Deep Sixed Review
Sci-fi games can do an excellent job of filling you with dread. Whether they use aliens, empires or the vast emptiness of space, the genre as a whole is pretty dread-filled. Deep Sixed does a better job of inspiring dread than any other game I’ve played in the genre to date.
You play a prisoner who’s been enrolled in a sort of indentured servitude aboard what might be the galaxy’s crappiest space station. While you’re ostensibly working off your sentence, some snide comments from the station’s AI suggest that people don’t normally survive long enough to do so. For the most part, the even-toned computer is correct. If you play Deep Sixed on the standard difficulty, death is permanent, with each cataclysmic failure requiring a full restart of the game.
“All too often, your cause of death will be your own negligence.”
I tried to make it through this game on the normal difficulty setting, I truly did. After a series of setbacks however, I gave up and switched to easy mode. Not that I’m afraid of a serious challenge, but death comes both quickly and completely in this game. The first time I lost all my progress, the game informed me a pressurized gas canister was to blame. A fire was started in the reactor room for… some reason, and this caused the gas to go off, sending pieces of the station scattering across the stars. The next several deaths weren’t nearly as mysterious, mostly culminating in some alien’s enormous jaws sawing tiny gaps in a viewing room hull. All too often, your cause of death will be your own negligence. An escalating series of problems will clamor for attention, and whichever one you choose will inevitably allow a more serious issue to end your life. It’s a hard daily grind in the depths of space.
Here are some of the things you have to keep track of during a given mission: laser calibration, hull damage, ventilation systems, scanner software, power levels and radiation-scrubbing hardware. That’s nowhere near the complete list, but it gives you a good idea of just how complicated running a space station can be. No, it’s not a sizable outpost, but every piece of it needs to be in something like working order. Make no mistake, this is a stressful game. Some of you will be fueled by this stress. It will push you forward, keeping you on your toes all the way to the end of the game. For others, Deep Sixed will be somewhat unpleasant. For me, the game falls somewhere in between those two points. Stressful games can be an enlightening experience, but sometimes this one is flat-out cruel.
For all my mentions of difficulty, Deep Sixed is still a polished and pleasant bout of incarcerated exploration. Navigating the ship is simple. Every component is well-designed enough that you can easily suss out their locations in the dense layout of every room. Although this is a rather derelict vessel, the vibrant color scheme means you quickly forget this fact. The AI is just the right mix of helpful and cryptic. The station’s operations manual is very long, yet still easy to digest. You feel intimidated by the size of it while still being able to find just what you’re looking for in times of crisis. Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t fully overcome the cruel and random nature of the game.
“Being forced to run around and making frantic repairs in order to stay alive forges an intimate connection between you and the ship”
I’m energized by the conceit at work in Deep Sixed. Being forced to run around and making frantic repairs in order to stay alive forges an intimate connection between you and the ship. You learn the details of every room, the contents of every storage locker, the nuances inherent in every critical system. Yet, this connection is at odds with the permadeath system in place. I eventually gave up on this part of the game, being content to take a sort of safety-lock tour of the nebula and its many horrors. For many gamers, this won’t be sufficient. You’ll want to complete the authentic, unpadded journey, absent of any handholding. To you I bid the best of luck. For me, the chaos of deep space was simply too much to overcome without a series of save points to act as anchors. I could only power through the introduction so many times before my resolve began to weaken. If you’re looking for a tense, deadly journey on a rustbucket of a space station, Deep Sixed is your game. If you want to take that same journey with a life vest on, you can do that too. Either way, this is a career worth signing up for.
***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***
- Stress levels feel like I might die in space
- The manual is actually pretty easy to read
- Very friendly AI
- Some deaths feel random and cruel
- Laser targeting suuuuuucks
- Easy to get sidetracked by repairs