There’s something that feels like traveling backward in time with Barotrauma, an upcoming early access multiplayer game about submarine life in deep space. When you fire it up you are quickly accosted by old PC design tropes. Some might wince at all the menus, the horizontal inventory bar, or a multiplayer server browser, but not me. This is a PC game with a capital P and C – right down to the ping column next to the server name.
Barotrauma sees you and a group of friends (or strangers) piloting a large submarine on an alien planet. You can choose from a variety of roles like medic, engineer, or security guy that each have specific interactions on the sub itself. A mechanic will spend his or her time repairing the sub’s hull while an engineer might need to rewire certain systems. The game currently includes handy tutorial mode (with useful videos) that help ease the onboarding into what could be a bit of an obtuse game at first.
Watch Your Sub
The real twist of Barotruama is in that your sub can take damage, creatures can invade, or your friends could sabotage it without you knowing right away. Your character is represented by a 2D sprite with first draft movement physics working to simulate a feeling of a puppet moving on strings. It’s kind of funny, if unsettling, to see your avatar running around like a marionette in panic with a welding gun.
Your vision is limited by a fog of war that is not shared across friends. If a door closes and your buddy is in the other room, you can’t see what they’re doing unless you use the text or voice chat and they tell you the truth. If they carve a hole in the sub to sink you, well, you’ll find out soon but won’t be sure if they did it.
I think that’s where FakeFish wants to take this game. There isn’t really a single player story just yet, and multiplayer sees you just doing whatever hijinx you feel like at first, but you can get out of the sub and explore. You can swim with your flashlight, repair things, craft new tools to use and eventually succumb to a tiny hole you didn’t realize was leaking until it filled half the sub. My time was spent mostly flailing in panic as rooms filled with water.
But it’s too early to guarantee exactly what Barotrauma will become once the community gets their hands on it and it continues to cook. But I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it. It’s got some early access jank that prevents me from giving it a golden thumbs up without the caveats previously mentioned. It’s also quite a menu bonanza that is low on design sensibility, and your mileage will depend on your friends or players you encounter. But you can always hop into a game, run off to a secret area and bore a hole in the wall. Then act casual as water fills up the space, causing other players to panic. And there’s a classic joy in doing so.
Promisingly, there is a deep creator toolset already available for you to make your own monsters and add your own content. It looks very robust, and integrates right into Steam Workshop (there’s no onboarding for it outside of some wikis and documentation, but the power is ready to go in the box). This tells me Barotrauma will never be short on content for players to explore and new ridiculousness to unpack.
So, if you ever wanted to get a large group of people together on a dangerous submarine mission in space, this may be the game for you. If you’re like me and want to see it once it’s more fully fleshed out, I’d give it a bit more time and see.
***The product was provided by the manufacturer***