It’s been probably way too long since we reviewed a survival horror game that takes place on a sinking ship in the ocean. Let’s remedy that right now. Today’s game, Under-Depths of Fate (Globiss Interactive $9.99), previously released on PC, is out now for Switch and mobile devices. You’re gonna want to wear your scuba gear for this one…
‘Enter the mind of traumatized WW1 veteran Alexander Dockter and experience the terrorizing experience of trying to escape a sinking ocean liner while being haunted by the most terrifying entities you’ve ever come across.’
- Looks. First off, I want to cover the fact that Under Depths of Fate looks great on a phone. Between the lighting and the models, I was relatively impressed that it looked good. I knew it was because I was playing on an iPhone, so of course, it looked good scaled down. But I was really surprised to find that when I played it on a TV (more about that in the cons), it still looked really good. What started to expose itself was low-resolution models. I figured it was because it was blowing up the iPhone screen, but I realized it’s probably identical code and models on other iterations of the game. If you’re playing on a Switch or PC, if you could confirm if the lightbulbs look like PS2 era objects for me, I’d appreciate it!
- Wartime. The WWI theme looks eerie and retro (af). It’s also more believable that a boat from that era would take on water as it will end up doing. But not only does the era set the mood for which the entire game takes place and mood, but it also affects the main character. Every soldier that has been through battle has experienced damage to both their psyche and body to some degree. Presumably, the protagonist has had that very instance. More on that soon.
- Audio. This game really does sound good for what it is! It suggests wearing headphones for the ultimate experience. This is true as so much more came through to my ears and set a much better mood. You can always hear the suspenseful music, but with the headphones on, you really start to catch all of the additional nuances. It’s always so much scarier when a jump scare happens due to a sudden, loud sound. This game doesn’t abuse them either, only when you really are not expecting it. It’s very tastefully done.
- Story. The story is surprisingly alright. It’s a bit stunted in terms of length, but I think it works as a whole. I won’t give you too much of the story, the game is so short, so one spoiler would be like 25% of the story! However, the overall story is you’re clearly coming off of the aforementioned war injury and they’re hauling you back to the homeland. You seem to be unsure about yourself as well as the where and why (of what’s going on). There’s also nobody anywhere at all except for indistinct chattering or random conversation elsewhere. You start to search and the story unfolds naturally.
- Survival Horror? It’s less of a survival horror game. It doesn’t have those core “protect yourself” mechanics. It’s more of a game of discovery and puzzle-solving. Think of how some horror games have you use stealth or things to ward off baddies temporarily. That’s a lot closer to what this gameplay is with things similar to quick-time events. While it’s not my favorite type of game, I think it’s the closest we should see a horror game be on a mobile device. I would think this game would have failed pretty hard if they had made it a full-on action game.
- Other Events. There is an overarching “mission” of collecting slides as well as puzzle solving. There are 10 in total and it helps complete a memoir. It’s a fun way to explain a bit more of the story without dragging the game out any longer. It’s a good way for any game to flesh out characters, environments, and to tie up loose ends. I also like that the game doesn’t try too hard to burden you with the slides. They’re not easy to find, but they’re not buried deep in the game, unfindable without a guide.
- Facing Fears. Additional mechanics like having to supply our own light, for example, make the game a bit tenser as well. You have to be the one to move forward with the dim light in order to proceed. That, plus a first-person view, forces you to come face to face with the unknown. And while some of it feels a bit predictable, I really don’t think there’s much need to be very harsh on it. It is doing what older games did and newer games seem to be reluctant to do. Kudos to Globiss for bringing some core horror mechanics back into the fold.
- Apple TV? Nope. No Apple TV support. This is a game that lends itself to a larger screen and we don’t really get that playing on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. So if you download the game on your iDevice, just know that it isn’t going to show up on your Apple TV 4(K) as well. But what’s that? You’re saying that I could just use ScreenMirroring to get some kind of big screen gameplay? No doy! But let’s talk about that.
- SKreAnMArrEReENk. Apple ScreenMirroring is a decent idea if you have a sturdy internet connection. Lucky for myself, I do. However, even with 936 Mbps on a slow day, playing the game over wifi causes additional stutter. But if you can overlook the occasional stutters, you can use ScreenMirroring. Simply sync it up with your Apple TV and you then use your iDevice as a controller. This is about as good of an experience as one can have using ScreenMirroring. Alas, the ScreenMirroring debacle isn’t over.
- Controls. Alright, it’s time to talk about the smellephant in the room. Controls can make or break a game and this iteration of the game has some issues. It’s all because the controls are on top of the screen you’re supposed to see, so your fat ol’ thumbs get in the way. Now, don’t get me wrong here. The on-screen controls are…fine, for lack of a better word. They get the job done and the game isn’t overly complex to play. But if you’re playing on a phone, the icons will distract, or at least cause you to obstruct the screen. If you’re playing it via ScreenMirror, the on-screen controls don’t hide themselves when you connect to the Apple TV. You would think that they would and you wouldn’t have extra icons on the screen. But at least your fingers aren’t on the screen, so there should be no issue with pressing on the screen… Nope, now you have to fumble about on the touch screen as you watch the gameplay on the TV. In the heat of the moment, you’re very unlikely to press the button. This game does not seem to support syncing a controller either, but if it does, someone tell me which controller they used!
(SPOILER ALERT-SKIP THIS IF YOU INTEND ON PLAYING THE GAME AND HAVE BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK. THIS SECTION IS NOT FOR YOU.)
- Pausing. There’s nothing wrong with pausing this or any game. It’s just that in this game, I loathe the pause screen. Sure, it’s understated and gets the job done, but do we really need the scary dude on that screen? Spoilers on the pause screen? I’m aware you’ll see Mr.SpookyMan sooner rather than later. That’s just not the issue here at all. The issue is that if you just started the game and go to pause it to adjust the settings, then you already see him. Especially if you bought this game as a blind buy or someone gifts it to you. I’m just saying why wouldn’t they just make it a bit more dynamic and just have it be the game title (or nothing at all) on the right side of the screen until you come across him in the game. Then there are no pause screen spoilers. And from that point on, it really works, because it will feel like he’s peering at you even in the pause menu.
Under Depths of Fear is a relatively short game with plenty of puzzle-solving. While it does falter at times, it’s definitely a game that uses it’s full 4 or so hours fully. By that, I mean that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It also has essentially zero replayability, but you may end up taking longer (or less) than I did to complete it. Some people may find it difficult to pay for any game that is that short without replayability factored in. I find that if you’d take the risk and pay $20 to see a movie that may end up being awful and only 1.5 hours, that a game should be no different.
The few stutters I saw and the getting used to the on-screen controls were easy to overlook as time passed. You do indeed find that some parts of the game are predictable. But I’m willing to bet some of you old-school Silent Hill and PS1 era Resident Evil fans would like the back and forth puzzle solving. I hope they’ll make it a bit more worth the money and include some extra gameplay in the future. There’s a lot that could happen in this universe.
My suggestion, for now, is to avoid the iPhone/iPad versions of the game. It doesn’t translate too well to a larger screen. The Switch and even some Androids can be docked for a more seamless experience. Either that, play on PC. This game deserves a larger screen than that of even a 12″ iPad Pro.