Impressions: FarSky’s Random Undersea Survival

By Nathan Grayson on September 10th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

When games go deep-sea diving, you can usually count me out. Controls get clunky, cameras go haywire, and fish simply do not understand the etiquette of fair, gentlemanly combat. The short version? When a game’s setting hits rock bottom, my happiness level typically goes right down there with it. FarSky, however, is a rare exception. Well, kind of. It’s still a bit awkward to control, but that’s part of the charm. Sometimes. You’re a suit-bound diver whose underwater vessel has lost some rather important bits, so you’ve got to reassemble your achy breaky craft and just, well, survive. Good luck with both, however, as crushing depths are not kind to the easily popped jelly balloons we call bodies, and you’ll have to contend with increasing water pressure, decreasing temperature, and more survival factors (in addition to sharks, giant monster wheel things, and extremely mean jellyfish) along the way.

FarSky is still rather early, but it’s already got atmosphere down pat. Water burbles and flows, various (though regrettably few in number) species of undersea life flit about, and sunbeams pierce a sloshing ceiling, dangling memories of freedom just out of reach. But then you descend deeper, and it gets darker. And colder. And sharkier.

The most memorable moment of my FarSky playthrough was probably my own death. Through combat (which is still admittedly very floaty and imprecise at this point) you can level up your suit to withstand greater depths and colder temperatures. Unfortunately, while riding the high of my triumph over a weird chitinous wheel creature guarding my first water vessel piece, I miscalculated and, er, dove off a cliff. To its credit, my suit dutifully persevered, cushioning me from 40 bars of pressure – its absolute limit at that point. I then marveled at the alluring mystery of the scene before me. Beckoning blackness, swaying deep sea vegetation, suffocating silence.

But then my field of view started fogging, and that’s when I realized Death’s cold, scaly hand had to come to claim me. I’d leveled up my ability to withstand pressure, but not temperature. I couldn’t find a jet stream of water to get me back more habitable depths, either. I was in trouble.

Then a shark punched me in the back of the head.

I’m pretty sure it was a great white, but it may as well have been a hammerhead given the way I was immediately catapulted deeper into this new environment’s swirling oblivion. At that point, I realized I was already fish food, so I decided to make a break for the nearest vessel piece, dimly illuminated by a hazy shaft of light. In the process, I lost the shark, but found a new ocean-dwelling BFF in the form of a colossal eel monster. He was my best friend and also my last, as he brought my forever to a lightning-quick end, battering my frozen, near-immobile suit with bone-crunching blows.

It was a total disaster, but the good kind. The kind that makes for a great story. The kind that games do better than just about anything else. And as soon as my bones clattered against a cold, uncaring ocean floor, I was able to randomly generated a new world and try again. Hooray!

All that said, I do have some concerns. FarSky’s internal logic is a bit shaky, and having players fight to gain better survival stats just seems like a crutch – an arbitrary, unconnected mechanic to lean on in place of a better survival idea. Also, combat artificially gates progression, and – even though I could only get to more vessel parts by descending to greater depths – grinding seems unavoidable. Otherwise, death at lower (though “main quest” necessary) depths is inevitable. Boss fights, meanwhile, are simple, pattern-based affairs, and they feel kind of out-of-place in such an otherwise natural environment.

FarSky is a one-man project that’s only in alpha, though, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Creator Tim Spekler updates the game regularly, and he’s already promised to make the game “more survival and less shooter”. FarSky’s got issues both large and small, but for what it is and where it’s at, it’s already quite an accomplishment. Give it a go here.

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25 Comments »

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  1. InternetBatman says:

    I wish underwater games wouldn’t feel the need to shoehorn guns in. I like some good gunplay as good as the next person, but exploring underwater environments is its own reward and more often the combat detracts rather than adds from the experience.

    On a separate note, Notch really needs to add underwater exploration to Minecraft.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Notch left Minecraft in 2011, so you are unlikely to get your wish :)

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I really want something more like Endless Ocean, but with better visuals (because in this instance, that’s an important part of the appeal) and with a less-irritating approach to dangerous/hostile animals (seriously, fuck EO2’s electric eels).

      • InternetBatman says:

        Same here. Treasure hunting, spotting rare fish, and exploring underwater provides enough gameplay for me.

    • Lev Astov says:

      Well I wish underwater games didn’t constantly feel the need to make sharks ridiculously aggressive and hostile. So yeah, basically less underwater combat, please.

    • vivlo says:

      hm, last time i checked there were NandoNalt’s “coral reef” and “scuba diving mod” ; they give more substance to underwater exploration ; add some undersea creatures from the Mo’Creatures mod and you’re set for some quite ok exploration time.

