Death in the Water 2 is an atmospheric FPS developed by Lighthouse Games Studio. You play as a diver who discovers an ancient kraken that’s causing sea life to attack people.
The visuals look fantastic. The underwater lighting mimics the glitter and glow of the ocean but keeps colors and shapes clear so the sea life, plants, and ruins stand apart. The models of the sharks, eels, and snakes are beautiful, and excellent animations sell their appearance. How a shark turns when it bumps its nose into a wall or recoils from a spear feels spot on, and how fluidly the sharks swim close to each other without running into one another makes them feel like skillful swimmers that are threatening in the water.
The audio design is also a highlight. Ominous music plays, rising at times to make you think there’s something just past your line of sight or that it slipped into the murky distance right before you turned around. The muffled sounds of grabbing objects, bumping into the environment, and snapping sharks add to the atmosphere.
The mission structure is unfortunately repetitive. Each level you navigate the ocean to find treasure chests and supplies before the kraken causes all of the sea life to attack you. Once the creatures start to attack, you have to survive while you gun them all down. This repeated structure kills the tension the atmosphere builds. And with only a few enemies, every level feels the same.
The exploration portion is less fun than it should be due to a few factors. The controls aren’t optimal for swimming. You have to use both sticks to adjust the direction you swim and face, but rather than a shoulder button allowing you to ascend without letting go of the left stick, you have to use a face button. So you can’t look down and swim up while also using the left stick to aim.
Combat starts off manageable. Your deliberately slow movement adds to the tension, making precise and calm aiming even more important than your weapon. You use the money you get from finding the treasure to buy new weapons, upgrade them, and upgrade your diving suit. However, as the game goes on, even the fully upgraded version of several weapons I unlocked are less effective than the starting speargun. Combat becomes frustrating due to either enemies literally spawning behind me or moving so quickly that it feels like they do. Enemies can also attack so quickly I’d go from almost full health to dead before I could use a med kit. And with no in-level checkpoints, that means starting over every time.
On dive 14, I hit a few severe glitches. I needed to find a map and a secret chamber in some ruins, but my compass had no indicator of where those were located. As I searched, a voiceover clip played telling me I found something, but there was nothing there. Unsure how to progress, I had to wait around ten minutes before the level switched to the part where I needed to defend myself. I’d also sometimes lose up to half of my ammo for a weapon when I switched away from it.
Despite the quality of the visuals and soundscape, nothing throughout my six-and-a-half-hour experience made it enjoyable. The story is uninteresting, the exploration is shallow, and the combat is frustrating. Unless you’re very interested in a slow and repetitive underwater experience or just love exploring small portions of the ocean with aggressive wildlife nipping at you, there isn’t much to recommend.
Death in the Water 2 is available now on PC for $19.99.
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