Extended Review: Stranded Deep

Survival On The Rocks

Thanks to the folks at Beam Team Games and Fun Labs, I’ve been checking out the newly released console edition of Stranded Deep on Xbox One. This survival game will be familiar in different areas to anybody who’s spent time with Ark and Subnautica. However it does come with its own flaws and failings, some of which are pretty severe. Overall though, it’s a title I’ve enjoyed playing, and as so has been a little hard to fully weigh up.

[Edit: Since publication, the developers have release an update which allows inversion of the Y-Axis, as well as other bug and quality of life fixes]

Stranded on a chain of islands, surviving in Stranded Deep can be a tough task

The Basics

After a very short plane journey, you’ll find yourself crashed into a nameless sea. Paddling out to the lifeboat, amid the wreckage of the small plane, you’ll soon find yourself on the shore of a small island. Stranded there, with a limited number of essentials, you’ll need to find a way to survive, colonise and explore this relatively expansive island chain.

There’s an extensive crafting and building menu, which will unlock as your skills improve across different areas. You’ll start off with basic knives and improvised axes, but can improve your skills by simply crafting and making more. To find new resources, you’ll need to explore new islands, as well as looting local wrecks. It’s important when you do to be careful of the various poisonous or otherwise dangerous creatures out there, which might take exception to your invasion of their habitat

While dangerous, the title has options to make sharks and snakes passive, or remove them entirely

All in all, the title seems like a weird mash up of survival and crafting titles I’ve played before. Of course, with the stranded at sea theme, there’s a lot of subnautica in here. However crafting and building of houses and non-durable weapons has a lot more in terms of titles such as Ark or Conan Exiles. As both of those did, the title does come with some issues, and in some ways it feels a lot like a game preview title. I’ve crafted many weapons during my time in game, however knives, axes and spears in my playthrough don’t seem to cause any damage to sharks or larger wildlife. Because of this, I’ve had to make creatures passive at times, simply as it felt like a very unfair and one sided fight where I was unable to fight my own corner.

Possibly the worst omission in the title if you are anything like me, is the Y-Axis look inversion. At the time of writing it is simply not possible to invert the Y-axis in game. According to the developers, this is something which is coming soon, but as a strict inverter myself it’s definitely something which has affected my time with the title. I’ve managed to push through, and have enjoyed the time spent in game overall, however it’s been a notable bone of contention.

Parent’s Eye View

Stranded Deep is rated by PEGI at 18, and by the ESRB as Teen. This is another title with rather disparate ratings in the two zones and in honesty I’m leaning a lot more towards the Teen rating. The PEGI 18 has been allocated to the title for “extreme violence” however there’s not a huge deal of this in the title. There are some rather lacking blood effects when skinning creatures or being hurt yourself. Overall however I’d say the biggest boundary for younger players is simply the skill required to keep on top of hunger, thirst, heat stroke, and your day to day requirements to stay alive.

This is a title I’ve been relatively happy to play in front of the Micro-Bandits, and while I can understand the Teen rating on ESRB I am not convinced that the PEGI reviewer has taken a true look over this version of the title.

Learning the basics in the first play through can really help you get your bearings to make setup smooth and fast

The Run Down

Visuals – Fair: This has been an odd one, as some items verge more towards good, while others fall more towards lacking. Overall the visuals are basically ok, though there are niggles here and there. For instance when poisoned I’ve found my view freezing for a short number of seconds, something which I don’t think is entirely by design. The day night cycle is well executed, and overall it’s not hampered my time in title, but graphics in Stranded Deep are far from excellent

Audio – Good: The music isn’t quite fitting enough to make it hit the high ranks of Great, but certainly things have been implemented fairly well here. There are good water and swimming effects, and decent storm effects when thunder lighting and high waves rock the surrounding ocean.

Narrative – Lacking: Not war and peace, but mostly what you expect from survival titles such as this. It would have been excellent to see more in the way of collectable story items explaining more about the wrecks that litter the area as well as your own story here.

Replay – Good: I’ve had a few different survivors in the past week or so, and enjoyed my time with each. If you’re attached to the islands you’ve discovered you can create a new play through using the same map, or create an entirely new one, full of new adventures for your survivor. It’s also nice to have the option to turn off the more violent creatures, as in honesty there are enough challenges just keeping yourself alive without them.

Overall the Pixel Bandits Shark King level for Stranded Deep is Approach With Caution. This has been a supremely hard one to weigh up all in all, and I’m torn between just below or just above average. I’ve had some great fun with the title, and especially like the expansive tech tree providing more to craft as your skills improve. It does come with some flaws, especially the lack of look inversion, and it would be remiss of me not to pull those up. However it’s a game which I’ve truly enjoyed playing, and at a fairly low price point, it does seem worth putting up with the larger errors, and small bugs and niggles.

Night falls, and work carries on by the light of the campfire
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