Get ready to submerge into an underwater adventure with exotic sea monsters and proximity mines.
Steel Diver’s unique control scheme and atmospheric underwater graphics made it stand out at E3. The new demo build at the NYC preview seemed extremely polished and had many new features including a first-person periscope mode.
The demo had a variety of missions to partake in. On each mission, you can choose from one of three submarines, each with their own unique attributes. They each move at different speeds and each has their own unique user interface on the touch screen. In the main mission mode, players must guide their submarine on a 2D scrolling plane using a variety of levers and sliders. Every ship has a horizontal slider and vertical slider which effect the speed and depth of your vessel. Some submarines can also have their pitch rotated with the spin of a wheel (all on the touch screen). Each submarine comes fully equipped with depth charges and torpedoes which are unleashed with on-screen buttons.
For the demo I chose the ND-03 submarine (AKA the Blue Shark), commanded by Captain Del Triton. Along with navigating through rocky ocean terrain, players must also deal with enemy submarines, mines, and other obstacles to reach their goal. While it is tricky to find the right balance between speed and maneuverability, it is extremely satisfying when you narrowly avoid careening into a rock wall and then immediately torpedo an enemy ship that appears out of nowhere. Compared to the E3 build, which had almost no enemies, the new demo included: battleships, submarines, and naval mines around almost every turn.
Graphically, Steel Diver has a number of beautiful effects that really bring the ocean floor to life. Your submarine creates dozens of little bubbles as it cruises along, and there are seas of colorful fish that frequently swim by. One of my favorite moments was entering an area with a sunken pirate ship, which was lit by a few rays of light breaking into the watery depths. The 3D makes it seem like you’re looking into a little aquarium with a mini-submarine occasionally blowing stuff up.
While I am not sure if there is an over-arching storyline, there are short briefings before each mission. The second mission began with a briefing which told of a mysterious underwater creature that other ships had seen and needed immediate investigation. The layout of this level had me maneuvering the submarine to a great depth. It was important to carefully watch out for proximity mines because getting too close would cause a massive explosion that would likely cause a water leak in the hull. If your ship sprung a leak you would see the water gushing out on a small spot on the touchscreen and you could patch it up by holding your finger to it. When your submarine was heavily damaged and close to death, sirens would sound and a large red light would begin rotating on the touch screen. It was a cool effect.
After diving for a long time I finally entered a small chamber that was inhabited by the underwater creature. This creature was a giant nautilus with tentacles sticking out of a protective shell covering. This unexpected boss battle was quite fun. The nautilus would frequently swim towards the ship making it necessary to quickly back up, but you couldn’t back up too far or you would crash into a wall. To damage the nautilus, you needed to carefully aim torpedoes at the tentacles. After many hits to the creature, water vents in the floor would open up forcing the ship to move upwards towards the chamber’s ceiling. Defeating the creature was difficult because the area of attack was so small.
After the boss battle, the game moved to a short first-person periscope encounter. This mode utilizes the built-in gyroscope to allow you to look around 360 degrees. Every direction you turned, there were crashing waves and you needed to aim the periscope at the approaching enemy ships and shoot them with your torpedoes. Players could simply aim at the enemy ships above the waves, or temporarily dive their submarine and shoot at them from underwater. This mode seems like it will be a fun change of pace, but the meat of the game appears to be in the 2D submarine levels. Once the periscope mode was completed, you get to enter your initials into a high-score list for the mission.
For those wishing to enjoy an extended experience with the first-person periscope, you can choose Periscope Strike at the main menu. One other option at the main menu was Steel Commander, which is a strategy mode that you can play against a friend using DS Download play. That mode was unfortunately not available in the demo, but I suspect it could have some similarity with the classic board game Battleship.
Steel Diver looks like it has the potential to be a really enjoyable launch window game. I do hope that the final game has more puzzle elements and hopefully a lot of fun bosses.