Multiplayer-only games were an inevitability the moment the internet became a thing, but the darkly tense and visceral (in both senses of the word) fun of Depth was anything but a forgone conclusion before it existed. Thankfully, its developers made all the right moves in its creation, choosing to go for the unusual asymmetrical multiplayer approach that pits 4 divers against 2 sharks in an underwater blood-and-guts fest designed to crank up the tension, paranoia, and most of all, the fear its players will experience during the action. With a variety of cleverly-designed underwater environments and shark/weapon upgrades to keep things interesting, this is an indie multiplayer game with a massive appeal for guys who love innovation in their multiplayer gaming.
The Gameplay of Depth
The best description of Depth’s gameplay to date is as a “deep-sea death match”. It is a multiplayer game that has two sharks facing off against a team of four human deep-sea divers. The sharks here are simply doing what sharks do, whilst the humans are treasure-hunting. If you’ play as the humans, you’ll begin the level moments after your diving cage opens up; you’re essentially just collecting treasure and artefacts from the ocean floor and depositing them at your submersible robot, known by the acronym S.T.E.V.E.
So the premise is covered, but what of the gameplay itself? Well, imagine pretty much any above-ground deathmatch-style first-person shooter – anything from Counterstrike to Call of Duty will do – but strip away all of the weapons and technology and add trillions of litres of water to the equation. If you’re playing as the humans, you’ll have a tree of weapons and items to upgrade through. IF you’re shark-bound, then you get to choose between a variety of different shark types ranging from the quick and agile Tiger Shark to the tank that is the Cenozoic-era Megalodon. So effectively, it’s two sharks of varying type vs four humans with upgradeable weapons and items. That much we now know.
The Tools of Your Trade
Playing on the human team is a little more rewarding in terms of pure quantity of upgrades that are at your disposal. Collection of treasure from the sea bed rewards you with the ability to purchase superior weapons, of which there are many available. Your starting tools are a lowly underwater pistol and a trusty knife. This soon changes however, when you’re able to acquire weapons ranging from the spear pistol to automatic weapons, rifles, and a net gun, among others of course.
Items are also available to sway the unfair odds (sharks are in their home environment here, remember?) to your advantage. These items include shark-revealing sensors, an underwater propulsion vehicle that propels you at great speed (great for dodging and escaping imminent attacks), mines, and certain perishables like medkits and “shark shields” that are designed to disrupt a shark’s senses. So there’s plenty of weapons and item upgrades to explore, which should greatly please the average guy looking for a bit of incentive in their gameplay.
Taking the weapons upgrades as read, the greatest single element of Depth that is difficult to convey without getting you to play it is its atmosphere of isolation, tension, and overwhelming fear. Digital Confectioners have been meticulous in their designing of the game, and with incredible results.
Let’s take the difference in perception between the human and shark side as an example of the developers’ attention to design detail. The sharks’ field of view is invariably extensive, far-reaching, and with the environment around them appearing to be extremely well-lit, almost shimmering with potential. Play the same environment through human eyes however, and it’s a completely different experience. Your movement is laboured in the water, the seabed is murky and laden with shadows as your lowly human eyes struggle to perceive what’s around you. You’re also forced to keep pace with S.T.E.V.E. as well, which moves at an incredibly slow pace through underwater wrecks and coves that are pretty much designed to be dead-end death-traps for humans.
The blood and gore aspect of the game also serves to add to the visceral feel of the action. Sure, sharks bleed when they’re shot, but when a human becomes entangled between the teeth of a shark, a frantic fight for life ensues. As a human, you’re trying to stab the shark before he tears you apart, and as a shark, you’re trying to flail and snap the human around until he perishes. What often results is the diver being killed and floating – usually missing a limb or two – in the water with blood slowly diffusing around him like a crimson cloud of fresh death seeping in all directions.
It is the inevitable conclusion of this review, therefore, that there’s everything for a guy to gain when playing depth, and really not much to lose. You know, apart from your life, but that’s the risk you take when entering into the murky and dangerous waters of Depth. There’s a reason that Depth is among the top features games on www.sharkgame.net, the internet’s one-stop shop for everything shark-game related. In the end, it’s incredibly difficult not to become completely immersed in Depth’s action, particularly when the audible sound of your thumping heartbeat is telling you that an attack is but a few seconds away.