Gaming / Mac / PC

Stranded Deep Alpha Preview: Become Tom Hanks

The driving concept behind Stranded Deep is one that has interested me ever since I watched Cast Away as a kid. The idea of being trapped on an island alone with no one to rely upon simultaneously excited and terrified me. It’s the fear of the unknown, the horror of being thrown into an isolated setting and having to fend for yourself. This realistic sense of horror is what Stranded Deep does, and it does it well.
Although the game is still in the alpha stage via Steam Greenlight, it shows a large amount of promise. Nearly all of the core gameplay seems to be present: an establishing cinematic that ends with your plane crashing into the Pacific, an interesting crafting system, explorable wreckage, a potentially dynamic damage and health concept… essentially everything that would come into play with an island survival simulator. You, the player, are stranded in the ocean with a raft, an oar, a watch, a (more than likely indestructible) lighter, and a bottle of water. You paddle your way to the nearest island and from there it’s entirely up to you. The world is yours, and it will kill you if you’re not careful.
Stranded Deep does not hold your hand or tell you exactly what you need to do, nor should it. It’s a game about surviving on an island (or multiple ones), so your instincts tend to kick in and say “I need to find food, water, and shelter”, and that’s exactly what you do. As of yet, I’m unsure about whether or not it is possible to be rescued. I found a flare gun while scavenging a shipwreck and figured perhaps I could flag down a ship, but then a very eerie thought crept in: I may end up only being able to use this to fend off predators. There’s a strong possibility that help isn’t coming, and as a player you have to entertain and prepare for that possibility. Since we’re on the concept of scavenging and exploring shipwrecks, I’d like to point out that it is utterly terrifying. Going into the water itself is terrifying. Stepping foot off the safety of solid ground requires a degree of boldness; diving deep into the cold, black abyss that is the Pacific Ocean requires courage that I will absolutely never possess. If the flashlight that I found in a box on the island’s shore couldn’t illuminate the wreckage sunken beneath my feet, I didn’t dare go deeper. This is the key horror element of this game and it certainly isn’t one to brush off, because if you want to get the full “stranded on an island” experience, you’ll want to start exploring the depths.

Stranded Deep is simply beautiful.

Stranded Deep is simply beautiful.

Deadly sharks are honestly one of the least terrifying aspects of swimming out into the ocean in Stranded Deep. For me, it was the blackness reaching up from below that haunted my thoughts. But the sharks are not to be underestimated and they make exploring shipwrecks a necessarily tense task. There’s some good loot to be found, but your life is on the line. Apart from the obvious dangers of the ocean and its inhabitants, starvation and even broken limbs are easily overlooked factors that will hasten the end of your journey. The first thing I did upon arriving on my first island was climb a palm tree to grab some coconuts. I hoisted myself several feet into the air, took one misstep, and promptly fell to the ground. I received the message “Something feels broken” and felt dread at having already crippled my character. It’s the little things like this that make Stranded Deep immersive and interesting; if you’re not careful, you could seriously hamper your survival time.
As a final note, I’d like to mention that the crafting system in its current iteration is fairly straight forward but requires a little bit of thought before its able to be fully understood. Your inventory can only hold so many items and you’ll quickly find yourself wondering, “well how in the world can I hold enough things to craft what I want?” but the answer is simple: throw it all on the ground. Want to build a campfire? Throw some sticks and rocks on the ground and craft from there. What about a bed? Palm leaves, sticks, and rocks. It’s simple, but intuitive and realistic. If you were stranded on an island, you’d more than likely gather your materials in front of you and start building.
I’m not sure how far into development Stranded Deep is, but I’m excited for its upcoming builds and future release. It certainly has potential and is well worth checking out, so long as you are interested in games that require you to invest in your own fun.

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