The submarine exploration game Song of the Deep, developed by Insomniac Games, releases in just a few short weeks and what I played on the E3 show floor has me both interested and concerned.
The premise is simple enough: a girl’s father is lost at sea, so she builds a rickety submarine and sets out to find him. When first starting out she can only navigate the deep waters, but quickly finds an upgrade that allows the sub to pick up items for use in puzzles as well as attack aquatic enemies.
In my time with the game the only puzzles I came across were ones that required grabbing stone heads and placing them back where they belong atop statues scattered throughout the level, thus allowing me to advance. Not exactly thrilling, nor was the combat as it required aiming your magnet and firing it out for a short-range attack. This felt more like a casual adventure than a deep sea shoot’em up, so I wouldn’t expect the combat to be all that impressive.
What has me concerned is the massive framerate issues any time the sub speeds up due to currents in the water, which happens quite often. The framerate is so bad during these instances that I felt embarrassed for the person showing me the game that was looking over my shoulder while I played. Thing is, the game isn’t exactly all that impressive graphically, so we are most likely looking at a case of poor optimization here. I saw many people at the show approach the game only to walk away moments later, perhaps because of this very issue. I can only imagine if the game releases in this state that many people will react the very same way.
That isn’t to say this issue can’t be fixed by launch next month, or that it isn’t just an Xbox One exclusive problem, as the console is occasionally known to have. Only time will tell, as the PC and PS4 versions were not available for testing on the E3 show floor as far I saw.
Underwater Metroidvanias aren’t exactly all that new, and from what I’ve seen Song of the Deep hasn’t shown me anything to set it apart from the many others available, but this specific sub-genre (pun intended) is so sparsely populated that I think it can get away with it. The story is at least interesting in that it’s a young girl trying to rescue a grown man, instead of doing the whole damsel in distress thing again. However, if the framerate issues aren’t fixed by launch I have a feeling bad reviews will sink this game.