Aquanox: Deep Descent
Digital Arrow / THQ Nordic
The premise of the new underwater vehicle game, Aquanox: Deep Descent, is a great one—something that would seem hard to mess up. In the near future, the Earth’s surface has been devastated by an apocalyptic war. In desperation, mankind has fled the surface and moved under the waves of the world’s oceans in order to begin anew.
The Earth’s few remaining survivors thought that they’d finally escaped the curse of constant war but humanity apparently didn’t learn much about its past conflicts. Thus, you are thrust into an underwater world of unscrupulous piracy and unmitigated warfare.
That sounds like something out of an intriguing science fiction novel. But just like any good storyline, it all comes down to how good the writing skills are of the author who pens it. Aquanox: Deep Descent is the latest iteration of the long-running Aquanox series, the first of which was Archimedean Dynasty (released in 1997).
To be honest, when I first listened to a couple of the main characters interacting with an NPC in one of the game’s earlier trailers, I knew Aquanox: Deep Descent was in trouble. The male voice actor was trying too hard to sound macho (like some bad 80s action flick actor) and the female had an extremely annoying Valley Girl accent that made me want to tear my ears off (well, maybe not really that drastic a measure).
When I got the opportunity to actually play Aquanox: Deep Descent, not a lot changed that opinion. Beyond the generic, annoying main characters, the world painted by the game’s developers, Digital Arrow, seemed largely lifeless and barren. It also didn’t convince me that I was piloting submersible vessels miles beneath the surface of the ocean.
To the game’s credit, the actual piloting mechanics are pretty sound. Steering is responsive and the types of weapons you can attach to your vessel are pretty imaginative. The only issue is that manning a large submersible vessel should feel weighty—in other words, there should be a time delay between the player’s input and the reaction of the ship they’re controlling.
There is a good amount of customization options that allow you to unlock plenty of weapons and other equipment, so there is that feeling of progression that is familiar in other vehicular shooters. You can also craft ammunition and various resources from materials that you come across in the game.
On the other hand, with its title, I’d have thought that players would have the freedom to explore this game’s underwater environs in much more of a sandbox manner. After all, many of today’s games allow you to go off the beaten path between missions and explore a game’s different regions to their heart’s content. There’s always fun to be had in getting into random, emergent encounters. Unfortunately, Aquanox: Deep Descent is more of an “on-the-rails” type of experience where you mostly can’t deviate from a mission once you embark on it, although there are a few side missions here and there.
Speaking of missions, I guess that this game would be more fun if there were lots of mission variety on hand. There simply isn’t. They mainly consist of going to some locale and blowing stuff up, and/or escort missions. Although this fact might make the game’s single-player experience much more of a chore than anything else, co-op play makes things a lot more bearable.
Aquanox: Deep Descent does sport some pretty decent graphics. The ship designs are pretty interesting and the dim murkiness of being deep underwater looks, for the most part, well done. However, beyond the visuals, I never got the sense that I was totally enveloped in an aquatic environment. There wasn’t the ominous creaking of steel under millions of tons of water nor many bubbles. Also, switched between each ship’s weapons was too fast for it to seem natural. At times, I almost felt as if I were playing a cross between a Call of Duty-type shooter and a space combat game.
Who knows—maybe Aquanox: Deep Descent will receive some more development love in the future. After all, we’ve seen other games such as Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr get turned around after a disastrous launch. But as it stands, this is a middling vehicular shooter that doesn’t have enough variety to sustain long-term engagement.
Aquanox: Deep Descent has some pretty good looking graphics that make its vehicular gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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