Under The Waves Review (PS5) – Under The Waves is a game developed by Parallel Studios and published by Quantic Dream. The game tells the story of Stan, a professional diver who takes this job to isolate himself from life due to the trauma he’s experienced.
As you progress further into the story as well as the depths of the ocean, you begin to unravel the mysteries of the narrative, as well as your own past. Under The Waves is one of the few games that does underwater immersion right.
With a vibrant art style, immersive atmosphere, satisfying exploration, great voice acting, and a deep narrative, Under The Waves delivers a good story-driven indie title that will leave you reflecting on your own fears and hidden traumas as the credits roll.
Under The Waves Review (PS5) – Finding Purpose In An Endless Abyss
Under The Sea
The game immediately starts you off as you submerge into the depths of the ocean. You familiarize yourself with the controls and the importance of monitoring your oxygen and getting into your submarine.
As you navigate to home base you’re introduced to a few mechanics, one of which is the terrain scanner, quite similar to the one used in Death Stranding.
With this, you get the lay of the environment and scan for important landmarks, objectives, and collectibles. Collectibles in the game feature supplies for survival, parts, blueprints used for crafting and upgrades, and treasures to hold for your observing needs.
The game delivers such an atmospheric, relaxing, and soulful tone that allows you to simply get lost in exploration and reflect on your own thoughts. The soundtrack that accompanies the experience is the highlight of this immersion as it perfectly encapsulates the experience.
You’ll find yourself being lost in the gameplay and in a relaxing trance as you swim through the lush underwater nature.
The game provides you with main and side missions to complete. A personal favorite of mine was to go out and take photos of the aquatic sea life the game has to offer. It’s so fascinating to see such amazing creatures, let alone animated as well as in this game.
Done exploring and doing missions for the day? Head on back to your base to relax and unwind with a guitar, make silly faces in the mirror, craft items and upgrades, scroll through your collectibles, or get to know Stan as he interacts with the environment.
Some may argue that it’s pacing makes the game boring, though it’s slower pacing is clearly a conscious choice from the developers. Under The Waves wants you to take things slow, explore, and appreciate the experience while unraveling the game’s emotional narrative.
Having too much happening at once would mean breaking the peaceful rhythm.
In addition to everything mentioned above, the game features great voice acting, intelligently written characters, and a deep story about facing your inner fears as it’s all you can reflect on in isolation.
It Isn’t Always Smooth Sailing…
As wonderful of an experience as Under The Waves is, sadly it doesn’t go without its issues. For one, there are moments in the game where the pacing suffers greatly. The game sets the mood for a relaxing and slow-paced experience.
However, during pivotal story moments, you have to wait it out as Stan walks very slowly.
During these pivotal story moments, it would have been great to utilize the controller to keep the players engaged. Speaking of controls, as immersive as this game is it does not take advantage of the DualSense controller nor does the game allow you to interact with the environment in an engaging way.
To spin a wheel, you just turn the left stick round and round. To make this interaction more engaging, the player could have pressed the appropriate buttons to make the player feel like they were turning a wheel.
Hold L2 and R2, and then turn the stick to enact turning the wheel. Release the triggers, and repeat the process again.
This would have been more engaging especially with haptic feedback or adaptive triggers, which sadly the game is lacking. As visually immersive as this game is, there was a lot of missed potential in terms of control and vibrations. Even with this option on, the game barely featured rumble support.
Sadly the game suffers from gameplay and technical glitches such as screen tearing, in-game assets, and other images popping up during cutscenes.
Visually the characters and their facial animations don’t always work well. Even the dialogue at times can be questionable. The gameplay loop of exploring, doing missions, and returning to base can get old very fast.
The downside to having a slow-paced immersive game is that there aren’t many ways to keep the player engaged. However, if you stay for the story, you will be treated to quite the tear-jerker of a narrative.
A Solid Effort With An Emotional Narrative
If you can stay with Under The Waves until the end, you are promised a deep, and emotionally evoking tale about self-acceptance, loss, grief, and facing the darkness that harbors the very corners of the hope that remains in our hearts.
Despite its pacing, unengaging controls, and technical issues, Under The Waves delivers with its deep sea diving immersion, vibrant style, great voice acting, entrancing music, and powerful narrative.
A solid first attempt at publishing by worldly world-renowned studio Quantic Dream. If you have a craving for a slow-paced, emotional narrative, Under The Waves will sail you to peaceful shores.
Under The Waves is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by the developer.