Deep Sixed is a refreshingly punishing space simulation which I’m glad that I stumbled upon. I didn’t go looking for trouble, since it can find me on its own perfectly well. I shouldn’t have expected superficiality from the creators of Rogue State since unconventional simulations are a mark of distinction for LRDGames. It took them three more years since their Steam debut, but they came back in full force. To give you an idea about the complexity found in Deep Sixed, know that both the game and I strongly recommend you read its manual (downloadable in .pdf format). You either do your homework properly or prepare to face the consequences.
Upon reading about Deep Sixed, I initially thought that its title must be a wordplay or abbreviation such as FUBAR or TARFU. I wasn’t far off. Still, “deep-sixed” refers to irretrievably destroying something. Such as incriminating evidence. Our game’s already shaping up promisingly. Deep Sixed has a determined female protagonist who’s struggling to survive in spite of constant attempts to prematurely end her indentured servitude. Yes, she’s a convict of sorts, fully disposable in the eyes of her new employers. A corporation which focuses on “space exploration” through suspiciously well stocked and armed, surveying vessels. The story takes inspiration from the Alien franchise and Altered Carbon, to put things into a more recent perspective. You guessed it, Deep Sixed’s “Astra Interstellar” has quite a few things in common with Weyland-Yutani. All of these shady companies have ulterior motives for exploring the dangerous fringes of space.
I find it amusing that we don’t even know the heroine’s name. Feel free to call her “The Pilot” or “Involuntary Employee 6584”. Her sentence is served aboard a space ship/station hybrid in which she’s the only human crew member. Incarcerated in isolation would have been a kinder punishment compared to the journey she’ll be facing at the helm of Wayfarer Station E. Alas, she has a “debt to pay” to society itself as the corporate “rodents” at Astra are explaining in the far-too-friendly emails they’re sent to Wayfarer’s terminal. You’ll be getting lots of orders from the people which “bought your debt”, since you’re their trusted employee/slave aboard a research vessel fitted with more laser turrets than a cruiser.
Most missions and objectives scream “military-grade”. And you’re not alone, obviously. First you’ll have an AI handler in the form of URSA (Universal Remote Sentient Avatar). Under that cheerful bear logo and act that she displays, this female-voiced Artificial Intelligence hides both sarcasm and a penchant for getting the Pilot into a lot of situations that unnecessarily endanger her life. Never mistake the bright colors or seemingly friendly demeanor of all those corporates you interact with, as being signs of peaceful space exploration. Quite the contrary. The permadeath gameplay mechanic should be a sufficiently convincing hint as to what lies ahead. I don’t want to spoil the surprises which Astra Interstellar has in store for you.
GODOT Engine is powering Deep Sixed and this particular choice is more than adequate. It’s a rarely used graphics enigine in the case of PC games and when you compare the previous titles which used its assets, you realize that Deep Sixed is its finest project to date. A stylistic hybrid if I can say so myself, since it makes good use of both 2D static backgrounds and 3D objects which are obviously in constant motion. The Wayfarer has its interactive blueprints in both rendering modes and the laser targeting system along with the “targets”, are also fully showcasing GODOT’s 3D capabilities. It won’t be considered as “eye-candy” by a long shot, but it does its job quite admirably. You’re not going to enjoy this title for its shiny graphics, but for what lies under its hood. Naturally, I didn’t have any performance issues and I’m certain that Deep Sixed can be played even on a budget laptop.
Excellent voice acting for all parties involved. The AI gives HAL 9000 a run for his money while our hapless heroine is not going to remain silent for long. Of course, in spite of her protests, she has to comply to URSA’s demands if she wishes to return home in one piece. General sound effects and soundtrack might not be anything special, yet they fulfill their roles without forcing me to mute them.
Tharsis and TARTARUS (notice the use of uppercase, almost like a warning) were tough Sci-Fi simulations. The former had you cannibalize your fellow crew members in hope that you might survive long enough to get rescued, while the latter involves more lines of code than any video game should present to its players. They could now be considered your “pre-workout warm-up” for Deep Sixed. Sure, you could choose the Easy Mode that eschews permadeath altogether, but you won’t be getting any Achievements either. The Normal Mode can be quite excruciating if you dive right into it unprepared. RTFM, will you? Only way to survive in the unlikely scenario of a real life event of similar magnitude, is to keep your calm even as the vessel’s many sections begin to slowly collapse.
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I remember feeling the same kind of focused fear and stress aboard the submarines in the Silent Hunter series (Ubisoft games that were actually developed in Romania). Descending into the unknown at barely acceptable depths, hearing the hull screeching but fully understanding that survival also involves taking risks. Gamble your life or face certain death. Deep Sixed manages to simulate this in outer space, instead of Earth’s oceans and seas. Any type of mechanical malfunction or hazard that can occur in a sealed environment, rest assured that this game has it showcased at some point in your adventure. As you can imagine, it’s up to you to isolate the problem, gather the necessary spare parts and fix it. You didn’t expect the AI to lend a hand, did you?
The shooting mechanics are also nice and complex, just to my liking. You won’t just pew-pew at anything that moves in front of the turrets. First of all, you need to ensure that you even have the required power reserves for sustained fire against those hostile life forms that wish to destroy the vessel. The panel for redistributing energy across Wayfarer’s sections won’t be enough. Sometimes you’ll have to fiddle with the laser calibration itself, since not all enemy types are susceptible to the same beams. Sci-Fi or not, Deep Sixed features as many believable elements as it can. It has this in common with Battlestar Galactica and the recently reviewed by yours truly, Deadlock. This involves radiation, of course. Sadly, you cannot weaponize it, but radioactive material will still pose a deadly threat to our Convict Pilot. There are many ways in which the missions can go South fast. “Creative” ways of meeting an untimely end.
I’d like to think that you can at least learn from past failures, since no manual can prepare you for all those puzzles that require nerves of steel and quick thinking. Didn’t expect Deep Sixed to be so complex and that type of ultimately pleasant surprise, made me reconsider my initially lower rating in its case. As long as you’re fully aware about what you’re getting into, this game will prove an exciting experience. Part strategy and part adventure game, Deep Sixed isn’t your common space simulation. And glad I am that it’s not!
All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.