Aquanox Deep Descent Review – Very Surface Level
Title: Aquanox Deep Descent
Developer: Digital Arrow
Release Date: October 16, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: THQ Nordic
The Aquanox series has been held afloat by a loyal audience since it emerged in the late 90s. The series evolved but was short-lived after it’s most recent release was in 2003. Over the years, fans had hoped for a sequel, but after a canceled entry, it took a Kickstarter to bring this series back up from the depths. Oh, that’s enough ocean puns? Okay, let’s move on.
Aquanox Deep Descent is a game that fans have waited years for. It’s underwater warfare systems are unique compared to other first-person shooters, but its focus on narrative is one that allows it to stand out even more. I think the jury is still out on whether Aquanox Deep Descent was worth the wait, but if you go without exceptionally high expectations, you’ll find a fun and hectic shooter under the water’s surface.
Aquanox Deep Descent begins as four individuals are awoken from cryogenic sleep and instructed to pretty much go on a search mission. The Earth’s surface is uninhabitable, and humans have built underwater stations to survive. Even in this new world, there are still confrontations and laws that must be upheld. The crew has been asleep for many years, but they seem to settle in just fine with the friendly humans they meet. You’ll learn about technology and politics as you make your way through the narrative.
The story is decent and gives you reasons for why you are sent on missions, and each character you meet has their own opinions about the situation. However, everything is pretty linear, and the player really doesn’t have much say in which side they help. While visiting ports, it’s possible to speak with the other crew members to learn more, but nothing was really beneficial. There were times where I would bring up characters that I hadn’t even spoken to yet, which made these optional interactions flimsy and unnecessary to the core story.
A lot of what Aquanox Deep Descent does well is found in the exploration segments where you navigate vast underwater valleys and caves. The team did a great job of setting the atmosphere and provided a sense of claustrophobia as you made your way around in a sub. Another immersive feature is the HUB, which changes depends on which ship you are using. These are really clean and relay any bits of information that you may have able your current ammo capacity and items.
Another great feature is the voiceover work and random little audio bits that occur during the game. All of the dialogue is voiced, making it easier to understand some of the heavier story moments. I liked how an enemy would sound off in your intercom when they spot you. It’s just a small thing that happens, but it makes sense, and some of the things they say are quite funny.
Enemies in the game aren’t vast and will normally be groups of other humans or nano animals that want nothing more than to take you out. Nothing is too creative, and you’ll be seeing many of the same enemies throughout the adventure. However, their weapon loadouts do change, which forces you to adjust your strategy depending on which type of enemy you are facing off against.
To help take out your foes, there’s an upgrade system that is not too easy to navigate. It tells you when you have something new to equip, but I found it hard to make my way through the several different menus. After a while, though, you’ll get used to it and find a pretty accessible upgrade system that comes naturally through the campaign. Players can equip two different guns, some sub-weapon like a mine, and other items that assist in confrontations.
To actually purchase and upgrade your arsenal, you’ll need to collect materials out in the environments. These are marked on your map, where you need to search the area or shoot some crates to reap the rewards. It’s nothing too exciting, but it’s a nice distraction from fighting and gives you a reason to explore.
Aquanox Deep Descent is a challenging game where each battle will test your patience and ability to navigate underwater. However, this takes a while to get used to, and the game doesn’t give you enough time to perfect your skills, so expect to die a few times in the beginning. There are difficulty options, but I wouldn’t say the easiest difficulty is a cakewalk either, so keep that in mind.
To help with enemies is the game’s multiplayer mode, probably is the best way to play the campaign. Sadly, as of right now, it seems you can only jump into a coop game if you’ve played up to a specific point. I had to start a new game with a friend, which meant I had two different saves. Furthermore, the co-op modes have some setbacks for the joining players. For starters, the host is in control of the narrative, and the others can’t directly affect the story missions outside of picking up items they aren’t even able to view the dialogue at ports. This ends up being annoying, especially if you and your friends try to play through the entire campaign together.
Aquanox Deep Descent is a beautiful follow up to a series that many may have forgotten about over the years. However, it was clearly made on a budget, which seemed to hurt a few of the game’s more necessary modes. Boring supporting characters, lacking enemy environment, and a subpar coop mode won’t make any new series fans. However, those who truly dive into what this game offers will find a responsive and atmospheric submarine shooter with a deep level of strategy.
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