Stranded Deep Developer: Beam Team Games, Fun Labs, Beam Team IP Pty. Ltd.
Publisher: Beam Team Games
Platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Review Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: 23 January 2015
Review Date: 30th April 2020
Stranded Deep is a survival sim that sees you ducking out of a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific ocean. You have to gather resources and watch your various health meters to survive. The worlds are generated at random and you can either choose a random world or continue with the existing one. I tried both options and got something reasonably similar each time, so I’m not sure how relevant that feature is. It could have been a fluke though.
Roaming about deserted islands, you create what you need from what you find, and attempt to get to other islands, hoping, I suppose, to find rescue. When Stranded Deep first launched, there was no endgame, it was purely surviving on your island of choice. Now, however, there is an endgame involving a rescue, which is obviously the only way to go if your story is about being stranded in the ocean.
The game feels different from other sims. It has an intense vibe, like when you play an RPG and connect profoundly with your character. Stranded Deep is very story-focused, but you aren’t playing through a narrative, as such. The story comes from your connection with your poor, lost human being, and the things you choose to do to survive.
On the surface Stranded Deep looks like your typical survival simulator, but when you get to playing it, there’s so much more to explore and experience.
Don’t Play With Fire
The gameplay in this indie-created survival sim is excellent. I had the Xbox One version and found some of the controls a bit irritating at first, but once you figure everything out, Stranded Deep is a fantastic game.
All your health meters are tucked out of sight on your watch. You have to manually check this for thirst, hunger, sunstroke, and health, as well as status effects like bleeding and poisoning. Initially, I found this annoying, but now I think it makes the game much more immersive than other sims. Forget to hit Y to check your sunstroke levels? Dead. Didn’t glance at the watch to stay on top of your hydration? Again, dead. It is a brilliant aspect of the sim-style game that makes it more challenging and exciting.
If you love crafting elements in your video games, you should definitely check out Stranded Deep. Everything relies on crafting. The way to win at Stranded Deep is to get good at crafting. There’s plenty of cooking, too, if you’re into that in games. The overplayed notion of crafting in every game on gods green earth is certainly annoying. But Stranded Deep earns it, you’re trapped in the middle of nowhere, you NEED to craft to live.
There is also an excellent exploration element to the game. You can sail (or swim), from island to island. Each island has something different and will offer you crafting materials you can’t get on the island you just came from. There are shipwrecks, drifting containers (one somehow poisoned me, despite being empty, so watch yourself), and other bits of junk you can explore and source materials from. The oceans are full of life, so there is plenty to see. You can dive and swim, but watch your breath meter and stay away from sharks.
Survive or Die
Actually surviving in Stranded Deep is quite the challenge. If it isn’t sunstroke, it’s dehydration, and if you can manage to keep all your meters up, there’s always a snake, a shark, or some other third thing (looking at you, crown of thorns starfish) ready to off you. For me, I was quite quickly bitten by a shark and then bled to death on an island. Another time I was knocked out of my raft and bitten by (I strongly suspect) the same shark. But the thing that kept getting me was the night snakes. I’m stubborn, and I don’t like being beaten by something I can’t do anything about, so I tried to go after a night snake with a Refined Knife, and the game wouldn’t let me attack it. I did that twice because clearly, I lost a brain cell or two when being killed by the shark.
Have Another Go
Stranded Deep is endlessly replayable. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. It’s going to become the kind of game I’ll put down for a bit, and go back to a few months down the line. Even when the novelty wears off, you can boot it up for an afternoon and take your chances against the Pacific again. Although much like a casino, the ocean always wins.
If you’re serious about it, and you have the patience with crafting, you can play it until you complete it. There is an endgame, and in terms of exploration, this has a lot to offer. Stranded Deep is absolutely playable until completion. It isn’t the type of survival game that never ends, or that keeps the end forever out of reach. Stranded Deep rewards players for maxing it out, which is a nice change.
There are a few options you can tweak to change your game a bit too. You can nerf the snakes and sharks, or have them cut out of the game completely. You can raise the difficulty level, and you have the option of permadeath. If you don’t have permadeath on when you die, it’ll take you back to where you last saved it. Stranded Deep is one of those games you have to manually save at a Shelter, and depending on where your meters are at, you can save yourself into a corner. I’ve yet to try it on permadeath, but I wonder if it would make me less of an idiot when it comes to taking on night snakes and bull sharks with a stone tied to a stick.
