moving forward, they emphasise the realism and atmosphere your experiencing. As such, just like zero-gravity games (like Detached), items which are underwater can be pushed and thrown with ease, slowly floating around the watery corridors. You can also push things out of the way and bump into them as you have a physical body which impacts with anything it touches, rather than just passing through like a ghost.
Movement around the ship also utilises physics, holding a wall or stationery item and thrusting yourself off it will result in you gliding through the water like an eel. I particularly loved the oxygen tanks on the ship – they have a mouthpiece which is dangling from a tube off the tank. To refill, you have to grab it and shove it over your mouth, watching as the oxygen within your lungs increases. If you’re still moving though, due to momentum, then you risk the device flying out of your hand mid-refill and pinging its way back to the tank. For me, this added even more stress and worry to refilling as I often didn’t realise I was drifting, resulting in losing my grip – causing me to panic as I try to swim back to the station before I run out of air.
In regards to the trophies – they were made for people who love a good challenge. There’s no platinum (boo) yet you’re required to escape without dying, using any o2 tanks, or using the flashlight! I’ll be honest – I haven’t achieved these and I don’t think I will – it’s stressful enough having to find the next o2 tank, never mind ignoring them and only using air pockets!
FREEDIVER: Triton Down had me sweating, not only due to the intense workout with the realistic movement mode but because it felt so real and was triggering my anxiety and memories of the past. This and Intruders are the only games that have done something like this to me, the situations and immersion within the games trigger things you can’t get via playing a game in flat mode. As such, I would go as far as saying that the VR element of this game is high up on my list of favourite games to show off VR with.
The audio further enhanced the overall experience by utilising the 3D audio within VR, allowing you to hear things happening all around you whilst also being able to pinpoint where the noise is coming from. As the game is all about isolation, trying to escape the ship alone with no threat other than the fear of drowning, you don’t have to worry about creatures or monsters stalking you – it’s all about listening to your surroundings and looking for tools which will help you out. As such, headphones are a must.
In terms of the visuals, I personally thought they were really clean and sharp for a PSVR game, it even has third-person cutscenes – which was a surprise. However…
This particular release is the FREEDIVER: Triton Down – Extended Cut, a version practically rebuilt from scratch for the PSVR and Quest headsets. As such, there have been compromises and elements removed or altered from the original PC VR edition. First of all, the graphical fidelity is reduced, the dynamic lights and shadows are removed, and the overall quality isn’t on the same level as the PC version. However, to counter this, the developers have ‘extended’ this version by giving us a flashlight, collectable audio logs, and expanded areas to explore. But, as I said earlier, I thought the game looks fantastic via PSVR so don’t worry about the quality if buying for this headset.
Despite my fear of the sea and drowning, FREEDIVER: Triton Down – Extended Cut was a thoroughly enjoyable realistic freediving experience. The constant fear of running out of oxygen whilst trying to open a door or find an air pocket was really intense and terrifying. The story being told was engaging and gripping, but it does end abruptly, leaving you wanting more just as it’s just about to get even more exciting! If you have any VR headset and wouldn’t mind reenacting trying not to drown as a ship capsizes for a few hours, pick this game up and give it a go – I highly recommend it.
FREEDIVER: Triton Down£11.99
- - Realistic visuals and intense survival elements
- - Fun, intuitive swimming mechanics
- - Perfectly recreates a lonely and isolated atmosphere
- - Requires a bit of exploration and investigation to figure out what you're doing
- - Challenging trophies
- - Ends abruptly, making you want more right now!