  2. GamesInquirer says:

    I’ve been following this for a while and it’s going places. It’s still too early I’d say, nobody should go in expecting a complete game for now, with just a few enemy types and features and such implemented, but it’s definitely promising and develops and improves quite rapidly too. Drop by the dev log to provide your feedback and ideas, the developer is quite open and quite nice. It also has an official site.

    forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=35410.0
    farskygame.com

  3. misterT0AST says:

    It’s a bit like that 3089 game, that nobody seems to want to acknowledge, but it’s underwater and less violent. Colour me very very interested.

  4. sharks.don't.sleep says:

    Reminds me a bit of Sir, you are being hunted.

    So it’s Sir, you are going to di(v)e?

  5. Sidewinder says:

    I don’t think we can count the underwater setting as anywhere near completed until we see a massive three-way brawl between a giant shark, a giant squid, and a lobsterman with a sonic cannon.

    • KwisatzHaderach says:

      Play Archimedean Dynasty (aka Schleichfahrt, predecessor to Aquanox) and reevaluate your statement. And be ashamed that you didn’t do so earlier. That game was complete!
      It even had giant sharks (kinda, as boat paint for the pirates), giant squids (kinda some bionte ships) and… well, it was missing a lobster man with a sonic cannon, I give you that. Still, it was a bloody brilliant game and is known only to a chosen few…

  6. Viroso says:

    1 piece of ship.

  7. cfcannon says:

    Damn. Killed by super hostile jellyfish swarm. Who knew that the most dominant hive mind on earth had been secretly waiting for a chance to kill us while pretending to be brainless jelly? Also the shark in op, please nerf. ; )

  8. Clone42 says:

    These developers should go scuba diving. The ‘feel’ isn’t like underwater movement at all. Acceleration underwater is not instant, and good luck strafing like that. It’s about as underwatery as Quake 1 swimming.

    • Caiman says:

      Yeah, this game is as much about deep sea diving as it is flying about on an alien planet with alien fish, because frankly that’s what it looks like! Of course it’s probably still got a way to go, but a scuba diving course followed by some lessons on fish behaviour would probably help to appeal to people who are still looking for the definitive diving game on the PC.

      • GamesInquirer says:

        When was this advertised as a diving simulation? You might as well go to the next role playing game thread and talk about how it doesn’t resemble being an actor and how the developer should take some acting lessons.

  9. Baines says:

    Interesting, but not very fun.

    Spent the first few attempts getting killed by the shark the moment I reach the second ship part. All I can seem to do is trade hits with it, and it can kill me a lot faster than I can kill it.

    Quit for a while and went back, and even though it is the same game version, it seems even deadlier now. One game had the shark ambush me from behind when I picked up the *first* part, the part that you start the game right next to in (until then) complete safety. Three bumps and I’m dead.

    After that, I never saw the shark again. I tried played several more lives, but picking up the second part now immediately causes rock walls emerge from the ground, trapping me with a rolling shell boss. The shell boss rolls across the enclosed area with a slight homing ability, disappears into a wall, and then emerges again from a seemingly random location. He’s faster than me, so I can’t run him down to score a hit. Not that it matters, because trying to knife him as I dodge never registers a hit either, even if I’m right next to him. The only place that I can do damage from is to either stand directly in front of him or land on him from above. Just like the shark, that means I can only at best trade hits with him. Just like the shark, he can kill me in around three hits. I, on the other hand, apparently need to do 70 damage to him, and my knife swing does something like 1 or 2 damage? I never got him below 60, and shudder to think how long it would take to defeat him even if I was invincible.

    After the fifth death to the shell creature, I quit. Unless I’m missing something, there just isn’t point in trying to play the game.

    • TimePointFive says:

      Did you press the ‘Q’ key? I was smiling through your whole little review. Such incompetence should be awarded. You must pull out your spear gun and jump over the shell creature. I beat the game within fifteen minutes only dying once. The game was quick, enjoyable, and more than playable.

      • Baines says:

        Ah, the weapon change key that is only mentioned in the options menu? I was already annoyed that the game didn’t remember my options settings (like resolution), and picked a weird default resolution that didn’t match my monitor size.

        And why start you with a knife at all, if the knife is worthless against anything larger than a jellyfish?

    • Hahaha says:

      The shark is op

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  11. IanWharton says:

    Never enough scubagames. /looks up at old copy of Midwinter 2.

  12. Strangerator says:

    New genre: First person sharker