Stranded Deep looks like a fantastic game, taking core concepts from successful survival games and developing them further, all the while sprinkling in a little island hopping and you’ve got a foundation for success. Unfortunately, in such an early state, Stranded Deep struggles to deliver more than a simple crafting system and very little to actually do once you’ve constructed the half-dozen buildings and exhausted yourself at the ocean floor while avoiding sharks.
You’ll initially be given a lightning fast tutorial on the plane that is destined to crash and deliver you to the start point of the game proper: Stranded in a life raft with your paddle in the middle of a vast ocean, with little more than a few bare essentials to see you through. You are surrounded by a number of islands that appear full of potential and all seems well, until the appearance of the first shark that circles your inflatable raft is a terrifying one as you’ll ponder the possibility that it will tip you into the water and you’ll have to survive a harrowing Jaws-like scenario as you cling to the minor possibility of survival.
Once safely land-bound you’ll find everything you need to survive in the form of logs, trees, bindings and crabs. Unfortunately with no real guide with your crafting you’ll spend a lot of time grabbing around for a lot of raw materials before you’ll finally craft an axe and a safe place to sleep at night. With no guidance the system feels daunting and broken and yet holds a lot of potential on paper. Everything is crafted in world rather than from a menu, you build a pile, equip the correct tool and build anything from parts of a shelter, to a new raft (to traverse island to island). This system is at such an early stage it becomes an annoyance to use, as you can’t bind items to keys or manage your inventory as everything is randomly assigned a slot at this stage in the build.
Stranded Deep looks absolutely beautiful. The Day & Night cycles are crisp, clean and will help truly immerse you in the world; however the islands across this tropical landscape are all too similar to really offer a true procedurally generated experience as promised. I spent a long time relying on my original supplies and struggling through because of the lack of individuality from island to island and wasn’t lucky enough to stumble across a bountiful shipwreck until much later.
If you’re lucky to spawn near a cache of special gear hidden in an underwater shipwreck, then you’re going to enjoy the first hour far more than if you’re left to do it on your own. You may also happen across the watch that gives you very basic readings of thirst and hunger, which will help guide you – though not by much considering your need for food becomes almost a singular focus as it diminishes at an almost impossible rate, while thirst will last a week without need to be managed. The mechanics became a lot more stressful once I was aware of them and an annoyance as opposed to a challenge as they should be in a game of this type.
For something that looks like a game based on Castaway you’re given no objective for survival or escape and after a couple of hours you’ll have probably seen a lot of what the game has to offer at this stage and even some things you weren’t supposed too – like a flying shark that randomly jumps a mile out of the ocean. I want to love this game. This is the survival game I’ve been wanting for a long time – no silly natives attacking you or zombies waiting around every corner, but simply you against nature. The lack of direction or coherent mechanics makes enjoyment tough and the lack of variety in the world stops you continuing for the immersion.
I’d love to see an end goal in place to allow me to get rescued and a much more robust tutorial that tells me exactly what I can do within the world, while adding a lot more variety and options with.