You know how it is, the only way to really find a deserted island is to survive a plane crash. But how to survive the desert island itself, well that’s up to you to decide for yourself. Do you get by with the barest essentials and attempt to make a new life, or do you want to get off there as quickly as possible, risking life and limb in order to do so? How about finding out what works for you in a non-life endangering experience? Let me introduce you to Stranded Deep: the desert island survival simulator.
Right off the bat though, there is a very lengthy initial loading screen before you get to the main menu, with another long load to get into your game. This means the game doesn’t require any further loading when playing, but there is still the occasional drop in frame rate. Draw distance isn’t fantastic either.
In Stranded Deep you are unwillingly thrust onto a desert island after a plane crash and must survive. In an opening sequence that will send shivers down the spines of aviophobes everywhere, you get to experience the plane crash first hand. It seems the person – you can choose the gender of your character – you are playing as is rather well-to-do as it is a private jet that you crash land in. You unfortunately are the only survivor, and with only an emergency life raft to guide you to safety, your first task is to sail to the nearest point of land.
Arrive safely – you are unscathed after your plane crash – and a brief tutorial begins, showing you early examples of the robust crafting system and what you need to do to survive your first night, including retrieving a coconut from the top of a tree and killing a crab for food. After this though, you are very much on your own.
The island you start off with is very much a ‘starter’ island: there are no other inhabitants on this island such as snakes that will attack you if you get too close, but then on the flip side the resources available to you are very limited. There may be one or two wreckages nearby that you can explore for some good loot that becomes available to use later in the game, but you will soon find yourself searching along the horizon for the next island. There is a natural progression to wanting to explore further, and you experience real highs and lows when your in-game plans work… and fail.
Make it to the end of your first day and you are greeted with a beautiful sunset and rising of the moon. Stranded Deep has some very good lighting and shading; it really makes a difference to what part of the island you are stood on for how good your visibility is. Elsewhere, the graphical fidelity is good for the most part; the world being procedurally generated does however occasionally mean we find trees sprouting out of rocks and other such anomalies.
Stranded Deep allows four saves per Xbox profile, but this is important because each save file will have a different island layout that you can play around with. From the main menu, choose Cartographer and you can see on a 5×5 grid the layout of your world, and it highlights in red which islands in the world are potentially more dangerous and where they are in relation to your current island. By using this and your compass when in the main game, you can begin to understand the layout, which island you are on exactly, and where is still to be explored. Sadly, Cartographer isn’t available in the pause menu, you need to exit your game before you can view it in the main menu.
As a survival game, the definition of gameplay is usually left open-ended: do you survive by completing the objective and getting back to civilisation, or is survival making a life for yourself on the islands? Fortunately, Stranded Deep offers both as viable solutions. Once you have gotten the basic hang of survival and maybe built water collectors and fishing nets, you can start to think about turning your island into a home from home using the crafting system. You can build walls, doors, stairs and more if you want to give the island life a try, but for those wanting to escape, deeper waters will need to be tread.
Somewhere in your randomly generated world will be an aircraft that you need to fix. There are three items you need to fix it – as well as fully stocking its fuel, food and water storages as this could be a long journey – but to get these items you need to kill the three sea monsters, which again could be anywhere on your map. These are the megalodon shark, The Great Abaia eel and Lusca the Great squid; the latter two based on Melanesian and Caribbean folklore respectively. Only by killing these will you unlock the parts needed to repair the plane, and these certainly aren’t the only dangers in the seas around your islands; these be shark infested waters after all.
Stranded Deep has 35 achievements in total, and much like any other survival game they’re not on the easy side. After the tutorial where you will unlock four in a short period, achievements become decidedly harder to come by. Some will come naturally as you play through, such as surviving X amount of days or building campfires on X number of islands, but there is a vast amount of crafting and scavenging to be done in order to get some of the more elusive achievements.
Available now on the Xbox Store for Xbox One, Stranded Deep represents a survival videogame in one of the purest forms: desert island life. It is certainly not a difficult concept to conceive, but Stranded Deep is an excellent example of a notion done countless times in other media. There is an open-endedness to it for those looking for a new way of life but there is also a primary objective for those wanting to escape. Despite being a survival game, giving players the opportunity to play at their own pace means Stranded Deep is a game to be enjoyed over and over again.