PAX South 2016: Song of the Deep
A few days prior to PAX South, Insomniac Games began teasing a new game. This game ended up being Song of the Deep. A 2D, Metroid-style game that follows the tale of Merryn, who is in search of her father, who is lost at sea. The game takes place underwater, and is a unique take on the Metroid-style genre.
Merryn’s father used to tell her stories about treasure and cities under the water. Merryn never believed her father, but always entertained his stories. When Merryn begins her search for her lost father, she finds that what she believed as a fairy tale, is actually reality. Merryn takes her small one-man submarine to search for her father. Insomniac wanted a very isolationist feel when playing the game. There are other characters, but they wanted the game to feel like you are alone when traversing the depths of the ocean. The story is told through a story book presentation. Merryn will make comments, and a narrator will also add to the story. Brian Hastings, the Chief Creative Officer at Insomniac and the Creative Director on Song of the Deep, wanted to make a character that his young daughter could admire. It’s a game about overcoming adversity and knowing that perseverance pays off.
The submarine you control has a good amount of abilities that have multiple uses. A claw can be used to attack enemies or attach on to various objects. Some objects are hooks to keep you from being swept away from a current, or you can grapple onto blocks that you will need to place on certain portals to open up new areas. In terms of weapons, the submarine has a sonar blast that can attack enemies surrounding the sub, and also has a torpedo that attacks enemies from far away. The weapons need to be recharged, and they will be recharged over time, or can be completely refilled at various pools of energy that also act as checkpoints. Other abilities include a boost that increases the subs speed, and a headlight that illuminates the way and scatters away dangerous jellyfish. Using all of these different gameplay mechanics was satisfying to use, and after awhile, it felt like second nature when using each of them. It will be interesting to see the other weapons and mechanics the game has to offer in terms of the submarine.
Early on in the the game, Merryn will find a diving suit that allows her to exit the submarine and traverse the ocean by herself. Merryn doesn’t have as many abilities as the submarine, but she can fit into smaller spaces, and redirect lasers that are tied to puzzles. The Metroid-style gameplay is in full effect here, as you’ll need to backtrack to old areas to see where Merryn can traverse. You will see these sections during the gameplay time with the submarine, and Song of the Deep makes it clear that you’ll need to come back to these areas later. A map of the overall area is available to show you where you are currently and areas that you’ve already accessed. The one main puzzle mechanic I saw is when Merryn, outside of the submarine, needed to redirect lasers to line them up with certain nodes. This included rotating mirrors to redirect lasers, or even combining lasers together to obtain a different color. Merryn can also change the direction of lasers to line them up with certain nodes. In these puzzles, there were also side areas that can be accessed to find some of the collectibles in the game.
A few of the collectibles I came across included diamonds, pearls and trophies. These items will come into play when interacting with the merchant. The merchant is a hermit crab that allows you to buy upgrades and new items. It will be interesting to see what sorts of items and upgrades will be available, as it may even add more mechanics and weapons to the game. With an Insomniac game, I expect to see some unique weapons that make sense in the world.
There are various environments in the game that look different from previous ones. The one environment I played included beautiful blue background with what’s left of a fallen city. There is a lot of detail in the foreground and even background, and if there is that much detail in the other sections as was with this section, I can’t wait to see what else the game has in store.
I enjoyed my time with Song of the Deep. It doesn’t necessarily feel like an Insomniac game, which isn’t a bad thing. Insomniac is known for their wacky weapons and I’m sure that their signature style will show up later in the game. For now, the game is a unique take on the Metroid-style genre and am anticipating what else they add to the game before its Summer 2016 release date.