When you think "post-apocalypse", most people think of a Mad Max-style world of ruin and cutthroat survival. Always searching for your next drink of water, shying away from bandit groups on the side of ruined highways. Most of the time, in games based around a post-apocalypse, it's an eternal fight for mankind's mastery over what we once controlled so easily. Sprawling cities and farmed landscapes are where we arguably reign supreme, and with our absence, these areas might quickly return to dangerous frontiers. Diluvion ignores all this, delving into an environment man has never mastered. We have never belonged on the ocean, and even with our current technology, we barely manage to keep ourselves afloat much of the time. Beneath the ocean lies an even more difficult world with dangerous animals, ungodly pressures, and the constant, unending fear of running out of a resource as simple as air.
Man has never belonged in the deepest and darkest places of our world, but in Diluvion, that's the only thing we have left. In a post-apocalyptic earth, massive sheets of ice have covered all the oceans after a disastrous flooding of every continent. We are left clinging to ancient relics as we search for ways to keep ourselves alive, and most of the population is simply content to live off the meager food, water, and air supplies they have access to. Sailors trade these supplies back and forth, resigned to their new fate of living in hostile waters and protected from outside dangers by a thin metal wall that sometimes leaks a bit of salty water.
You are the captain of a new vessel set on finding a way out of this underwater prison. The fabled "Endless Corridor" is what some call the secret to pulling back the vast layers of ice that block all access to the sun's light. Reaching the end of it will bestow a gift: a goddess who knows the way out, a technological tool for escape, no one is quite sure. Cobbling together a crew and a submarine, you set out on an extremely dangerous, and often cutesy adventure for fame, recognition, and a return to the surface, where we might live more easily as a species.
Events in Diluvion start out strong, tasking you with finding new underwater cities and research vessels in order to collect the parts required to upgrade your ship. The vessel you start with ends up being incapable of reaching the depth required of you once you manage to get to the Endless Corridor, so you'll need to staple plenty of metal plates to the chassis. After this, you'll go on smaller tasks trying to find crew members to fill various positions within the submarine, such as a torpedo operator, a gunner, and a radar man. You can pick up extra crew members to assign different positions within the boat in order to heal in battle or gain increased abilities in your different systems.
Diluvion itself has a simple premise: on your quest to the Endless Corridor, you're building up your resources, crew, and capabilities for the final fights. Where Diluvion truly reigns supreme is in its character and environmental storytelling. Nothing beats the first time you're set to find Zeus' Seat and it's an enormous wall built to hold back the ocean... and it obviously failed, as you sail directly over it and into the flooded city beyond. The stories told by the environment relate to ancient technologies, goddesses striking down enormous craft, and warfare between the different reigning families, or "houses" that reminds me of an underwater version of "Dune". Each time you find some new artifact, the music subtly swells, a delicious sound of violins that perfectly matches the sensation of the moment. A sense of wonder pervades the atmosphere, and on more than one occasion you'll have to force your eyes to relax as you eagerly gaze into the misty water for the next amazing sight you know is just ahead. Whether it's something as simple as on old tanker stuck on the edge of a cliff or an enormous mechanical spider, you'll move from set piece to set piece without actually learning much about what occurred, except in hearsay and ancient rumors. Every time you visit a new city, there's something to learn, even if it's the fact that there's a tree in the middle of it, the only one you've seen in the game yet.
The interface for Diluvion bounces back and forth from entertaining and artful to frustrating and painful. It often feels like you've clicked more times than you really needed to, and maneuvering some of the environments feels like Diluvion is just a badly done console port. These frustrations are counterbalanced by quirky characters with intelligent dialogue mixed with a two-dimensional hand-painted style when perusing any environment not related to actually piloting the submarine. I felt myself really falling for the character interplay, and I was happy to come across new and unique designs that baffled and interested me all at once. This meant it was wholly unexpected when things take a sudden dark turn in the storyline and you're thrust back into the realization that this is not a purely wondrous world for you to stumble your way throughout. Resource management is simple enough, though it requires a few too many clicks than is necessary. You have to take care of your crew's air, food, and each piece of scrap you use for ammo is less scrap you can sell for food. You can only regain air by docking with various research capsules you find in the world, but you must clear the area first of mines or pirates. It's dangerous and unforgiving, and at any moment, the things you love can be pulled away.
Speaking of things you love being pulled away, a wholly unintended side effect of Diluvion's adventure is the extremely frustrating ability to save your game. The checkpoints are marked by a globe of green-tinted fish declaring an area to be a safe zone. This doesn't actually mean you can't be attacked within these zones, and while you're going through important quest objectives by talking to barmaids or SOCOM guild leaders, you could be suddenly attacked by pirates, and are forced to find a way out of all the dialogue as fast as possible to avoid having your ship turned into scrap metal. These checkpoints also seem to follow no rhyme or reason in regard to placement. Some I found just sitting in the middle of a bunch of mines and wrecked ships at the bottom of the ocean. Some are thankfully around key locations, but in other key locations, you might not get a save at all. Since there is no manual option for saving, or a strategic Dark Souls-esque element of choosing what bonfires you use and where, it's very easy to have long periods of play time suddenly stolen from you because a glitch pushed you into a wall, or you were thrown by a current directly into a mine.
Glitches are, thankfully few in Diluvion, but they're far more devastating when they are always occurring at important story moments. There is a portion of the story where you must dive quickly in order to avoid a series of tunnel cave-ins, and it took me around seven tries, each time losing significant progress because of its distance from a good checkpoint and surrounding pirates. I died each time within this tunnel because of a strange glitch where I became trapped behind a jutting wall that didn't actually exist as far as I could tell. It doesn't help that the sub controls are poorly designed to the point of seemingly purposely being as big a failure as possible, with a dragging cursor that only appears to sometimes point at the thing you want to point at. Halfway through my game, in fact, an update dramatically changed the controls, fixing many of the complaints about them. It was not a significant improvement, as it made you slightly better at boat-based combat, but rendered it difficult to see some of the amazing things the artists had planted in the environment. You could switch back and forth between the control systems when you wished, but it meant choosing between being awful at surviving a fight or being awful at surviving ramming into a static wall you didn't see because the camera phased through it.
Still, barring the major flaws in the interface, controls, and checkpoints, I have very rarely experienced a game that actually made me lean forward in my seat eagerly, trying to guess what amazing new thing I might find next. Anyone who appreciates artistic and beautiful storytelling with a cast of fascinating characters in very real, tangible, and constant danger should definitely pick this one up. If you are easily frustrated by bad controls or a lackluster save system, you might have to give this one a pass.
Diluvion was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
An excellent overall experience in storytelling through atmospheric art and minor characters marred by the awful interface and control system. The majesty of discovering an amazing new landmark is marred by having to replay that section since you have no control over your ability to save the game.(Review Policy)
- Beautiful World
- Quirky, Yet Meaningful Writing
- Atmospheric Music
- Inspired, Original Thematics
- No Control Over Saves
- Seemingly Random Checkpoint Placement
- Difficult Control System