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Under the Waves Review (PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One)

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Under the Waves

Nothing says immersive like an emotional gaming experience that tugs at your heartstrings. In the past, we've seen games take on creative art forms that either bring immense joy or cause you to shed a tear. The departure of a loved one is the usual tear-jerking angle that creates an irredeemable void. 

In The Last of Us, Joel's daughter's death was heartbreaking despite knowing what was in store. The same can be said for the emotional rollercoaster game Life is Strange. These iconic scenes shape the characters as they navigate the new life of grief. The recently released title by Parallel Studios takes the same approach. 

In the Under the Waves storyline, you are lost adrift in a turbulent ocean of sorrow, literally. Players take on the role of Stan, a professional diver going through emotional turmoil. To fill the void, he searches the ocean's depths. So, will Stan's underwater voyage finally give him the peace he's gravely in need of? Let's unpack what the game has in store in our Under the Waves review.

Waves of Emotions

Under the Waves



“There are three types of people. The living. The dead. And those who are at sea.”

The game's story is told from the perspective of Stan, a hurting father grieving the loss of his daughter. Clearly, the unfortunate demise of his daughter hit him hard. Stan now opts to explore solitude instead of the comfort of family. Under the Waves nails what it means to grieve. Since you can't sit with your emotions, most people choose to distract their thoughts with tasks. This is what Stan does by surrounding himself with familiar ground.  

Behind the veil of emotions, Stan is a professional diver who explores the depths of the North Sea. He works for one of the largest offshore drilling companies, UniTrench. Under the Waves does an exemplary job of marrying the sea's vast expense with Stan's emptiness. You journey with a man as he connects with his grief and loneliness. 

Rolling in the Deep

Under the Waves

The narrative-driven adventure game has you exploring the ocean's vast expanse. You take on the role of Stan and guide him through a series of days. Each day begins with Stan waking up in the morning, having a radio chat with his employer, and receiving his daily tasks. Initially, these tasks primarily revolved around performing maintenance work on the company's underwater facility.

Stan's emotional conundrum comes to life as he frequently receives phone calls from his distressed wife. She wants nothing more than for him to be beside her. But his boss, Tim, keeps him engaged with new missions and inquiries on status reports. You're torn between moving on and sitting with your feelings to process things. 

Stan explores the sea through his one-man submarine and swims through crevices. Most missions have you searching for salvageable waste, collectibles, and geological data. These missions balance guided tasks with figuring things out for yourself. The guided tasks are located under the main missions tab. 

Occasionally, you'll be repairing leaks from the Refinery or fixing the communications system, among other things. Crafting also forms part of the gameplay. The first hours of gameplay guide you on what to craft, such as collecting plastic pieces to craft a plastic table.  

Moreover, the game will hint at the next location on the map for your mission. But frequently, you'll encounter obstacles, such as a blocked entrance or a requirement for an item to gain access. At this point, you must figure out what to do. 

Thankfully, the solution is always a few breaststrokes away. This means the game is ideal for players who relish the art of forging unique solutions. Don't expect the game to hold your hand all the way. Besides, the central concept is to be alone. 

Environmental Concerns

You'd expect the game to have an angle on environmental concerns, given the massive oceanic pollution such companies cause. Thankfully, it does. Under the Wave brushes close to this theme. For instance, Stan explains to his boss that his wife wasn't proud of his sea excursions, noting her environmental consciousness. 

Also, developers describe it as a “Love letter to the ocean,” highlighting the essence of preservation. This commitment is evident as Quantic Dream and Parallel Studio collaborated with the Surfrider Foundation, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding the ocean ecosystem, even featuring the organization in the storyline. While this effort is commendable, the game's expression of environmental concerns remains subtle.

However, it is undeniable that the game aims to shed light on these issues. For instance, Stan documents the devastating effects, such as evidence of microplastics and habitat loss, effectively conveying the message to the player. The game's tone of environmental awareness is reflective and artfully maintains a delicate balance within the narrative.

Deep Blue Waters

Under the Waves Review

The techno-futuristic ambience of the 1970s era springs to life thanks to the design's captivating aesthetics. It masterfully blends minimalism with style, leaving a profound impression. 

Moreover, the depiction of the ocean's profound depths is a delightful surprise, surpassing all expectations. To be frank, my countless hours spent exploring Subnautica pale in comparison to the intrinsic beauty of this game. Oh, and did I mention the enchanting interactions with sea creatures? Schools of fish, majestic whales, and graceful turtles illuminate the darkness that shrouds Stan's grieving heart. My favorite among them was Joe, an amiable sea lion whom Tim aptly describes as a ‘real celebrity.'

As you delve deeper into the game, you'll start noticing familiar concepts that serve as influences. It calls to mind “Moon,” a film featuring Astronaut Sam Bell on a solitary space mission, grappling with the encroaching insanity induced by isolation. 

The game adeptly unveils a tranquil sea teeming with life that tugs at your emotions, momentarily eclipsing Stan's emotional turmoil. However, the intermittent phone calls to his wife swiftly return you to the heart-wrenching reality he faces.

Nonetheless, not everything glitters. This cleverly orchestrated tension periodically escalates as Stan's mental state deteriorates during his underwater odyssey. It reflects the unresolved drama he harbors deep within, occasionally surfacing in the form of hallucinations and haunting ghosts from his past. 

But instead of these ghostly appearances, the game could have shown the pollution theme in a scarier and more vivid way, making the destruction seem more real. The hallucinations are important, but they make it a bit tricky for players to handle these big themes in the game.

System Glitches

Regrettably, Under The Waves is not without its share of technical hiccups. The screen tearing is particularly distracting when navigating rooms in Stan's underwater habitat. Also, exiting the submarine isn't as easy as you'd expect. Sometimes, it calls for a game reset, or specific missions fail to register as completed.  

Additionally, there's a glitch in the game's save system when playing on the PS5. System notifications appear after a certain amount of gameplay, indicating save failures during the game's autosave process. Fortunately, no actual progress is lost, but the constant appearance of these notifications can be quite vexing. The only way to resolve this issue is by exiting and reloading the game. 

While these issues are relatively minor, we hope the developer can address them with a post-launch patch.


Under the Waves

My experience with Under The Waves has left me with mixed feelings, although there were aspects I thoroughly cherished. For instance, the mesmerizing exploration of the ocean and the gripping moments within the bizarre underwater facilities. 

Despite these setbacks, Under the Waves deserves recognition for its adept handling of sensitive themes. It weaves an emotionally resonant and thematically engaging narrative that keeps you intrigued and emotionally invested until its impactful conclusion. 

While there are occasional missteps in conveying its messages, and the game's expansive open world could benefit from optimization patches, you cannot deny the ambition of Parallel Studios in its endeavor. They took a high dive into uncharted waters and, with minor setbacks, managed to make a significant impact with their storytelling.

Under the Waves Review (PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One)

A Heartwarming Tribute With a Few Mishaps

Under the Waves tells the story of Stan, a professional diver working for a deep-sea mining company, UniTrench. After his daughter’s demise, Stan retreats to work, not only to make a quick buck but also to evade the tumultuous currents of his emotions. His job as a diver metaphorically captures his emptiness and loneliness as he undertakes deep sea excursions to repair underwater structures owned by the company. At the core of this heartwarming tale is a profound lesson on protecting the environment. The developer’s partnership with the environmental NGO Surfrider Foundation sheds light on ocean pollution and the preservation of marine life. 


Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.