First, I must confess something upfront. I knew nothing about this franchise before going into Aquanox Deep Descent. However, I’m a huge fan of anything that has FPS gameplay and I also love underwater exploration. So of course, after seeing the trailer for this game I was very intrigued by what Deep Descent stated it had to offer me. I did a little research about this franchise and found out that the original game came out more than 20 years ago under the title of Archimedean Dynasty. Since then, there have only been two other games: Aquanox and Aquanox 2.
Then the franchise went into a game hibernation for more than a decade until the folks over at Nordic Games launched a Kickstarter campaign back in 2015. This was basically just a way to see if there was any interest in reviving the franchise. The results of that Kickstarter campaign came to give us the franchise reboot titled Aquanox Deep Descent; developed by Digital Arrow and published by THQ Nordic.
In the game Aquanox Deep Descent, there has been an apocalyptic war that devastated the planet’s surface. This event has made it inhabitable by humanity and forced people to move underwater to be safe from the horrors released on the Earth. But a wise man once said if we do not learn from our past, then we are doomed to repeat it. And as human species, we are our own worst enemy. So in our new underwater world, piracy and war are still very popular and this leads us to some decent underwater dogfighting.
You play as Kaelan, for the most part, who is a “Cryo” that has been in stasis since the failure of “Project Nammu”. You are recruited by the mercenary captain with three other survivors. Then, you are quickly put at odds with a religious faction led by Nemo. The game quickly shows that the story is your basic run-of-the-mill, “villains taunt you, you blow them up, more villains come” kind of game. The story and the voice acting to me was very mundane. At times, it seemed like the dialogue came from a robot reading lines instead of speaking to an actual person.
While the story and the voice acting left a lot to be desired for me, the game’s piloting and combat mechanics are very decent. Even, the underwater combat experience was more agreeable to me than I could have imagined. Combat is a very key role for Aquanox Deep Descent; and there was a lot of shooting to be done. There’s even a good customization system for their vehicles that will allow you to unlock a plethora of weapons and equipment. And for me, one of the biggest draws for the game is the ability it gives you to revisit previous areas in case you missed any collectibles or loot. Although the game may feel like it is an open-world game it is not, so resources become a necessity. For example, ammunition is needed and you have to make sure that you don’t leave anything behind.
Aquanox Deep Descent has the standard type of missions that you would expect to see in a lot of games like this: from ambushing your enemy to doing an escort quest or just fighting off sudden attacks from Nemo’s religious fanatics. I must admit, I love how the vehicle controls feel with the underwater dogfighting scenarios. You get to appreciate the realistic ideal with your craft and how the weight makes it where you can’t whip it around on a dime like some other games make that option available. Even the faster crafts give you that same bogged down heavy feel so you have to plan ways to try dodging incoming fire from your enemy.
During my run of this game, I didn’t encounter any issues or bugs. The game looks visually appealing. I mean the whole game is underwater so as your out and about, you get to see a small fish glide by your craft, or a huge one that looks like you may become its snack. The dogfights look very thought out and at times I could see my shots ripple through the water. Now on the audio part, I was let down by the voice acting of the secondary characters that could join you in co-op play. The main cast seems to do a good job to keep you intrigued by the story, but that is about it. Although the combat looks amazing, the sounds of the battle kind of leave you underwhelmed.
Aquanox Deep Descent was a hit and miss for me for the most part. I appreciate that Digital Arrow decided to bring to life a game that could with a lot of tweaks be a revolutionary story and gameplay if they build on what they have already. I loved the combat and ship customization as it made me feel as much a part of this world that this game would allow. I personally would love to know how the “Cryos” faired at the end of this game, however, the game became very drawn out and sluggish at times for me to stay involved enough to want to complete it. My hope is that they use this as a building block for a future game and that Aquanox Deep Descent will not go back into Hibernation. I want to see this game come out of its cocoon-like stage and become the massive beautiful game that I think it could be. Aquanox Deep Descent is available on PC through Steam now for $29.99.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Aquanox Deep Descent for PC provided by Digital Arrow and THQ Nordic.