Sunday, 9 September 2012

PC: Under the Ocean

Hey there you sexy gaming guys and gals from around the googlenet! I would like to take a second to quickly apologise for the lack of, well, anything recently. I've just been starting college and sorting out bursaries and killing undead hordes and trying to catch 'em all. You all know how it is. Apologies out of the way, time for the game of the hour! Being developed by a couple of lads from the land down under, Under the Ocean is a sandbox, survival sidescroller which is still in early alpha stages of development.

Under the Ocean puts you in the shoes of, what appears to be, the lone survivor of a shipwreck involving rocks or a reef or some other ship hating object. Upon starting a new game, you make your way ashore, along with wreckage and contents of the, now rather broken, boat that's still visible out in the background. You will immediately notice you are a rather fragile bugger, having to take account of being cold, wet, thirsty and hungry. Your first port of call is to salvage what you can from the shore and then get shelter from the rain and sea. To get some heat and dry off, you can find some dried palm leaves in a sheltered area and if you stumble across flint you can light a fire and add more leaves or wooden box parts and what not to keep the fire going. Collecting some rain water in a container, like a shell, can then sate your thirst for the night.

What you'll see upon coming ashore. Note the bars at the bottom right "Thirsty" "Chilly" and "Wet".
So now you've established that you're the blue Bear Grylls (yeah, you're blue so what, wanna fight about it?) you can start exploring the rest of the island. You'll find caves, waterfalls, wildlife and more on your travels. Some things can be used to your advantage, like using certain plants as makeshift bandages and making a fur cloak from a hunted animal to give some protection from the elements. On the flip-side of course, boars can be lethal if not taken care of with caution and falling down a deep cave system is never going to go well. Your environment will giveth one minute and taketh away the next.

Once you look past the dangers though, you find yourself in a gorgeous game. Everything looks rather lovely and even though you'll be slowly dying due to contracting hypothermia, you have to appreciate the sea, sky, caves, waterfalls and everything else in the environment around you (I'm not high just now, honest). Then there's the music by Chris Geenhan. The peaceful tunes will almost make you forget you're fighting for your very survival. Now don't misunderstand, the music doesn't break the mood of the game. Rather, it frames the game in a different light. It gives the player a sense of curiosity and the urge to explore this mysterious, unknown island, to drive forward as opposed to just staying in the first bit of shelter you can find. Of course I may just be over analysing it but it without a doubt provides a great backing to the game.

Here we can see the crafting of a spear and a lovely, if oversized, campfire.
The game features, what I think anyway, is a surprisingly unique crafting system. Now I say surprisingly because it is not complicated and I would  have thought another game would have done it. Essentially when you right-click on an object it is brought up into the middle of your screen and you can drag certain objects onto it to form new items and tools. For example taking a long stick and attaching a pointed stone at one end will make a spear that you can use to hunt with. You can develop this further by taking a firecracker, placing a piece of flint on the fuse to light it, then moving the firecracker into the middle of your spear to give it the power to take out a pesky boar. You may be reading this and thinking "but Minecraft involves putting blocks where they would actually go on the object" and though that's true, it is done in the confines of 3x3 (or 2x2 of course) squares whereas in Under The Ocean the crafting feels more free form, moving objects around the screen freely, out of the confines of small boxes. One of my personal favourite parts of the crafting system I've seen so far, gruesome as this may sound, is taking apart a hunted animal. When you've killed any animal right-click it and you can separate the hide, head, bones, meat and various other bits. Though a lot of it does not yet, you can tell that the crafting possibilities of a single animal are great.

The developers are hoping to cultivate a strong modding community for the game, meaning one of the priorities for the future is of course modding tools. Also on that list is the ability to make houses, which is due in the next release of the game. Plans have also been made to introduce procedurally generated levels, multiplayer and more of a story element to the game. Mixing this with mods means this could well shape up to be a game with a hell of a lot to offer upon and well after release.

In a cave system (obviously). That little bug can be used to light dark areas and that white plant can bandage wounds.
Currently UTO has quite a small community, although it is really growing, particularly due to a certain YouTube based Indie game reviewer doing a piece on it that increased the game's forum community from about 20 active users to well over a hundred. So do you want to be in that community? Well head over to and sign up! You'll have access to the general forums straight off. If you decide you want the game head over to and you can pay $7 for the Silver Bear edition which means you will own the game upon release and will have only paid half price as well as giving you access to the alpha builds. If you're feeling generous you can pay $25 for the Golden Bear edition. This will give greater support to the game as well as get you a copy of the soundtrack, get your name in the credits and you'll get a thank you letter from one of the devs upon release! Purchasing either version will also give you access to the private part of the forum where the developers pay extra attention to suggestions and opinions as well as it being the source for alpha builds. The developers also have a livestream of the development over at TwitchTV. The details of which can be found on the site.

That about rounds it up for UTO. As always any questions or points you want to make leave a comment below or tweet me @birnyb . Until next time you desert island survivors, enjoy your gaming!

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