Review: Aquanox Deep Descent – Sink or Swim?

AquaNox: Deep Descent is the reboot of the original AquaNox series that was highly popular back in the late 90s. This latest game was Kickstarted back in 2015 and has finally reached our shores, ready for a full review. AquaNox: Deep Descent was developed by an indie team called Digital Narrow and was published by THQ Nordic in 2020. With more than two decades between the original game and this reimagining, it’s no surprise that fans are holding their breath with high expectations.

The game introduces you to your team of ‘cyros’, a group of people who were frozen at the time when mankind was forced to retreat to the ocean in an event called the “Last Day”. You find yourselves awake after hundreds of years, with no memory of what happened. All you know is that you’re part of Project Nammu and that your mission is to free mankind from the sea. You and your team have to make your way underwater in your attack vessel, fighting swarms of enemy ships, to uncover what truly happened. The game brings a layer of excitement as it lets you choose which path to take and who to trust.

The story of AquaNox: Deep Descent is surprisingly engaging. The narrative is fast-paced and interesting, however, most of the voice-acting was unimpressive. For example, the “leader” of Project Nammu, Kaelen, has a robotic voice that simply doesn’t match the thrill that the game is supposed to have, All of the characters are represented by drawings and not 3D models, which was slightly disappointing, as a bit of animation would have made the story more engaging.

Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t play a major part in the game. More than anything, AquaNox: Deep Descent is essentially a combat game. There are six different DSFs you can unlock, which are basically subversive vehicles that you use to roam the oceanic floors. Each DSF has different stats — some built for speed, others built for defense. The difference between the ships is noticeable, as you can feel how easy it is to pilot a fast ship. You can turn, aim, and travel much easier. There’s a boost option that lets you, well, boost your ship — but for slower ships, the boost gauge takes longer to refill. The type of DSF you choose is ultimately up to you. Each ship also has a limited number of jumps that let you evade attacks.

Combat is your typical first-person shooter. Fights mainly involve dodging from enemy fire while retaliating with firepower. This might sound easy, but the game has a habit of spawning hordes of enemies out of nowhere, or cramping your vessel into tunnels to create a challenge. There is a wide array of weapons to use, such as machine guns, rocket launchers, and torpedoes. You can choose any two of your choice, but we found it helpful to have one lighter weapon and one heavier weapon. This just made fighting all kinds of enemies much easier. Just like the ships, each weapon feels and functions differently. For example, the rocket launcher can lock onto your enemies and show you how much health they have remaining. There’s no option to aim automatically, but once you hit your target, seeing the enemy ships explode brings a wave of satisfaction.

AquaNox: Deep Descent was a bit frustrating at times, primarily due to the health system that each vessel had. Each ship has shields and health which can be upgraded using scavenged items to improve health regeneration, enhance boosters, and the like. Shields automatically recharge after some time, but the annoying thing was how much damage enemies could do to your DSF. To hit back at your foes, you have to aim skillfully — which takes some time unless you’re that familiar with the controls. This leaves you out in the open, a bright red target for enemy ships to fire at you all at once.

As we mentioned before, the game is fond of spawning several enemies at once, which can drain your health and shields in no time. We often found ourselves boosting forward, only to find four enemy ships waiting for us. No matter how strong your DSF is, if you’re faced with too many enemies at once, your ship can be taken down instantly, And aside from the enemy ships, you also have to dodge mutated sea creatures such as jellyfish and glowing sharks, which can appear out of nowhere.

Each area has a number of collectibles. If you fail to loot the area, you can always travel to a previous location using a jump-gate. All of the salvageable items are marked on the map, making them easy to locate. Some containers have craftable resources, while others have unique weapons inside, Commodities are extremely valuable, as you can sell them at the market, use them to upgrade DSF parts, craft resources and ammunition, and so on. Players can also head to stations to interact with NPCs for primary and secondary missions. Most of these side quests are bounty hunter missions that reward you with currency and weapons. We found that some of the missions weren’t that fulfilling, and were just included in the game for lore’s sake.

Once you’ve finished the co-op campaign, AquaNox: Deep Descent lets you enjoy the multiplayer “dogfight” mode where you have to fight actual players. Unfortunately, despite its popularity during its Kickstarter days, there seem to be very few players actually joining these online matches.

AquaNox: Deep Descent is an enjoyable game, despite its many opportunities for improvement. Exploring the ocean floor feels immersive, the narrative is interesting, and the combat is definitely challenging. Even though it can get frustrating at times, thanks to the poor voice-acting and the insane number of enemies that can spawn at any given time, AquaNox: Deep Descent can still offer players a memorable experience. If you’re into blasting torpedoes and have no fear of being underwater, AquaNox: Deep Descent is worth a shot.

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