The Waterworld film starring Kevin Costner was a massive flop considering how much money was spent on production and how little it made. But despite that, it remains one of my all-time favourite films. If you feel the same way about that film that I do, and you just wish you could’ve experienced it in the form of a video game, then you need to check out Sunkenland.
Developed by Vector3 Game Studio, this little indie title was recently released in Early Access. It’s basically a survival game where you get dropped off next to an island, then must explore, gather, craft and survive. Whether it’s sharks in the water or mutants that inhabit other islands or makeshift rafts, there are a lot of dangers in the world around you.
The game hasn’t made waves in the gaming world, but it is making ripples. And it’s easy to see why when you dive into it. So, let’s break it down and look at what it offers.
Sunkenland: An untold story
One of the things with Early Access games is that they’re never the finished products, so it’s important to make sure expectations aren’t too high. If you read up on Sunkenland you will see that a story is planned for the full release, but right now that story is untold. However, there is a brief glimpse at how it will start.
Opening Sunkenland’s menu brings up a journal where you can explore items available to craft, what enemies are around, how many there are and where they are located. There is also a mission tab and it’s here you get a brief glimpse of a story where you find out that you’re stranded, and then it lists out some steps that give you a hint of what you need to do to survive such as build shelter, gather food and all the essential stuff.
That is where it ends for now though, but I am looking forward to seeing where this area of the game develops. Whether it will follow a path towards that of Stranded Deep where your plan is to try and escape, or, whether it simply has you sticking around in this world that has been drowned out by a flood of biblical proportions.
How to survive the Sunkenlands
Well, there is no real tutorial in Sunkenland to teach you how to do this besides the suggestions on that missions tab we mentioned. But I guess besides conspiracy theorists no one really thought about writing such a guide to surviving a scenario like this. So, I just cracked on with my partner (yep, you can play co-op) and got to exploring and working out what we needed to do.
We started by gathering materials, and then building some shelter and tools before putting down a bed and setting off on a hunt to find some food. The island you start off on has plenty to offer you with vegetation to pick up and crabs on the beaches as well as fish just off the shore for you to catch and grill. Once you feel you’re ready, it’s time to explore.
Now, as you can imagine, in a world that is underwater, there won’t be too much above it besides some small plots of land and people sailing around on boats. So, much of the exploration in Sunkenland requires you to dive into the waters below. You can explore everything from old towns to amusement parks, and even mansions and oil refineries. All of these can house hidden treasures and are classed as neutral areas on the map, so you won’t face much of a fight exploring them besides sharks.
The time you get underwater does base itself on how much oxygen you have. Which from the off, is just if you can hold your breath for. But, with some upgrades, you can soon craft flippers to make you swim faster and build oxygen tanks that can help boost your dive time. You do have to keep an eye on these tanks though and refill them manually by crafting the machines to do this. A thing that you’ll notice with many of the tools and gadgets that you will end up discovering.
And all that is left to mention on how to survive in the Sunkenlands is about defending yourself. Build weapons and plenty of them. Not only will you discover locations inhabited by unfriendly foes, but they will also come and attack your base as well. When they do it is unknown, but the one signal it is happening is the music usually changes and you get a little warning. Things start off easy and get more difficult the longer your playthrough goes on.
What we like so far
Now you know a little about what the game is about and how it works, here’s what we like about Sunkenland. To start with, the exploration. It’s such a fun world to explore, with plenty of places to check out, and you even get a little percentage score on the game’s map to show how much of it you have covered. And we can’t wait for the full release to come out because the developer states this world is only going to get bigger and better.
Another aspect I really like about the game is the fact it has co-op play. Me and my partner enjoy playing games together, especially survival games like 7 Days to Die. So, getting to share this experience together was ideal, especially considering how poor we thought the co-op seemed to work on Stranded Deep. And if that wasn’t enough, you can open the game for other gamers to join you, to create an even crazier world.
One of the aspects of Sunkenland‘s co-op play that I like particularly is that each player gets their own rewards from good loot spots and from the bodies of fallen enemies. Depending on how many players you have, it can be quite easy to rack up loot pretty quickly so this probably does need a little balancing in some ways, so the game isn’t too easy.
The way Sunkenland balances the other aspects of gameplay is really good though. I mean, some games go too heavy one way or the other, but in this game, you feel everything is quite fairly done. Sure, you must keep eating and drinking to keep your health up, but it doesn’t feel like some tireless activity, and when you’re building base defences and stuff, you can easily stick food on to cook and filter clean water to gather and take with you when heading out to explore.
Where improvements could be made
As mentioned, Sunkenland is in Early Access, so it’s by no means a polished masterpiece, and while there are things we enjoy. There is also some work needed to bring the game up to a better standard. And many of the things are just small details that both my partner and I think would enhance the game some more.
For starters, there is no mini-map. This would be so handy for navigating the seas and seeing where you are or what locations are beneath you without the need to open a big map. Next up, you can go and explore islands and wipe out enemies, but they don’t seem to respawn, although maybe we just haven’t been playing long enough to make that happen. I’d understand if we stuck a flag down to claim the land as our own. But we haven’t.
This makes it feel like we’re almost playing a Sunkenland demo, because at some point, we’d kill everything off and just be waiting for random tribes to attack us, and we’d just have to start again. Although recent announcements do suggest that respawning is an issue being addressed by the dev team.
And speaking of attacks, it’s a little too easy to defend yourself because people come swimming up to your base, and if you have guns or long-range weapons, you can pick them off easily before they get near you. I’d love to see boats pulling up with enemies barging out and launching a full-scale invasion of our base. Tougher enemies are inbound I believe, but I probably won’t be happy until I’m reenacting Waterworld scenes with bandits on jet skis circling my base.
You also have a seller on the game that you can go to and trade with, and while at first, this seems great. She never changes her stock, so once you’ve bought some blueprints or other gadgets she has, her use is pointless unless you want some materials. So more regular refreshes here would be excellent further down the line because after a couple of days of exploring, you no longer really need her.
And they’re all the main gripes of Sunkenland out of the way. The only other issues are bugs really, where you can get stuck on obstacles (be careful near the rollercoaster) and being able to jump on invisible blocks so it appears you float in mid-air when you build near certain obstacles. But these will obviously be addressed in future updates, and for the full release. Or at least we hope.
Overall thoughts on Sunkenland
Whether Sunkenland has made quite the splash that the developers will have wanted, we’re not sure. It isn’t being talked about everywhere like some games, but then I’ve also discovered a fair few gamers creating a lot of content around it and in its first month it did hit 26,000 concurrent players. So, it certainly has a good enough following. And if improvements can be made and word of mouth spreads around, I can see more players getting on board and enjoying the experience.
What I can say for sure is what we’ve had a taste of so far has left us wanting to experience more. There are a lot of positives, and it offers a fun time with a fair amount of replayability. But, that said, there is still quite a bit of work that needs to be done for this game to fulfil its potential. When you load up, the game does state what plans are in place to develop things further, and it’s a promising list from looking at it. And their latest blog post on their site does hint at what the next update may entail.
But yeah, overall, a positive experience. If you enjoy your survival games like us and want something a little new and a little different, then Sunkenland is worth checking out. You can discover more about the game on the official Sunkenland website, purchase it on Steam or for a little cheaper on CD Keys. And if you decide that you want some help before you get started, we’ll have a beginner’s tips guide in the next week or so, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
For even more game previews like this Sunkenland one, just click right here to head to our previews section.