Aquanox Deep Descent is a challenging title for me to review as I’m not a fan of underwater expeditions or taking control of first-person, pseudo-sci-fi vessels either – both of which are the premise of this game.
While that may pose a bias of ‘you’re never going to like it’, I beg to differ and try my best not to cherry-pick upcoming titles. I’ve had a fair amount of time to delve deep (unintentional) into this world and have a mixed opinion of it.
On the for side, Aquanox Deep Descent from Digital Arrow and published by THQ Nordic is beautiful. For a game that should restrict visibility, imagery is crystal clear, and these underwater vistas could not be sharper. On the other hand, the pace is a little bit on the slow side.
AquaNox Review – PC via Steam
Set in the world of Aqua, humanity can no longer live on the surface, and we’ve all become fish people. Fish people that need an underwater craft to navigate. Ok, so that’s not entirely true, only the latter, but civilisation has evolved, however, it’s a bit scrappy with numerous factions wanting control.
Politics are rampant in this underwater world with the likes of the Alliance, mercs and an abundance of pirates. Your initial vessel, the Shade, is home to a group that has recently resurfaced from a cryogenic sleep but have no recollection of the events before it.
While all four members have their personalities, they work relatively well together and… in the same boat (ha!), in that they attempt to unravel the conspiracy of secret projects, test subjects and all that jazz, whilst trying to survive among the competing factions.
Aquanox Deep Descent encourages exploration as you can locate wrecks and salvage from them various parts to craft new items and weaponry. Alternatively, you can dock into a large mothership, fraternise with the crew and sell off your inventory and buy better gear.
A Slow Burner Underwater
As can be expected, movement is pretty calculated in that you won’t immediately stop or manoeuvre around a hazard as you would in a conventional simulator. That’s understandable, but there are quite a few slow-motion moments where you can see yourself about to crash and do nothing to prevent it.
Taking damage is part of the job, and though you come equipped with shields that can be upgraded later on, the enemy numbers are quite plentiful. Considering the very open spaces/arenas, you can take a lot of damage in all directions.
Like any FPS, you can pause somewhere safe and regenerate your shields, but you also have access to restorative items such as a repair kit to refill the shield or your health. The on-screen gauges are visible, but when in action, you can rely on your crew to call out that shields are critical.
Because of the vulnerabilities, you need to be quite agile, and the classic strafe technique pays off for evading some of the hard hitters. Admittedly, I often dug into one position, locked on one enemy at a time and took them out one by one right intermittently pressing R to repair my ship.
Under The Sea, That’s Where It’s Wetter
Again we come back to the speed. Aquanox Deep Descent is a looker in my book, but it doesn’t feel like you’re underwater other than the lighting effects, which I hasten to add, are magnificent.
While your ship is prone to drifting when you’re decelerating, you can come to a complete halt without being carried by the currents. A flick of the mouse and aiming is super sleek, but again, it just doesn’t feel like you’re underwater some of the time.
The dialogue scenes are all fully voice acted, and for the most part, they’re good. Your crew, notably Kaelen, is a little bit of a cliche and a character from out of a straight-to-video action movie, but the characters had depth.
There are multiple dialogue choices and ways to interact with the story, which was probably the standout part for me. While it wasn’t a groundbreaking enigmatic arc, it had me interested enough to pursue the main story rather than drift off down the side quest path.
Reaching For The Airlock
Usually, I’d be the type of person to complete the 80% of side quests that are available before the main story arc, depending on the game. While it’s in your interests to explore the areas to unlock new goodies through scanning and salvaging, the controls and frequent combat put me off a bit.
It’s a paradox really as the pace is somewhat calming, but the sheer number of enemies and overall challenge of the game meant I was applying a more stealth-like run than anything, in fear or an attack. It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve never used a map so much in a game to locate enemies but also navigate.
You’ll receive markers on screen such as waypoints, so it’s clear where you need to get to, just not the how. A seemingly dead-end may end up having a passageway hidden, not intentionally. Still, on face value, because of the depth of the environments, you need to explore heights as well as the overall areas.
Aquanox Deep Descent gives the illusion that it’s a vast open world, but it is a somewhat linear experience mostly. More so in that I didn’t explore every area, but also that because of the tunnel-like designs, there wasn’t as much freedom as what appeared on the surface. Rather, under the surface.