'Is that it?' I thought to myself as the end-of-game Achievement popped up. Much like Lifeless Planet, another indie game I looked at earlier this year, Submerged feels like a game that tries to make a profound statement, but in the end left me feeling almost nothing. It's easy to make comparisons to Journey's non-combat gameplay or Ico's sense of isolation, but Submerged is long way from either's brilliance.
A young woman arrives by boat in a flooded city, her even-younger brother severely ill. She finds dry land and places the boy down, then sets off to find items that will help him. The story is told entirely through simplistic cave drawings, which if I understood correctly tell the tale of how the family fell apart and left the sister to look after the boy. The flood itself is left as a mystery (although may well be explained in secret drawings you can find around the city), as are the mysterious figures that start to appear.
Although the concept of a young woman trying to survive in a destroyed world after a devastating flood, while at the same time needing to care for her critically injured brother, is an interesting one, the game offers very little to get excited about in terms of gameplay. You must use your boat to navigate the flooded land, find a building that is home to air-dropped supplies, climb up said building, then do it all again on another building.
Finding structures to scale is pretty easy thanks to the scope you can use to pinpoint them (placing markers on your map) and the small boat that nips around nicely, but the climbing itself is dull and tedious in the extreme. Once you've clambered up, which takes no more effort than pushing the left analogue stick in numerous directions, you're returned back to base as soon as you have the supply item, which is then used on the brother.
Clearly the protective sister is neglecting to look after herself, made obvious by her appearance as the game progresses, but more needed to be done to show how much of a struggle it was to keep her brother alive. Despite small cutscenes that depict a woman slowly fading, she's no less able to scale buildings at the end as she is from the start, which makes no sense and creates a big disconnect between the story and the gameplay.
With a story that says so little and gameplay that starts serenely but soon becomes a chore, it's a relief that the whole thing can be wrapped up in under three hours if you don't look around for all the hidden drawings and boat turbo upgrades. Your first trip to a building and then up it is nice enough, helped by some lovely lighting that bathes the scene in a magical glow, or watching dolphins and whales swimming alongside the boat, but 10 minutes later I'd essentially seen everything the game had to offer.
Submerged feels like a concept rather than a complete game. What's here is so slight, the story so flimsy, that it left almost no impression on me. I didn't enjoy it, but neither did I hate it. Looking back on the experience, I'm completely apathetic towards it. Should you play it? I really don't care one way or the other.
Version Tested: Xbox One