Beginning with Armored Core 2 on PlayStation 2, and eventually, the MechWarrior series, games featuring player-controlled mechs have always been some of the most satisfying titles to play for me, with bonus points coming from a game allowing a first-person perspective. Unfortunately, there really hasn’t been a single go-to mech-based game that has blown me away. The genre has no shortage of titles to choose from, but none ever truly live up to what I’d expect in terms of mech-based gameplay.
Enter: Aquanox Deep Descent, from developer Digital Arrow. While not technically mechs, Aquanox Deep Descent provides a tight and fluid experience while piloting the mech-like underwater ships. The game will likely fly (swim?) under the radar for most, reasonably so in some cases, leaving Aquanox Deep Descent as being worth a deep dive for only the most dedicated fans of the genre.
Aquanox Deep Descent puts you in the cockpit of an armored ship as you engage in underwater battles and traverse depths of the dystopian ocean world of Aqua. While the campaign’s roughly 13-hour narrative is an interesting one, it is bogged down by some of the game’s core components – namely, it’s combat encounters and overall setting.
Encounters at the beginning of the game held my attention, but quickly became redundant. Rather than switching up the pace or tactical strategies of a battle, enemies become more difficult simply because their ship’s armor is more powerful. Coupled with the fact that the various areas of the underwater start to blend together after a few levels – though what’s there does look pretty impressive visually – and too many cringe-worthy moments from the voice acting, and the game begins to slog after a while. However, if you’re able to look past that, Aquanox Deep Descent does have plenty of redeeming qualities.
First and foremost, I find piloting my underwater ship to be surprisingly delightful. I’m by no means an ace pilot in any first-person game, but controlling the underwater ship feels as good as I would expect for a title like this. It’s almost like it’s easy to learn how to control the ship, but difficult to master, which speaks to both the game’s pick-up-and-play accessibility and its challenge level. It’s easy to aimlessly follow your “flightpath” throughout each linear level, but masterfully piloting the ship through various openings and crevasses without bumping into anything (including the toxic nanoplankton fields) is a whole other beast. Once piloting the ship becomes second nature, Aquanox Deep Descent’s levels become a lot more satisfying.
In between missions, you can upgrade your underwater vessel and outfit it with more powerful weapons. I find the overall UI design of the crafting mechanic to be a bit tricky to navigate, which – at least during my playthrough of the campaign – had me leaving my ship “as-is” for as long as I could just so I could avoid having to even use the crafting menu. Once weapons are equipped, dual-firing at enemies feels good despite the touchy aiming system.
Once you finish up with the single-player (or co-op) campaign, Aquanox Deep Descent also features a multiplayer “Dogfight” mode in which you’ll take on other players in either a free-for-all battle or team deathmatch. Unfortunately, despite the Aquanox franchise having a dedicated community following as a whole- the game did become a reality thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, after all – actually being able to find and joining in on an online match is few and far between.
Aquanox Deep Descent isn’t a bad game. There are just plenty of opportunities for improvement. Piloting the ship throughout Aqua’s underwater world feels great. Honestly, I kind of wish the game had featured more of an open-world to explore, especially with the amount of salvaging and looting you perform throughout the campaign anyways. But that’s not the case, leaving little reason for me to dive back in after playing the game once through. Hopefully, a more robust online community will allow the game to thrive with its multiplayer component, but as it stands, Aquanox Deep Descent will likely be most enjoyed by hungry mech-genre fans who are looking for another ship to pilot. Just don’t forget to bring a towel.
A PC copy of Aquanox Deep Descent was provided to TheGamer for this review. Aquanox Deep Descent is available now for PC via Steam.
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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.
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