You start off on what looks like a private jet - and you can guess what happens next. Stranded Deep starts off like many another survival game and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is very similar to The Forest at first. While there are similarities between this game and that one, with elements of both Subnautica and Raft, Stranded Deep does try to do its own thing.
Soon after the plane crashes into the ocean, you swim up to a raft and make your way to the nearest tropical island. Set in a tropical archipelago, this first-person survival experience was, at times, a joy to behold. Indeed, the graphics are one of our favourite things and we enjoyed looking out at the ocean and the islands. The first few minutes works as a tutorial showing you the basics of survival: build a shelter, a fire, kill a crab and cook it, skin a coconut, make a shiv - you know, the standard stuff you do on a trip to the Isle of Wight.
After that, you're on your own. There is a sort of story with an overall goal and we really appreciated that. Rather than just surviving, you have to make it to the centre of the map and rebuild a plane. That said, it was a bit weird that at the start you couldn't manage to make a shiv, and before long you're Tony Stark, but somehow we didn't care that much.
Now let's talk about the stuff we really liked: we loved the range of things you could make, from buildings and beds to rafts. We also liked the fact that the more you build, the better you get and the more options open up for you as you level up. We loved the fact that the major dangers were sharks in the water and snakes on the land. In fact, we had to learn pretty quickly that once bitten, the poison needs to be cured by a certain plant, or you simply die. You see, the venom eats you away, however, the only way you know you're dying (from the venom or maybe heat exposure) is via your fancy watch, which seems more intelligent than an iWatch.
The controls were functional and after a few hiccups seemed to come pretty naturally. It was a little frustrating to kill a crab as they seemed to move too fast, but then maybe that's how it is in real life (having limited experience killing crabs it's hard to say). One thing we didn't expect was the boss fights. You see, when you have to grab parts for your plane, you head into territory controller by creatures, including a megalodon. Yup, you read that right. These experiences were intense and really added something to the whole experience. In fact, some of the scariest moments were when you had to island-hop, never knowing if you were going to make it without hitting a storm, being eaten, or starving to death.
Now, there were a few things that could have been done better. One criticism was that the islands were way too small for our liking and they never had enough resources to build a base. That said, we didn't really feel like building major structures most of the time because we were always on the move. What's the point of setting up a base when you have to island-hop anyway? It seems sad that a feature that is highlighted in the trailer felt almost redundant. Of course, you can build a farm and rain catcher and so on, but it never felt like something we particularly wanted or were incentivised to do.
While the survival element is at the forefront of the experience, one of our favourite parts of the game was diving down into the deep to explore shipwrecks and new areas. That exploration also brought us into contact with another part of the game that we absolutely loved, and that's the terrifying sharks. The only downside on that front: whenever they got close, the music changed and to be honest the shift pulled us out of our immersion and it would have been better as a total surprise.
When playing The Forest, one thing we loved was multiplayer, but Stranded Deep doesn't have that functionality at the moment. 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 so much better with cooperation between players, or even some sort of PVP.
All in all, Stranded Deep is good fun and will keep you entertained for a few hours. There are a lot of things to do, but a few features seem to be missing (multiplayer would be our main suggestion, but we'd also like bigger and colonisable islands). It's a good survival experience with a lot to offer, but it could have been great with a few choice additions.
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