Marooned - Beer Pairing and Early Check-In to Stranded Deep
The Nitty Gritty:
Game: Stranded Deep
Developer: BEAM Team Games
Release Date: Early Access - Alpha Available now
Price: $14.99 on Steam
There is no shortage to survival games recently. Most are still in their infancy and, thanks to Steam's Greenlight program, many alphas can be played now with a little fund money. I typically avoid alphas and betas as a matter of principle. Early builds of games can alter the mind of a potential buyer, and mostly to the game's detriment. That being said, however, I did find one that caught my eye. I bought it as soon as the alpha was available, and have given it a fair shake. The game is Stranded Deep, from BEAM Team Games.
Stranded Deep takes place on a series of islands somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where your airplane crash landed. You have only a few essential items in your inventory, and you are left to fend for yourself as a marooned castaway.
Now before you begin to bellow your best Tom Hanks's "Wiiillllssssoooonnnn!!!", it is important to know that BEAM Team Games realizes the similarities between Stranded Deep and Robert Zemeckis's subpar Castaway. There are even little beach balls hidden away on one of the many little islands strewn about in your own private paradise/hell. It is very likely you'll feel the same sense of loneliness here, as aside from the insane amount of crabs on each island, you're completely on your own.
The game begins on the airplane, where you are shown the ropes by making a flaming martini. It's a neat touch, but I'm hoping that the finished product shows how to play a little more efficiently. There were some keys I didn't even know did anything until I checked out the bindings in the menu.
For a small developer, the graphics are surprisingly top notch. The water is pretty to look at both above and below it. The underwater vistas of old shipwrecks and reefs are stunning, with glorious blues and greens. The sunshafts that peek through the waves and the various wildlife really add to the immersion. It’s fun to watch a whale or turtle just meander by while you’re traversing the deep blue.
Speaking of immersion, the entire game is first person, where a mix of tools and ingredients can be combined to create shelters and fire pits. You can also create various harpoons for fishing and crabbing, a bed to sleep on, and even stairs if you feel like a second floor for your shelter. When floating on a raft over the endless sea, there is a very capable buoyancy system that’s fun to play with when you get a little bogged down in your inventory. Instead of health bars, BEAM Team Games made the ingenious choice of using a watch as a means to show your health, hunger, and thirst (along with the time of day and how many days you’ve survived).
On the surface, the game seems rather straightforward. You need to eat, drink, and build a shelter to survive the elements.
Throughout your own private water world are various wreckage sites to scavenge quality tools and parts. If you discover all four parts of an engine, you are able to make a boat sans a paddle. You can find a compass, which is actually extremely helpful when island hopping for supplies. I’m sure I haven’t found all the random items available, but each adds a little help in the day-to-day business of surviving on a desert island.
This build your own Swiss Family Robinson is not without its dangers. These waters are filled with sharks, almost to a fault. You can certainly take one down if you have the weapons, and they provide a lot of food if you can manage it. This is quite a challenge at the beginning of your game however, and you'll find yourself avoiding the areas they tend to frequent until you are better prepared.
There is a lot to like in this game. The reflections of the moon as the evening comes on the ocean is as serene as it comes, especially when you are tending a fire to cook some crabs you caught. The storms are surprisingly lifelike. There are moments where I really feel like I’m in a Lost episode, just without the uncompromisingly terrible ending.
The realism begins to end here, sadly. The islands are insanely small, and curiously evenly spaced out. The average tide would be enough to swallow each of these islands whole, so I wonder I’m really in an ocean or the Truman show. I get that they should be close enough to row to, but there needs to be more variance to the spacing between them.
Realism also breaks down to the major basics of survival. It seems that boiling salt water miraculously turns into potable drinking water, a bit of chemistry that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s also odd fact that you need food more than water, which is curious considering you're in the scorching sun in the middle of the south Pacific. It would be nice if some more reality to survival would be added in future updates.
After a few hours of playing, there is a sense of “ok… what now?” that needs to be addressed. Once you have a decent set up, along with enough food to keep you going for a long time, there isn’t really much to do. You can keep island hopping, but each island is essentially the same. I’m not sure exactly how to solve this exactly, but there seems to me like there should be some kind of overall goal in mind. Getting rescued would likely end the game, so I’m not sure if that’s the best option, but maybe providing some kind of daily goal would give the player a sense of accomplishment beyond building a house. It’s just not that fun to stand there, eat every once in a while, drink water, and sleep. I can do that just fine without turning my computer on.
It is my sincere hope that BEAM Team Games is completely aware of this and has plans to alter those glaring issues before its official launch day. It would be nice to see a very large island, complete with boars and waterfalls, where a home base would make more sense. There is some talk about some of this on the team’s monthly updates on their website, but I’m a bitter gamer and only believe things when I see it.
All in all, BEAM Team Games has developed a very solid foundation for a special game here. It is still very much in the alpha phase, so if you’re looking for a polished survival game, you may need to look elsewhere for now. However, if you’re interested in seeing how a game progresses during this all too important phase of polishing/refining/adding/bug squashing, this is a pretty fun and pretty game to embrace your inner castaway.
For this particular bit of oceanic survival, I recommend drinking Kona Brewing Company’s Longboard Island Lager. It’s light, smooth, and very easy to drink. Perhaps too easy. Longboard Island Lager is one of the better lagers out there, one that is made properly (which is not an easy feat in most cases) and one that shows the larger beer producers out there what a lager is supposed to taste like. And yes, I'm looking at you Budweiser. Quit wasting your time by adding fruit to your beer. Just improve the one you make.