Indie games continue to lead the way in innovation. Especially when it comes to story telling and redefining what it means to play a game. No other medium can match games for having so many ways to experience a story. I thought I was ready for In Other Waters, but I was so very wrong.
To try and explain the gameplay cannot actually do it justice. What ever I say will sound almost dull, but somehow it is anything but. Instead you use a simple interface that manages to create a captivating and engaging experience. One that draws you in and never lets you go.
In Other Waters’ story is deeply emotional. Which sort of feels odd to say when it is presented in simple text form. Mostly done via communications between yourself and Dr Ellery Vas. A scientist who needs your help to control the suit. It may come across as odd to have a meaningful to and from via simple text chat windows. But as someone who spends a lot of time doing just that in real life, the emotion really resonated. If you think about the emotion you can get from reading a compelling book, this give you some understanding as to the power of the written word.
You’d think then, that In Other Waters would be a text heavy game, but I found it to be quite the opposite. You do get a lot of flavour text throughout your time with In Other Waters, but it is still concise and gives you what you need. The interactions with Ellery feel more real than many I have seen in most other games. A testament to the writing team.
So what is In Other Waters actually about? What is the end game? Well, rather than a traditional game, this is more about having an experience and thus the gameplay is very simple and designed to allow a story to naturally grow around you. There are no enemies of which to speak, well not in the traditional sense anyhow.
Instead you traverse the world using an interface that feels like you are a cartographer mapping out the world for the first time. Which you sort of are, as you explore this alien planet and uncover all of its wonders. You can come across natural inhabitants of this strange world and they can harm you, but not intentionally. It is their world and their habitat that you have invaded.
As you plot your way through this underwater world, you will discover new creatures and elements. Some will cause some trouble by blocking your progress. You will find though, that overcoming these obstacles is easy. As you research things you find, you can learn more about them and find ways of moving past the previous roadblocks you encountered. The interface for doing this manages to feel both antique and futuristic at the same time. Giving everything a unique look and feel.
This is calming experience and one I lost so much time to. I slowly made my way through the early sections and was utterly enthralled by the atmosphere. The simple visuals somehow manage to paint a picture in your mind. One that goes beyond anything I think they could put on the screen. Again much like you’d do with a great book.
To accompany the fascinating visuals and writing is an outstanding audio soundtrack that has a calming nature. It is one that aides in bringing this world to life in your imagination. Which means I was personally torn when you reach a lab.
The labs are there as a sort of interlude between chapters and within them you can access sketches of the various creatures you encounter. Whilst they are really lovely to look at, they were very different to what I had imagined and that was a little bit of a shame.
On the flip side of that though, the artwork itself is truly breathtaking, the sketches you get to see are so full of imagination and have designs unlike anything you would have seen before. I don’t think I could actually do them justice, so you’ll need to check them out for yourself.
The fact there are still games out there that can change everything you think you know about the medium and what it is to be a game, is a testament to Gareth Damian Martin’s vision. What he has produced here is understated, but at the same time one of the most spectacular new experiences I have had in years.