First Impressions: Song of the Deep
My first interactions surrounding ‘Song of the Deep’ came through hearing whispers about it on the Internet. It had garnered quite a bit of initial hype, and the announcement trailer made it seem like it would be fun to play during a hot summer day. So, I purchased the game on its release date and have since sunk about 3 hours total into the game. So far, this game has had some ups and downs in wowing me. That’s not necessarily to say that it is a bad game. After all, it has delivered on being exactly the kind of game that Insomniac promised in its trailers and video announcements. But it is appearing to lack…something. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way when it comes to ‘Song of the Deep’. Since its release, this game has garnered some very lackluster initial feedback from critics and reviewers.
Firstly, I have to give credit to the design of this game. ‘Song of the Deep’ is absolutely gorgeous. Despite having a heavy cartoonish appearance, the setting of this game is by far its most enjoyable aspect. The game’s designers did an excellent job with the colors and lighting design to make the player feel like they are delving deeper and deeper into the sea. However, I found that by hour 2 I was already starting to get exhausted with the repetitiveness of what I was seeing since this is not a big game. The metroidvania design of the game has the player revisit old locations in order to unlock new areas using skill sets and items that the character develops over the course of the game. Some of the first levels encountered, Glowkelp Forest (Level 1) and Marrow Ruins (Level 3), were by far the prettiest locations in the game up to this point. The rest of the levels seemed to blend into one another and were just plain boring to look at.
The game mechanics and controls are smooth, fluid, and easy to learn. When you learn a new ability it comes naturally to you. There is nothing that is overtly cumbersome to master or unrealistic to implement during gameplay. Most of the abilities and items players achieve are done so after completing a puzzle. As soon as players have obtained the ability or item, they are then forced to utilize it in order to solve the second half of the puzzle. For the most part the puzzles are not hard to complete, but they are monotonous. The designers reuse the same puzzles throughout the game, just re done a bit in order to appear new. Once you’ve done one puzzle, you can be sure there are about 20 other versions of it just around the corner. It makes it extremely easy to solve since you’ve, essentially, already solved the puzzle ten times before. This makes for quick gameplay, but it also makes for a lack of enthusiasm for completing your puzzle. Instead, the puzzles end up just feeling like slight diversion's in order to prevent the players from beating the game to quickly.
The story of ‘Song of the Deep’ has potential. The games designers created the story so that the player feels a constant pull towards the completion of the game. As a player, you don’t want to stop playing due to having the constant feeling of having a good story dangled in front of your face around every corner. As a player, you are pulled towards this feeling because up until this point, the games story is just plain…well boring. There is not a whole lot going on besides having the character enter another level in order to solve another puzzle in order to get another item. Wash, rinse, repeat. Every level is cookie cutter with nothing keeping the players there except for that well placed “hit” of ‘good story’. This design helps fuel the potential story arc that players create in their minds, which keeps them hooked and playing the game. It fills the player with the promise of delivering something memorable. I really hope that this game delivers what it has so far sowed and shows that it is not a forgettable game. I am looking forward to what’s in store, but as of right now I can’t help but shake the feeling that “this is it”.
Of course these thoughts are on a first impression basis only, and may change after full completion of the game. A follow up review will be made available in order to really pin point where this game succeeded or failed. I am hoping that things will start to turn around and I’m left with the feeling of satisfaction for beating the game instead of wondering why I spent so much time sinking into a forgettable game. At this point, it’s really too soon to tell. What are your thoughts? Do you agree with our concerns? Have you experienced these same concerns yourselves? Share your thoughts and let us know!