Back in 2015, Uppercut Games released a relaxing, casual exploration game called Submerged – a game that has no combat or dangers, just the enjoyment of sailing around a flooded city (due to global warming) as you climb and investigate half-sunken buildings. Five years later, in 2020, the developers launched Submerged: Hidden Depths, a Google Stadia exclusive sequel that continued the story of the two protagonists within a new deserted semi-submerged city. Today, finally, the beautiful sequel has docked onto Xbox, PlayStation and PC platforms – I’ve played, completed, and grabbed the platinum in the game on the PlayStation 5, so let’s talk about it…
Uppercut games are a team of very talented individuals who worked on titles such as Bioshock (1 and 2), Fallout: Tactics, and XCOM. Aside from Submerged and its new sequel, I highly recommend you check out their First-Person Arabian Nights inspired Roguelike, “City of Brass” – I’ve put in many hours into that game, hoping it’ll one day get a PS5 patch to enable a higher framerate and resolution. But, we’re here today to talk about the beautiful Submerged: Hidden Depths, a game that absorbed me within its visually stunning world and relaxing gameplay.
My one gripe, before I start the review, is that Xbox is utilising ‘Smart Delivery’ to give owners both the current and last-gen versions of the game, yet it appears to be PS4 OR PS5 on the PSN Store (no Cross-buy). I have reached out and asked about this but for now, it appears you get one of the other and not both – which is upsetting.
Submerged: Hidden Depths follows on from the first game, but no prior knowledge is required as there’s a new narrative playing out this time around. You take control of both Miku and Taku, two siblings that have fled from their home after their mother passed away, seeking out a new home by sailing upon the calm waters within a small rowboat. Although the world is absent of enemies, harmful creatures, and combat, there is a mysterious lifeform known as the ‘Mass’ which has infected and corrupted the various plant life that grows in and around the remaining structures that still stand above the surface of the ocean.
Miku, the sister, has a gift, a connection to the Mass and the ability to cure its wounds which were inflicted by those who foolishly injured it and caused the corruption now present throughout the world. Once people found out about her unique ‘power’, neither her nor Taku was welcome within the settlements they found whilst exploring, leading to them only having each other. Although her brother was concerned and cautious, Miku wants to heal the Mass and restore life back into the dark and dying flora, a task that involves finding and restoring seeds atop various buildings that surround their new home.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is a very relaxing and casual game, yet the narrative itself is mostly silent. Instead, the narrative is delivered through the visuals and finding all of the collectable diary pages, eventually telling you the story of both the history of the City and how the people abused the Mass before you arrived, and the personal history of the two siblings. However, once you start playing the game, you’ll find yourself more engrossed within the addictive gameplay and relaxing exploration than the story itself.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is an exploration game, a game in which you can take your time and marvel at the beautiful environments whilst you search every nook and cranny for the many collectables and unlockable character and boat skins. From the central hub, where you’ve both found refuge, you jump into your small rowboat and head out to investigate and map out the unknown ocean around you, discovering buildings to check out, boat boosts to collect, and fishing points that reward you with antiques of a civilisation long gone.
At its core, the main objective is to venture to each of the main buildings, find the displaced seed, then return it to the opened flower so that the Mass can heal itself and revive the colourful plant life for that particular vein. However, there’s so much more to do than this – each of the main buildings has hidden diary pages, visual customisation unlocks, and a hidden flower to find, all of which will force you to solve simple environmental puzzles, unlock vine gateways whilst holding the seed, and scale the tall buildings via ladders, climbing and elevators.
These aren’t the only places you’ll step foot upon, the surrounding ocean is littered with lots of towers, and smaller buildings, each either hiding more collectables or serving as an Assassin’s Creed-like Lookout Tower that reveals points of interest on your map. Also, you can pull out your trusty spyglass at any point and scout the cluttered seas yourself, once again adding points on your map where you’ll find upgrades, collectables, or the seed.
Wildlife and Landmarks
Although there are no dangerous creatures within Submerged: Hidden Depths, there is wildlife that freely roams around the place, running away once you get near. In total, there are twenty types of animals that you can encounter, spotting and interacting with all of them not only earns you a trophy but also fills out your creature collection in your diary. The majority of these will be easy to find, such as the penguins and seals which sit atop the buildings as you’re exploring. But, some are much harder – The giant squid, for example, follows a pre-determined route but never comes above the water – so you have to find and follow its silhouette as you float above it.
Finding and documenting all of these majestic creatures was quite tricky for me, I had to resort to looking at a guide for a handful upon completing the main storyline. There are no markers, no hints, and no indication where you’ll actually find them, with some only spawning in certain areas of the rather big map. However, just like with most of the game, I simply found myself so absorbed within the tranquil and mesmerising gameplay that I didn’t mind sailing around for hours searching for the few I missed.
There’s nothing quite like casually sailing to a new destination and seeing dolphins swimming around you and a shoal of flying fish leaping out of the water alongside your boat.
Just like the creatures, there are certain landmarks that you can find and document within your diary. These were easier to find, as they appear when looking throughout spyglass, but some were still well-hidden and required a decent amount of exploring to find. What I liked about these are the names given to them – we’d call them Satellite Dishes, a Bridge, or the Motorway, yet due to how long ago they were submerged and people forgetting their names, these are now known as The Shattered Bowl, The Broken Pass, and The Stone Ribbons.
