Burbank, California-based developer Insomniac Games made a name for itself with several successful game series on PlayStation consoles, including Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, and (the sadly dormant) Spyro. Xbox gamers got their first taste of Insomniac's work with the 2014 exclusive Sunset Overdrive. Soon we'll get another taste thanks to the developer's upcoming multiplatform release Song of the Deep.
Song of the Deep is an underwater Metroidvania-style action game starring a young girl who builds a submarine to search for her father. A new Metroidvania game is always good news, but the fact that this one comes from Sunset Overdrive developer Insomniac Games makes it doubly so. We recently interviewed Brian Hastings of Insomniac about Song of the Deep at PAX South. Read on for impressions and the interview and gameplay video!
A daughter's love
Song of the Deep's story was inspired by Insomniac Chief Creative Office Brian Hastings' relationship with his daughter. A girl named Merryn lives with her father near the sea. One night he fails to return home from a fishing voyage. That same evening, Merryn experiences a vivid dream that reveals her father is trapped below the sea.
Like any good daughter would, Merryn quickly constructs a tiny submarine to rescue her dad. She sets out on a grand adventure involving lost civilizations and ruins, dangerous underwater terrain, and monsters of the deep. Merryn will have to battle foes and upgrade her submersible if she's ever to see her lost father again.
Metroidvania gets wet
The term Metroidvania refers to a subgenre of action-adventure games that share characteristics of classic platformers Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. These games feature large interconnected maps that players can explore at will. However, many areas of the map will be inaccessible until players discover upgrades or items hidden throughout the world. Ori and the Blind Forest, The Fall, Guacamelee, and Strider are recent Metroidvania-style titles.
Although Metroidvanias are usually platformers, underwater interpretations like Song of the Deep aren't without precedent. An indie game called Aquaria made quite a splash on Steam several years back. Like Aquaria, Song of the Deep allows players to travel in any direction underwater, without actual platforming.
Merryn's submarine is a versatile craft. Its primary form of attack are torpedoes, which can be fired in any direction. The vehicle also packs a magnetic claw arm for grabbing objects. Sometimes our heroine will need to catch and throw projectiles at enemies and bosses, or simply haul cargo from one place to another. And sometimes Merryn will need to leave the sub and dive around on her own, unprotected.
Finding new upgrades is half the fun in Metroidvania games. Here the upgrades center around Merryn's submersible. The claw and other abilities like sonar must be discovered within the undersea world and scavenged before they can be used. Each of these can subsequently be upgraded, providing new combat abilities and puzzle-solving options. For instance, upgrading the sonar will allow it to destroy barriers and push back enemies during combat.
One of my chief complaints about Ori and the Blind Forest is that it lacks a fast travel system. As a result, backtracking once you acquire new abilities is laborious and time-consuming. Thankfully. Song of the Deep features a proper fast travel system. Merryn will use vortexes (powered by a mysterious living energy she discovers called Tyne) to move instantly between various points on the map. No painful backtracking here!
An undersea adventure approaches
Although Song of the Deep features 3D graphics, it utilizes a more 2D perspective befitting the Metroidvania style of gameplay. Gamers weaned on Insomniac's flashier games might be unimpressed by this one's more low-key visuals. But this style of game is one of the most rewarding genres of all, with the perfect blend of exploration, action, and story. And Song of the Deep promises an emotional tale filled with plenty of heart.
Song of the Deep comes to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC as a downloadable title this summer. It will cost $14.99. A retail version will be available exclusively at GameStop in the US (and presumably UK too).
Are you excited for Song of the Deep, dear reader? What are some of your favorite Metroidvania-style games?