Stranded Deep Review
Available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Version tested: Xbox One X
Survival games aren’t for everyone if you like them there are plenty to choose from and most for some reason involve zombies. Stranded Deep is a little different in its approach and in all the time I have spent with the game it is sailing in the right direction.
I personally have spent many hours playing various survival games, one that has really stood out to me over the years is 7 Days 2 Die but only on the PC as the Xbox One port over was terrible, the sheer amount of content difference between the two versions was unbelievable and this is also the case when it came to visuals and performance! This was always a bit of a worry to me with Stranded Deep knowing that the game originated on the PC and has made the jump over to consoles recently.
While the game clearly looks sharper and more detailed on PC with performance also smoother in videos I have previously seen, there clearly has been a fair bit of attention put into the game to port it over. I can’t comment on the amount of content as I am yet to play Stranded Deep on PC but after spending many hours already on the Xbox One version I think it will be something I will try in the future.
Stranded Deep doesn’t by any means look bad on the Xbox One, the lighting looks great as it reflects realistically off the sea, as does the water with its waves crashing around. The day and night cycle looks great with the darkness making things really difficult until you manage to make a torch the only real light will be coming from the moon. In the day the blazing hot sun actually feels hot and will impact your character in a big way with it’s heat.
Performance-wise the game played out well but there is clearly an issue with the frame-rate, only really happens out at sea but it really does come to a stop sometimes leaving the game really chugging along but hopefully, it’s something the developers will be able to patch out in the future. Other than this issue Stranded Deep performed smoothly.
Away from the visuals and performance and onto the gameplay and what Stranded Deep is actually about. The game starts with your character sitting relaxed in what looks like their own private jet, seconds later there’s some turbulence before a huge hole appears in the side of the jet. Next thing you have somehow survived the crash into the sea and swim out of the wreckage to the life raft.
Don’t forget to use the life raft’s storage
On the life raft, you need to make your way to the nearest island and this is where the surviving really begins! You aren’t thrown in the deep end completely as there is a small tutorial teaching you how to craft, hunt and build but once this is over you are on your own and the constant struggle for water and food and against the heat really become a reality.
Building shelter is essential to surviving as it will limit the amount of UV heat your character takes, the more UV they are taking the faster the all essential water will be needed and it isn’t long until you are hearing a voice saying they need to cool down! There is a good selection of different materials that can be used to make shelter but you will need to craft a hammer before you can build anything. Hammers luckily only really require basic materials so make sure you make one pretty fast if you want a shelter early on.
Once you have the hammer its a matter of collecting the right materials to make the floor, walls and roof. These materials are fairly easy to source and mainly require sticks which are acquired from cutting down trees and then using a stone tool to then hit the trunk into sticks. Once you have the number of sticks needed you can get to work on building the actually shelter wherever you see fit.
It’s this freedom that I really like, you can start a base anywhere and then just leave it and start another one somewhere else, the choice is totally up to you where you build and what you do. The option to use an existing world or start a new one always varies things up as well, even in all the hours I spent playing and reviewing Stranded Deep I can only feel like I have barely seen all the treasures the game has to offer!
A lack of resources on the island after a while can start to cause problems, at first island’s tend to have a fair few things needed but after building a few things just normal items like rocks can become hard to find and may need a risky trip off the island to find them.
On my first save game I built a very basic shelter and then started to build things around it to aid survival, exploring a nearby shipwreck uncovered chests with random items such as a compass and binoculars, two things that are essential when the time comes to exploring the deep blue sea! The other great thing about these chests is they can be used to store your own gear in and can be picked up and placed anywhere.
Getting water early on can be a huge problem
Early on drinking water is going to be the biggest problem you will face but luckily coconuts are a good source of food and water and can be found fairly easily, they can’t just be eaten or drunk constantly as your character will become unwell and sick, in turn making the situation even worse as your health will drop as does the water level and food so never eat or drink too much coconut is a good lesson here.
The best and only real way to solve the constant water shortage is to build a water still collector, building one will require some harder to find materials but once it is built be sure to put palm leaves in it to make the water, without these the collector won’t get any water for you to drink unless it rains, only then will it start to fill.
Eating excessive coconuts can make your character sick but there is also another thing being spoiled food, this will damage your character if eaten, picking up eggs or meat is fine if you use them fast enough as after a while they will spoil and need to be discarded.
Small fish are a good source of food early on
Aside from coconuts in the trees food can be found in many forms and places, fish, coconuts and animals running around the Islands are just a few different ways but as I said before you will need to cook things in time before they spoil, building a fire pit will allow you to cook one piece at a time but if you want to cook more than one bit at a time you will need to craft a campfire spit to put another bit on.
Small bits of meat will come from things like crabs or small fish (Mackerel) but as you progress and get the items to take down things like sharks you will not only get medium to large bits of meat but also leather which is another essential item when it comes to crafting some of the games more advanced items.
The progression system is there to stop building some of the better items straight away but it really doesn’t take long until you reach the crafting level needed to craft some of the advanced gear, around crafting level 5 you will have access to almost everything and will just need to find the materials to make them.