I usually cover the visual quality within my ‘Technical’ segment, but there’s a lot to say about Submerged: Hidden Depths’ visuals. This game is simply gorgeous, every character (the siblings and the mysterious tree folk) are very well designed, with a semi-realistic and semi-cartoon look about them, resulting in detailed and colourful models. When you set out on the high seas, the water looks fantastic as it reflects your boat and the buildings, splashes around, and alters its tint based on the time of day.
Then, as you ascend up the buildings, you can look out at all of the debris and other structures poking out of the water as the various time of day lights up the sky to create some incredible vistas. Sure, there are some lower quality textures here and there, should you run into a wall and put your nose on it, but you’ll find that your eyes are naturally drawn to all the pretty and vivid assets instead.
One particular visual effect I loved was when you’re holding the seed and walking around looking for the flower to place it within. As you pass dead or corrupt plants, they’ll begin to come alive as they sprout and turn green and colourful with flowers, making the simple task of walking around with the giant orb feel magical. Then, once you do reunite the orb with its final resting place, sit back and watch the entire root restore and heal itself right before your eyes – it’s all very stunning and somewhat emotional.
Despite the ruins around your new home being deserted and absent of intelligent lifeforms, there are still remnants of those who once resided there before the Mass corruption took over. As you work through returning the seed to its dying flower, you’ll occasionally spot people formed out of the black Mass, posed as their human counterparts would have been reacting in their final moments – such as running away, overlooking the destruction from atop the building, or cowering from falling debris. These also begin to revive themselves and become green as you approach them as if awakening them from their slumber.
About halfway into the game, a giant Mass creature rises from the depths. This amazing and ginormous overlord wouldn’t look amiss in an H.P. Lovecraft game, a giant Cthulhu-like beast with an ominous red glow shining through its pitch black exterior – it looks really cool, especially at night. However, despite following you around and looking like a great place to investigate, you can’t actually climb it ala Shadow of the Colossus style – which is a shame.
Trophy thoughts / Length
Submerged: Hidden Depths isn’t the longest game out there, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and you’ll always have something to do whether it’s finishing the story or backtracking to collect all the things you missed. I think it took me around eight or nine hours to grab the platinum, maybe a little longer as it took a long time to find the Giant Squid. The trophies are all straightforward, collect everything and find all the points of interest, diary pages, customisation options, and creatures. There are also no missable trophies and you can attempt any of the seed locations in whatever order you wish.
I’ve talked about the visuals above, so I’ll keep this brief – the game is stunning, everything pops right out of your TV and looks fantastic on a 4K display. In terms of actual specifications, I’m not sure what the resolution is as it’s not been advised. However, it looks like it’s a full 4K (or near enough) and the Xbox Store listing claims it’s UHD, so I imagine the PS5 is the same. The framerate was a locked 60fps for me – there may have been a few minor dips, but I honestly don’t remember.
The music is very subtle, more often than not being absent so you can hear the waves splash, the wildlife calling out, and the ambient noises of the hauntingly deserted buildings. The siblings talk to each other in their non-translated language whilst you’re riding the waves or docking into an area, yet when the cutscenes kick in, they’re silent – literally no sound comes from either one of them, which was a little strange. I’ve noticed that the 32-track soundtrack is available to buy on Steam but no PSN, I wonder if they’ll add it?
Although a lot of the mechanics and processes have been improved or enhanced from the first game, there is one that has been brought over – the photo mode. Well, ‘Postcard Mode’. This is a rather simply photo mode, allowing you to rotate around the protagonist and zoom in and out, and shimmy to the side or go up and down. There are no filters, posing, changing the time of day, adding weather effects, etc… Sadly, there’s not even a frame that makes it look like a postcard. But, it does the job as the scene often doesn’t need any filters because the visuals are already bright, colourful, and vibrant.
Submerged: Hidden Depths is one of the most relaxing and chilled games I’ve played in a long time, almost acting as ASMR as you glide through the ocean waves and listen to the ambient sounds. Although the experience will most likely last less than ten hours, even if you’re aiming for the platinum, it’s a very magical and visually stunning experience – you’ll also feel very satisfied upon completing all of the collectable trophies. If you’re looking for a game to play at your own pace, feel rewarded for exploring, and casually discover new things, then you should check out Submerged: Hidden Depths today.
Also, if you haven’t already, why not check out the original Submerged – it runs with an unlocked framerate on the PS5 which means it’s a constant 60fps as well. Plus, if you like roguelike games and Aladdin, try out City of Brass.
Here’s the first hour of the game which I recorded at 4K/60 for a preview a few weeks ago. This was my first time playing the game, so I got a few things wrong, but if you play it at 1440p or 2160p, you’ll see just how beautiful the game is.
Submerged: Hidden Depths£24.99
- A beautiful world just waiting to be explored
- A great soundtrack which dials back to allow the atmospheric ambience to fully immerse you
- A collect-a-thon's dream, lots of things to find, collect, and display within your home base
- Very relaxing and engrossing as you glide accross the ocean with random wildlife swimming alongside you
- Looks and performs great on the PS5
- Although the siblings talk during gameplay, they don't make a sound during any of the cutscenes
- I love that there's no hand-holding, but that does lead to randomly looking for a long time if you're missing certain items or wildlife. It's a shame there's no hint system
- As of right now, it seems like there's no Cross-buy, so you have to pick either the PS4 or PS5 version