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Surviving the Abyss – Early Access Review

Surviving the Abyss is a base-building simulation game played in the deep and dark depths of the ocean. Developed by Rocket Flair Studios and published by Paradox Arc, this game released in Steam Early Access on January 18, 2023, and has an eerie and foreboding atmosphere. Gameplay has been difficult to learn, and I have restarted my game multiple times, but each time I learn more and get further into it and it’s challenging yet fun to figure out.

Set in the Cold War of the 70s, you have been sent down to the deepest depths to take command of a facility that is experimenting with human cloning. To do that, you must establish a base and take care of basic human necessities of oxygen, food and power as you put your people to work. You cannot operate in the darkness so you will need to build light towers and use sonar pulses to explore the ocean floor around you. You start with mining subs and will need to place a mining relay in a good position to maximise resource collection. You need to be self-sufficient for power, so finding a coal deposit is the first step. You will then need to build your base and research new technologies in order to progress.

Every building needs power, and most buildings that require workers will need oxygen. Oxygen tubs can connect buildings together, but given the rough ocean floor and rocky outcrops, you will need to build elevators to raise their level. However, the more industrial buildings you add to the grid, the quality of oxygen filtration drops and spreads amongst your connected base. Therefore, strategic separation of key facilities is something you need to learn and think about, and I learned it the hard way. Not only did my air purification drop to a level that my workers were getting sick, but I also thought I had to keep building oxygen and power generators to compensate. In doing so, I burned through the steel deposits in my vicinity and hadn’t researched enough to convert iron to steel, so a restart was required.

By my third game I had the starting build order better configured in my head and was conscious of ensuring resources were adequately farmed and new deposits sought after using sonar. I started seeing John Dory fish and an Octopus swimming around, and then learned how to build habitats, which was the first step towards getting my cloning operation underway. It was getting late in the evening, so I saved my game and returned the next day. I couldn’t remember exactly what I was up to, and I noticed my quest objectives weren’t listed like they were previously, and they weren’t in the mission log either. I kept working on my base and unlocking new research, but with no new workers, I again ran out of resources, oxygen purity dropped and that was the end of that game.

Finally on my fifth game I managed to build the cloning facility, harvest some crabs for genome sequencing and then commenced attempts to clone a human. It was then I realised this is the primary method to increase your work force. From there, base expansion became less of a chore and with those first 4-5 new clones, gave me manpower to increase air purity and keep my people alive longer. I was able to build a submarine station and start to explore points of interest beyond my light circle that I had found via sonar pings. It was also at this time that I realised the risks with human cloning in that their lifespans are much shorter, and they are more susceptible to death.

The loss of just one person in my base was enough to throw out the balance I had with oxygen and power outputs, and this led quickly to red alert status and eventually abandoning of that game attempt. While the difficulty curve is there, it’s not so steep that it’s a burden on your time. I was always learning, and I would hazard a guess that if fellow co-founder Johnny was playing this, he would have much better success as he is right into these city builder style games. If you have played games like Surviving Mars and Planetbase, you will be right at home here. I didn’t get to see any kind of terrifying sea creatures or any other things that terrify me from the deep dark depths of the ocean, though the game’s trailer certainly hints at such a thing happening.

Surviving the Abyss has a good base building foundation, and the dark and deep underwater environment adds an eerie and foreboding atmosphere, adding to the intensity of keeping your people alive. The game ran mostly well for an early access title, though it did make my RTX3080 work pretty hard compared to other similar games in the genre. Surviving the Abyss plans to be in early access for 6-12 months and there will be steady content and feature additions over this time. Smaller updates including balancing, more content (techs, story events…), and systems tweaks will also be released regularly. I have enjoyed my time learning the game so far and I feel my next game is going to be even better. I look forward to seeing how the game develops over the year and am keen to see the final release version when they get there.

This review utilised a key provided by Paradox and Surviving the Abyss is out now on Steam early access.


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