Developer / Publisher – Archiact
Price – US $8.99 / EU €7.39 / UK £6.19
Release Date – May 30th, 2019
Input – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store – Steam
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift
I always love when a VR game or experience comes out of nowhere and surprises the heck of me with a new take on what is capable of being achieved in a headset. FREEDIVER: Triton Down is a unique little gem that has you playing as Ren Tanaka, a free diver trained to hold her breath for extended amounts of time in deep water. While your ship is out on the ocean, a rogue wave flips it over with you trapped inside, forcing you to swim to safety as the ship sinks deeper and deeper into the abyss.
You need 2 Motion controllers for this one and you must physically perform swimming motions to navigate the campaign. An opening tutorial teaches you how to swim using both arms to swim in the direction you want to move and using 1 arm to pull yourself left or right to turn. It’s not just about swimming as you can grab specific items to aid you on your trip to safety like axes, doors, handles as well the walls, which will be needed when you have to fight faster water currents. On your right wrist is a an oxygen meter that alerts when you are getting low on air and beeps when you fill it up. Air pockets can be found throughout the ship, giving you respite from tense bouts of swimming with oxygen bottles scattered around as well. From the get go you need to avoid drowning and other obstacles as the water rises and time runs out to get to freedom or sink with the ship.
FREEDIVER looks great in the headset with some nice looking water effects and a nicely recreated ship…that’s upside down. The ship looks great with everything strewn about and water pouring in from seemingly everywhere. The ship carries a ton of detail even on low settings with the higher settings adding a more realistic polish to everything. It’s unnerving when you stumble across your first drowned shipmate and breaking up the action are cut scenes that play out after you *spoiler alert* survive the capsizing, having been rescued by the coast guard who in aggressively interviewing you about the events leading up to your escape. The opening tutorial, taking place in a cavernous reef is an area I spent way too long in just checking things out and admiring the view as the fish swam by and overall I was impressed by the look of the game.
By my count there are 3 voice actors in here and they all do an excellent job at delivering solid performances. The star attraction in this one however is the environmental noises as your ship slow sinks. The creaking of steal, an incoming wave, flowing water and every bump against a wall elicits a wonderful sense of fear and claustrophobia. Throughout the game, whenever you catch a breath, Ren will talk to herself and it’s worth listening to as once you dive back in the water she stops talking and her reactions to the situation adds a lot of weight to the story.
For everything FREEDIVER does right I was taken aback by the shorter length…roughly an hour and half and given what otherworldly revelations are told during the story, initially revealed during the tutorial so it’s barely a spoiler, I expected more story. In fact, the way this game ends suggests that there is more to come, most likely in episodic content. Despite the somewhat abrupt ending, I enjoyed just about every minute in this linear campaign. Anything you can and need to interact with is highlighted with a blue hue so you know you have to pull, push or grab it so no matter where you are stuck, just swim around the area until you find whatever it is you supposed to touch. As you are replaying through past events, the water isn’t nearly the threat I thought it would be with it only rising as you trigger the next story point. That’s not to say it still isn’t a constant threat as every time I dove underwater I was hectically looking for the next air pocket or oxygen tank. It’s not perfect and I had troubles grabbing items and walls forcing some minor frustrations and had even lost a carried item or 2 on my journey through no fault of my own, forcing me to retrace my strokes and see where it fell. Those minor issues aside, I really enjoyed swimming through the upside-down ship and cinematic way the story was told.
FREEDIVER is one of of those unique experiences that showcases just how cool VR can be. Triton Down gave me feelings akin to when I played Downward Spiral, Detached and Rush VR offering a new, refreshing and immersive way to play games in VR. Swimming though this vessel, always keeping my eye on my oxygen and looking for my next exit and breath of air kept me engaged from the opening moments all the way to the games ending. The story feels like it’s only just begun and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in this FREEDIVER delivers.
What would I pay? This is a paltry $9 on steam and worth every penny if not more. My issues with the games length is rendered completely moot by that price and even if a sequel never appears, I enjoyed my time in this sinking ship.
Archiact provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!