You start on what looks like a private jet — and you can guess what’s next. Stranded Deep starts like many other survival games, and you’d be forgiven for thinking at first it’s very similar to The Forest. Although there are parallels between this game and that one, with Subnautica and Raft elements, Stranded Deep tries to do its own thing.
Soon after the plane crashes into the ocean, you swim to a raft and head to the nearest tropical island. Set in a tropical archipelago, this first-person survival experience was sometimes a joy to see. Indeed, graphics are one of our favorite stuff, and we enjoyed watching the ocean and islands. The first few minutes work as a tutorial showing you the basics of survival: build a shelter, a fire, kill a crab and cook it, skin a cocoon, make a shiv-you know, the standard things you ‘re doing on a trip to the Isle of Wight.
Despite that, you’re home. There’s a kind of story with an overall goal, which we really appreciated. Rather than just surviving, you must make it to the map center and rebuild a plane. That said, it was a little strange that you couldn’t make a shiv at the outset, and then you’re Tony Stark, but somehow we didn’t matter much.
Let’s think about the stuff we really liked: we enjoyed the variety of things you might do, from buildings and beds to rafts. We also liked the fact that as you level up, the better you get and the more options you open up. We enjoyed the fact that the biggest threats were water sharks and land snakes. Yes, we had to know pretty quickly that once bitten, a certain plant must cure the toxin, or you actually die. See, the venom eats you away, but the only way you know you’re dying (from venom or perhaps heat exposure) is through your fancy watch, which seems smarter than an iWatch.
The controls were functional, and it seemed natural after a few hiccups. Killing a crab because they seemed to travel so quickly was a little frustrating, but maybe that’s how it is in real life (having little experience killing crabs, it’s hard to say). One thing we hadn’t expected was boss fights. You see, when you have to grab parts for your plane, creatures, including a megalodon, go into territorial controller. Yup, you ‘re reading right. Such encounters were powerful, adding more to the whole experience. In reality, some of the hardest moments were when you had to jump on an island, never knowing whether you would make it without hitting a storm, sleeping, or starving to death.
Perhaps, some things should have been handled differently. One criticism was that we liked the islands too small, and they never had enough resources to build a base. That said, most of the time, we didn’t really feel like building major structures because we were always moving. What’s the point of setting up an island-hop base anyway? It seems sad that a trailer highlighted feature felt almost redundant. You can build a farm and rain catcher, of course, and so on, but it never felt like something we wanted or were encouraged to do.
Although the survival aspect is at the forefront of the experience, one of our favorite game parts was diving into the deep to discover shipwrecks and new places. That exploration also brought us into contact with another part of the game we loved, and that’s the terrifying sharks. The only downside on that front: the music shifted as they got close, and to be honest the shift pulled us out of our absorption, and it would have been better as a total surprise.
One thing we loved when playing The Forest was multiplayer, but Stranded Deep currently doesn’t have that functionality. Yes, it felt lonely and fed into the atmosphere of being stranded, but more than that it seems like a missed opportunity, and we think it would be much better with player cooperation, or some sort of PVP.
Stranded Deep is fun and will keep you entertained for a few hours. There’s a lot to do, but some features seem to be lacking (multiplayer would be our key recommendation, but we’d also like larger and colonizable islands). It’s a good survival experience with plenty to deliver, but it could have been better with a few additions.