Stranded Deep: It’s time to Survive... or Die!
There have been a ton of survival games but this one goes for the old ‘Castaway’ scenario: splash down in dangerous waters near deserted islands and be forced to survive. First, you have to make it to an island.
Remember Tom Hanks in the 90s movie sitting lonely and desperate on the sand, about to call it quits on after many failed efforts to find food etc? Well, he gets back up and of course, turns things around.
Such passive instincts for personal survival are alive in each of us. It’s the basic need that gets switched on when we’re on our own and forced to think resourcefully about...well, everything. Even when we’re simply outside the circle of our family, friends, loved ones, or society itself. So what’s needed now is an experience to tap into all that more completely, and test us for the kind of decisions we’d make. Yes, even beyond watching Bear Gryls on Netflix!
Thus taken to extremes, Stranded Deep does a great job. It resurrects this need to respond to an environment and awaken our inner senses. But the question is: does it provide the sort of realistic choices that will make for a gripping, immersive survival (and gaming) experience? Especially when the element of frustration in gaming can easily make us switch off and play something more fun instead.
Well, happily, this game manages to keep frustrations at bay, by the sheer weight of options and consequences around you. It injects that real sense of danger and risk, which will force you to make choices, and think about their consequences. For example, finding anything is like finding a present which may open up more possibilities and ideas: what can I do or make that will help me to survive for longer? Meanwhile, danger, especially from hazardous ocean life provides a lot of the suspense.
Next question: Is the crafting and stuff frustrating or boring? Again, frustration levels in this area are dampened, since instead there’s the desire to try and make the best decisions about what and where to build. And you don’t have to love Lego or Minecraft to realise the role that it plays here. Choices have outcomes, and if you’re going to get rescued, you’ll need to make the right ones, but it’s still fun to see what happens. Luckily, the more you build, the better you get and the wider your options.
In short these elements ensure the game stays real and fresh: the simple joy of making it through dangerous waters, the thrill of finding and using things, of being generally resourceful and the challenge of crafting something useful for surviving... just one more day. These are all traits the game has worked hard to build itself upon, and other games could learn a thing or two.
Stranded Deep was in Early Access development for a good while even as it arrived on console. Let’s hope that further development won’t get abandoned where it’s needed, since there’s clearly a lot here for a full-bodied survival game. Otherwise, any glitches or bugs threaten to interfere on the commitment that players are involved in. We need the scenario to be true to itself, if we’re going to be true to it.
Available now, the experience of Stranded Deep awaits you, to awaken dormant levels of thinking, and deeper levels of awareness and survival…. Just like any good, immersive adventure should - as long as it doesn’t stray into the realms of too much heavy (and tiring) realism!