In Other Waters (Going Back)
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £5.79, “A Study of Gliese 677Cc” (book), £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam
Exploring alien worlds, with new life… We see it a lot in fiction. What we don’t see so often is a world that gets properly explored. Oh, those pretty plants? What’s their function, their relation to other species, how does it fit into the ecosystem, and… Is it actually healthy?
Well, this is all a consideration to an exobiologist, and indeed, In Other Waters, that would be all that you’d be worrying about outside of your own health. But the protagonists of In Other Waters have other problems. One, the human Dr. Ellery Vas, has been summoned to this world by an old… Well, their feelings are conflicted… Let’s say friend for now. Except she’s nowhere to be found, and her bases have been abandoned.
The other is you, the suspiciously advanced AI of a diving suit, and a malfunctioning suit at that. You’re her only hope. Both to survive… And to solve the riddles of Gliese 677Cc, a world where all may not be well.
Or, y’know, nature is just being nature, and you and Dr. Vas happened to stop in at a bad time. That could be it too. I’m not telling you.
Still, what this results in? Is a minimalist game, in an undersea world which doesn’t really know you, and you don’t know it. Dr. Vas is fascinated, because, well, scientist, and she tries her best to understand the role of the various species she encounters, adding them to a rough taxonomy. Even as an expert, she isn’t sure of what’s going on, but she makes reasonable, educated guesses. And, despite the fact you can’t talk, she tries to communicate with you. After all, the friend she was looking for doesn’t look like she’s anywhere around. You’re all that’s left.
And, as such, it’s a game where you read about beauty… Yet, as a suit, it’s a sterile radar display, a UX for a robot, function, direction… You can see the movement of creatures, hear the water, the hissing of toxins clogging your rebreather, sometimes noises of the various animals and plants and fungi… But you are disconnected from it all. Just as Dr. Vas… Ellery… Is disconnected from her friend, and cannot properly communicate with you, disconnected from you in a different way.
You are all, in a sense, strangers in a strange land, alone, seeing beauty, trying to understand it… But you aren’t part of it. And the music, this UX, clean, easily understood, yet sterile, the way the world is presented… It all adds to one feeling, a feeling that’s strange for a game of exploration. Well, sort of strange. It fits well here, for example.
Loneliness. Maybe that’s just me, but it’s a lonely game, in several respects.
But here’s the thing: It wants you to explore its world. It eases you in, and each area has a sort of puzzle associated with it. How to get creatures to come out of their hidey holes. How to put others back in. How to maybe, just maybe, clear a toxic area with local plantlife just long enough to get where you need to go without Dr. Vas running out of oxygen, causing an override to your suit.
And I recommend it. I recommend its serene bleakness, the beauty you can only read about, and not experience for yourself, not fully. I recommend its story about searching for truth and piercing the veil of secrets, on several levels. It’s slow… But it’s good.
I’d like to be… Beneath the sea… In a… Sod, this doesn’t actually work. Beep boop, I can human well.