Collect stones and fibrous leaves as much as possible
One resource you just can’t seem to get enough of is Fibrous Leaves and while at first they seem in plentiful supply they soon run out as it takes four of these to make just one lashing which is an item that’s needed for most things to be crafted, this was another reason I had to constantly leave the island to find more but there is always the problem of having a carry limit, this can be increased by four slots but does take some precious materials to do so. Luckily Fibrous leaves do regenerate overtime on the island but if you are in a hurry you will have little choice but to leave the island, keep an eye out for Yuma trees though as these are another good source of Fiberous Leaves, dropping around five or six everytime, they also regenerate overtime.
Ok so build a shelter, make a water source and get a good supply of food, what next? I built a raft and like the shelter these can be crafted with materials found around the island like tyres but you can also craft some of the things needed to make one such as sticks. Remember at first you don’t actually need to use a raft to leave the island as the life raft you start the game in, be aware it’s very slow and a dangerous way to explore the sea! On one of my travels I was attacked constantly by a shark, it was constantly flipping the raft over and throwing me out! Luckily I managed to survive and fire flare from a flare gun I found which enabled me to get away as it fled.
Make sure you are well prepared before leaving your settlement!
Leaving the island you have built everything up on is a huge risk, the waters are dangerous and there is also the issue of actually finding your way back and this is where the binoculars and compass are essential before you set off! Also make sure you have plenty of supplies like food, water and tools before you go otherwise you may need to start again on another island just to survive the trip back home.
Life rafts and the rafts you make up have anchors to make sure your raft doesn’t just float off into the distance so be sure to lower them if you actually want to sail home, I was able to swim the whole length between two islands once but was attacked multiple times by sharks and was very lucky to survive by the time I got there. The dark sea underneath is a scary place to be swimming around with threats everywhere.
It isn’t all bad under the water though as you will come across what looks like splashes in the water, usually under these you will find some sort of wreck with chests and storage holding multiple rare and essential items. Exploring these wrecks can sometimes be very rewarding!
Stranded Deeps biggest problem for me would be the controls and how frustrating they can sometimes be, things like trying to hit a moving target can be near impossible sometimes! They just feel awkward at times and can clearly see they suit a keyboard and mouse better where they have been ported over from the PC. Swimming and moving around is fine but its just a bit of a slog to get used to the UI and constantly having to switch between items just to make one other item. They have implemented some item wheels and such but the controls for me are the weakest part of the game and it is clear to see how this would work alot better on a PC.
Getting onto the raft or life raft can be near impossible sometimes as you do tend to glitch through it and just miss it completely. The controls definitely need to be tightened up or optimised a little better for console but after a while you do get used to them and kind of accept them.
Normal or hard difficulty are the only difficulty options which tells you this isn’t going to be easy!
The difficulty won’t be for everyone and some will be frustrated with how unforgiving the game is, the constant need for water, food and shelter is one of many things trying to end the game for you, there are also threats on land being snakes which will bite you and leave you rushing to make an antidote if you have the required materials. Luckily snakes and dangerous sharks can be turned off in the menu if you wish so that can make things just that bit easier.
As you progress and your character improves things do get a little easier though, crafting and acquiring materials gets faster with better tools and knowledge as does cooking and travelling when you build a decent raft or even move into the motorised selection of things.
It is a shame there isn’t a multiplayer option here as I could really see a co-op option working here allowing players to work together and survive together. I am not sure a pvp option would really work yet as there isn’t really anything you could attack of defend with but let’s hope the devs stick with it and add more in the future.
Last thing I want to mention is the sound, occasionally there is a bit of background music which is a nice touch but for the most part you are left in peace with the only real noise coming from the environment around you, this does make sound really important especially if hunting down a animals or avoiding the near invisible snakes scattered around! Seriously these things are pretty much impossible to see and the minute you hear one stop dead because you know you are pretty close to getting a bite from it! Aside from the odd comment from your character there isn’t really much else on the sound front and all things considered here it does a good job in emulating the quiet loneliness of being stuck on a desert island.
Stranded Deep isn’t going to be for everyone and if you aren’t into hardcore survival games then stay well clear! If you are however there really is something to like here, hardcore survival mechanics make the game a real challenge just to stay alive let alone make some of the games more advanced items. Sound is strong throughout and gives an immersive listen on how a lonely desert island might sound. Controls are the only real worry for me and the frustration they sometimes cause, coming from PC the UI was never going to work as well on console but away a while you get used to it and accept it for what it is. All in all Stranded Deep is an adventure definitely sailing in the right direction, a few tweaks to the controls may just make this one of the best survival games I have played yet! Will you try to just survive or follow the story and escape? The choice is yours….
7.7 / 10
- Good looking visuals and immersive sound
- Lots of replay value
- Lots to explore
- Punishing hardcore survival mechanics
- Awkward controls and UI
- Some framerate issues mainly out at sea
- Textures can sometimes look a little low resolution up close