In Other Waters Review

Under the alien sea.

In Other Waters is one of the latest titles in what we should now be calling the narrative exploration genre – walking simulator sounds so generic, doesn’t it? Putting its own spin on things, the game is set upon the planet Gliese 677Cc with players becoming the AI companion to xenobiologist Ellery Vas. She is on this uninhabited planet following a message from her former partner Minae Nomura, unravelling a mystery on this journey of discovery.

When Ellery arrives on planet, she finds a base with no one in it, some notes, and a suit that contains you. However, due to issues with the suit, Ellery cannot navigate the ocean of Gliese 677Cc herself, so you become her navigation system, sample collector, scanner, and analysis lab.

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You don’t actually get to see what Ellery sees of the planet, though. Your view is instead an oceanographic map that details the area around the pair of you. Ellery, as far as you’re concerned, is nothing more than a dot in this map, and the points of interest are highlighted through circular navigation points that you find when scanning the area. These include sample sites, creatures, and elements that drive the story forward. While you can explore the different areas to an extent, you are limited to moving to where the navigation points are and no further.

As you move and collect samples, you’ll learn of different properties for each of them. Some can be used to provide additional oxygen for Ellery while others can boost suit battery levels. The suit is limited to carrying just nine samples, and you’re going to need to prioritise what to carry, as some areas in the ocean of Gliese 677Cc are so toxic they can drain oxygen and power quite quickly.

Your user interface is quite simple to understand, though it does take some getting used to the menus and movement system. Two menus give access to everything you need. The first is within the base where your samples are checked, Ellery’s log can be read, and the dive map accessed to choose where to go and where samples can be gathered. The other is within the suit where you can see and use the samples you have, and use different tools such as the propulsion system and retrieval drone.

The visuals are minimalist because of this, but the way colour is used to denote different areas and highlighting danger as well as areas of beauty is expertly done. The music also adds an otherworldly feel and really conveys the fact that you are exploring an alien ocean.

As you explore, more and more of the mystery begins to unfold. You look for the reason why Minae called you there, where she went, and what she found. It’s a classic sci-fi story about discovery on an alien planet with additional mysteries thrown in that involve cover ups and corporate machinations. Sure, it draws on some classic tropes, but the writing and the way that Ellery reacts to the situation feels very believable. There is also quite a bit of lore within her journal about the situation on Earth – let’s just say it’s pretty bleak – and what led her down the path of becoming a xenobiologist.

Playing on Switch you can use the touch screen to navigate the menus, which is far easier than clicking through them with the buttons. There are sadly some performance issues though. Now and again the movement would freeze and there was one point where the story did not move forward after a certain discovery, though quitting and restarting resolved that issue. There also seemed to be some lag in the endgame when moving around the sites.

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Summary
With an engaging sci-fi story and its minimalist style, In Other Waters manages to draw you into its mysterious story and brings the alien environments to life through your imagination. There are some performance issues that can detract from the experience, but overall, In Other Waters is a journey worth taking.
Good
  • Engaging science fiction story
  • Minimalist design that still conveys the interesting environment
  • Music adds to the feeling of being in an alien place
Bad
  • Some restricted environments
  • Performance issues on Switch
8
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From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.