Aquamarine was a game at Play NYC 2018 that I wanted to check out because of its developer more so than the game itself. Playcrafting CEO Dan Butchko told me about a lovely note he received from the developers in our pre-convention interview that stated how it was their first time showing their game at a convention. I couldn't yet find anything online about the game itself, so I figured I would see them on the show floor and headed out into the tightly-packed second-floor balcony to find Moebial Studios.
I walked up to Moebial Studios' Patric Fallon and introduced myself. The screen had what appeared to be some sort of turn-based game with a little yellow submarine on it (always a good sign). There were a number of underwater-themed games at Play NYC this year, and each and every one of them had something exceptional to show. Aquamarine was no different, and I feel like I might have discovered something wonderful.
The story of the game is somewhat similar to Subnautica; you've crashed on an alien world and have minimal supplies with which to survive. The planet's fauna would be more than happy to chomp you to bits, so Aquamarine makes for a mix of finding your way to safety while combating all sorts of different dangerous sea creatures. It is there that the similarities with Subnautica end and the uniqueness of this game begins.
Aquamarine is a turn-based title with a hex-grid map. Each turn, you're able to make a certain number of moves around the sector of the map you're currently on. Enemies on the screen will then be free to move around. If they're close enough, they might just attack your mini-sub, so you don't want to hang around too long! All of the art in the game is hand-drawn, making for a crisp-looking style that stands out from the typical pixel-based art in a lot of indie games out there.
Your submarine requires energy crystals to power its systems. You can find these little pieces of alien geology strewn about the ocean floor; collecting them is a simple matter of heading over to that tile and picking them up. Unfortunately for you, some of the alien fauna find the crystals quite delicious and will happily chomp them up if you're not fast enough.
"A big part of the game is about managing resources and building something out of nothing," said Moebial Studios' Patric Fallon. "There's a system where you need to choose which resources to collect and how to use them." The crystals can most immediately be invested in either your ship's life bar or its energy bar. Run out of either and you lose the game.
There's also a sort of power-up meter at the top-right of the screen, represented as a tank of yellow liquid. The demo had a few options available for spending this resource. A more permanent choice is a simple increase in the number of moves you can make every turn (which isn't very many—you start with only 3). There are also one-shot options like the ability to energize your hull and offensively ram one of the game's many creatures out to get you.
If you make your way to the edge of a section of the map, you can move on to the next one. You'll have no idea what exactly you'll find. Resources are limited, and your only hope of escape is making it back to your crashed ship somewhere on the ocean depths. The game had a similar feel to FTL: Faster Than Light, mainly in the desperate, constant need for movement and a high likelihood of repeated failures on the part of the player.
Mr. Fallon is well-prepared for the coming months. "This is the first step in a long journey," he said. Moebial Studios came to Play NYC with one of the most interesting strategic titles on the show floor. If you enjoy turn-based games where you have to carefully manage your resources, Aquamarine is definitely a title that you'll want to keep on your radar. This lovely little survival title will be coming to Kickstarter sometime this September for the PC & Mac. Be sure to check out the game's official website and follow the developer on Twitter.
What do you think of Aquamarine? Does this particular style of game appeal to you? What's your favorite game where you crash land on a planet and have to escape? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2018 Coverage Hub!