Under the Waves is a narrative adventure game published by Quantic Dream, a studio well known for story-focused games like Heavy Rain or Detroit: Become Human. Under the Waves aims of creating the same spirit of narrative gaming from the beginning and adding more explorative elements to the gameplay.
You play Stanley who is working for the large oil company Uni-Trench at the ground of the Atlantic Ocean. Your tasks range from collecting lost goods in the sea, monitoring working drones or doing maintenance work in in the underground oil facilities. Compared to other narrative games Under the Waves gives you more room and time to explore. Between the missions of the main story, you are free to explore a small open world on your own in Stanley’s submarine. You can find certain collectibles, upgrades, and meet all kinds of undersee species like whales, sharks, and octopuses you can collect photos of. The sounds of the submarine and oxygen running through Stanleys oxygen mask create an immersive atmosphere. And latest when you hear the typic sound of a blue whale somewhere far away you are motivated to explore further. But not only acoustics, also the visuals add to this experience. The blue ocean, green algae on the ground of the see and the lights of the oil facilities and working drones at the distance all form a not photorealistic but well-fitting oceanic world.
Even so exploration of the ocean is well-integrated into the overall gameplay the focus is on the story of Stanley. As Stanley is alone in his undersea station his only contacts are via radio communication to his supervisor and via calls to his wife Emma. By this means you get to know of Stanley’s and Emma’s story on losing her daughter some years ago. The story is forcing to much at some moments and it could not fully convince me. Mainly because the phone dialogs between Stanley and Emma are not very well synchronized and secondly it seems the roles of Emma and Stanley are to black and white. In contrast the dialogs between and Stanley and his supervisor are synchronized very well and embed more naturally inside the exploration missions. Some of those dialogs were written and recorded extremely well, reminding me positively on Fire Watch.
Similarly, as in Fire Watch also in Under the Waves the story evolves over time adding more aspects to the initial story of personal hardship of the main character. Stanley also learns about the activities of the oil-company Uni-Trench and their impact on the ocean’s environment and the game does a good job in combining his own feelings of grief with the regret on the destruction of nature. The game never really enters the horror genre but over the time story, missions and the setting get a darker touch culminating into a good-written ending.
Overall, Under the Waves is a good game for fans of narrative adventures which adds an interesting portion of exploring to it. The ocean and its sea life are well-crafted, both visually and acoustically. Better voice acting and more detailed and multifaceted characters could have brought it though onto same level as genre-hits like Fire Watch or Detroit: Become Human.
- ocean is beautifully designed (sound, graphics)
- exploring is motivating in a well-sized and well-filled open world
- good controls of the submarine, different camera angles
- good story and setting reminding of Fire Watch
- characters often do not act naturally in dialogs
- … partially caused by voice acting feeling not natural
“Under the Waves adds exploration of a beautiful oceanic world to the narrative adventure genre compensating some weaknesses in character design and voice acting.”
Sources: Screenshots: own screen captures