Still Wakes The Deep – PS5 Review

Still Wakes The Deep is the latest from The Chinese Room, something of a departure from their previous release Little Orpheus, reverting a little more to type and the likes of Dear Esther or Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture.

Set in December 1975 on the North Sea oil platform Beira-D, you play as the impulsive yet principled Cameron ‘Caz’ McCleary who initially is butting heads with his boss Rennick for an incident that happened when he was last on the mainland.

It’s around this point that all hell breaks loose as the drilling head hits something otherworldly and unleashes all manner of eldritch horrors. Your first encounter with someone who’s been altered by coming into contact with the emanations, is with your erstwhile trade union rep known as Trots.

Make no mistake, he’s not your pal anymore and will end you if he catches up with you. Throwing an object to distract him is your best option, but that only gives you a brief stay of execution and you’ll still need to break into a sprint to escape through a narrow aperture and avoid him.

One by one the Beira-D’s systems fail due to the horror that is making itself known, and it’s your job to somehow try and escape the rig along with helping as many of your colleagues as you possibly can.

After a while you’ll become familiar with the layout of the rig, but due to the unfolding disaster, you’ll have to seek alternative routes to the most direct path. They are generally obvious, but in the event you do end up scrambling for a route, it’s marked with subtle flecks of yellow paint. Though one section after a set piece including a helicopter had us making a jump and ending up on a bit of broken stairwell we couldn’t escape from afterwards despite having nailed the landing. It’s a rare moment thankfully.

Your vicinity to otherworldly horrors is indicated by your screen distorting around the edges, it’s a nice little detail and a nice way of increasing the feeling of claustrophobia when an antagonist is close by. You’ll also start to hear voices the more you’re exposed to the emanations.

You’ll have to negotiate ladders, trapdoors and culverts to make your way around, as well as having to jump around on exposed gangways above the raging sea. Amusingly, there’s a trophy for falling to your death in multiple locations around the rig.

One thing The Chinese Room do well is write backstory and Still Wakes The Deep is no exception.  The in-game artifacts in cabins and scattered around otherwise are most welcome in terms of fleshing out the story. There’s also optional phone calls with NPCs that you have to engage in by answering ringing phones. It’s bit like when we once used to answer payphones when someone rung them for some reason. OK, perhaps that was just us.

If Still Wakes The Deep does anything wrong, it’s by having you embark on what feel like a series of fetch quests. Generally activate that switch, find it does nothing, backtrack a little bit and fix a breaker that’s short circuited. Caz is an electrician you see, though there are scant opportunities to put this expertise into practice. Just thirteen chances as tracked by one particular trophy in fact. One appears to be off the beaten track as we only had twelve by the time we rolled the final credits.

Thankfully you can replay Still Wakes The Deep to mop up any trophies you may have missed on the first playthrough, though a little annoyingly you can’t select previously completed chapters. Though you’ll want to replay to get one specific trophy anyway.

One slightly frustrating section involves swimming up through a rapidly flooding compartment, with asphyxiation being your biggest enemy. Put it that way, you won’t have any difficulty in terms of unlocking the trophy for drowning inside the oil rig.

The story is central here, written by Dan Pinchbeck and directed until he departed the studio he co-founded in mid-2023, and it’s excellent. The art director Jim McCormack took over the reins and did a great job helming the very Scottish cast into providing great performances as well as capturing the feel of it being grey and raining most of the time. We lived on Benbecula as a kid and can testify that Still Wakes The Deep nails that stormy wet weather feel that prevails for most of the year.

You’ll be struck by how fantastically realised the feel of the rig is as well as those that inhabit it. There’s all manner of Scottish regional accents here, as well as well written dialogue peppered with colourful language. It feels like a Ken Loach film in terms of the grimy feel, you half expect Ken Stott to show up and chew the scenery.

In conclusion, Still Wakes The Deep is a wonderfully realised concept with a Lovecraftian horror central to the story. The feel of being on the rig is palpable though it unravels a little the more you stray from reality. A bit like we struggled to suspend our disbelief when we watched For All Mankind, only less acutely felt.  It’s still excellent though and we happily sat and waited for the final credits to roll upon completing the story.

Still Wakes The Deep
8 Overall
+ Amazing sense of place in terms of look and feel
+ As Scottish a game as we’ve ever played
+ Fantastic voice cast and story
- Has the feel of one fetch quest after another sometimes
- The swimming sections are a bit unforgiving
- Could do with a chapter select
Still Wakes The Deep is more than just a walking simulator in the tradition of Rapture or Esther. It nails the feel of bleak 1970’s Scotland to a tee and while everything goes to hell in a handbasket, your man Caz somehow managed to maintain his composure. Very much recommended.

About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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