A Single-Player With Scope For Multiplayer
Stranded Deep has no multiplayer option, but I really wish it did. Don’t get me wrong, I love the isolating feel in games like this, but being able to play with a friend would be brilliant. I particularly want online co-op, rather than local. Normally, I’m jonesing for local co-op, but I think split-screen gaming would ruin the experience of this game. It would be fantastic if a bunch of people on your plane survived, and you could work together to live long enough to get rescued. This would be an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends, or with random online gamers. It would make a refreshing change to the get-all-the-loot-kill-everyone-else games that are saturating the market right now.
As a single-player game, though, Stranded Deep is still exceptional. You can lose yourself for hours, and if taking your mind off stuff is something you need right now, check Stranded Deep out. Even if you stick it on Easy, boot the snakes and sharks out, and just watch the turtles for ages — this game will bring you so much peace. When it’s not kicking your butt.
Stranded Deep has Atmospheric Music and Excellent Cinematics
The music in this game is very well done. It’s atmospheric and makes the whole game even more absorptive than it would be on silent. It gets you pumped up and enhances the element of danger, but it doesn’t freak you out. I struggle with anxiety, and some game music really aggravates that. But the music on Stranded Deep was exhilarating and got me more into the game.
The other sound effects were less interesting. Things like the sounds from you cutting down a tree are… flat. I think, given the rest of the game’s design, those things could be much better. They don’t sound as realistic, and they take away from the atmosphere. The problems with the sound effects don’t detract from the game too much though, it’s just a shame those weren’t done as well as everything else. If they had been, the game would have been even better.
The cinematic at the start of the game was incredible, and the sound for that was quite good. If you like cinematic games, try this one.
The Visual Effects
Stranded Deep’s graphics are relatively gritty. I think it adds to the game, though, although there is definitely room for improvement on the visual effects. If you like the visuals on things like Elder Scrolls Online, then Stranded Deep is right up your street.
Despite the grittier graphics, there is nothing gritty about the ocean or the myriad life forms swimming beneath it. The underwater graphics are amazing, and I wish I could’ve spent all day under the waves, looting crates from shipwrecks. That’s kind of the dream video game for me (also for anyone else, Subnautica exists). The life raft is also brilliantly designed. It looks fantastic.
I thought my character was clunky, visually, primarily when you’re operating the raft. You sometimes get a glimpse of your own shoulder, and it is peculiar. It’s the longest human shoulder you’ve ever seen and could definitely do with tweaking. That’s a minor gripe I know, so don’t dwell on it too long.
The visual effects are a mixed bag, but that doesn’t detract from my experience at all. I just think if the devs touched a few things up, an already great-looking game would look incredible, and I feel like Stranded Deep deserves that.
Verdict of Stranded Deep
To sum up, Stranded Deep is an absolutely fantastic game. It looks great, it sounds great, and it plays great. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves survival games or sims, anyone who loves crafting, and anyone who needs something either immersive-enough or peaceful-enough to help them through lockdown or quarantine.
If you love the ocean, you are bound to love Stranded Deep. I’ve been passionate about the sea and everything in it since I was tiny, and this game does not disappoint. I was horribly disappointed with Sea of Thieves because of the sheer lack of anything to see or find underwater, but Stranded Deep does not fall into this trap at all. I was overwhelmed with the attention to detail on things like a shark — you can even see the markings on their skin. For an indie game, it’s astonishing that so much time and money has been spent on their oceans. A lot of devs would have cut corners here, but Beam Team Games didn’t.
Check out more fantastic game reviews at OpenCritic.com or have a look at our recent articleslike us looking back at The Last Of Us. How do you feel about Stranded Deep? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @thecognetwork. As always, thanks for reading COG!
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- THE GOOD
- Atmospheric and immersive
- Challenging and exciting
- Epic underwater graphics
- Fantastic music
- THE BAD
- Clunky character
- Confusing controls
- No multiplayer
- Some sound effects are not great
Any fans of the survival sim genre who missed this game when it first released need to pick it up! Stranded Deep delivers on all the things you want it to.