Forget guns, deaths, aliens or zombies. Forget running around drab war torn landscapes while dodging bullets and scrambling for ammo. World of Diving isn’t about scoring achievements or climbing charts. It’s an invitation to explore and discover. No pressure. Describing a game as tranquilizing may not seem like a compliment, but World of Diving’s ethereal atmosphere and beautiful environments deliver unforgettable moments of awe and serenity. It is refreshing, unique and expertly crafted. While still in Early Access, developer Vertigo Games has released a substantial amount of content, including VR support for those lucky enough to have Oculus Rift. There are several beautifully designed underwater environments waiting to be surveyed and photographed. Twenty dollars is a small asking price for what may be the most realistic diving simulator to date.
World of Diving can be played solo or via multiplayer, but it’s been primarily designed as a social experience. Getting together with friends and uncovering hidden treasures of sunken ships and underwater caves is exhilarating, even without a narrative tying the worlds together. Before embarking on an adventure, players are asked to set up an account that keeps track of their findings and stats. It’s frustrating that logging in is required when playing solo, but that may be a temporary necessity while the game is still in development.
"World of Diving’s ethereal atmosphere and beautiful environments deliver unforgettable moments of awe and serenity."
World of Diving is not a traditional game, nor is it even comparable to the many simulator-style titles that have swarmed the industry over the years. The basic gameplay does not adhere to any overarching goals. It can be played for five minutes or five hours at a time. Its leisurely and simplistic approach may seem prosaic, but it’s precisely what makes it a niche experience. Think of it as an at-home-vacation, an opportunity to explore mysterious oceans without getting wet and spending money on pricey gear and travel.
Players can customize their avatar with a decent selection of diving gear and uniforms, although the actual character creation is very limited. Since most gear costs money, there’s not much to choose from in the beginning. As of now, the uniforms and gear are purely cosmetic, though future updates will add stat boosts for better maneuverability. World of Diving plays via a first-person perspective and higher stats aren’t essential for gameplay, so the avatar customization serves as nothing more than a nifty extra.
"Players can just dive around and explore the vast ocean floor, or engage in several arcade-style photography missions."
Players are equipped with a camera, a scuba scooter for faster traversal, a metal detector for uncovering treasures, a depth gauge and the ability to do hand gestures for communication. There are multiple explorable dive sites, each with their unique landmarks. Players can just dive around and explore the vast ocean floor, or engage in several arcade-style photography missions. The photography challenges consist of capturing targets in single shots or over multiple pictures.
Some challenges are fairly easy, like photographing slow-moving sea horses or small schools of fish. Other times you’re asked to capture scurrying dolphins whose playful and acrobatic movements can be tough to follow. Each dive site boasts additional daily challenges where random objects have to be found and photographed within a tight time limit. Additionally, players can create custom challenges by placing objects and sea creatures around any of the available sites and set mission requirements. The ocean floor is filled with treasures. Doubloons, the game’s currency, can be found hidden around shipwrecks, and certain oysters carry pearls that unlock gear. There’s a lot to do in each level, and it’s easy to get distracted trying to obsessively analyze everything in sight.
"World of Diving takes you on a calming journey through a gorgeously rendered underwater world that plays like a dream."
World of Diving may not be a graphical powerhouse, but the underwater scenery is breathtaking. Shipwrecks are decorated with colorful corals and anemones, while diverse underwater life colonizes the abandoned cabins. The developers have authentically rendered and animated an impressive variety of sea life. Occasional clipping and background pop-up doesn’t detract from the overall performance. The presentational quality extends to the superb audio design. When air bubbles pirouette past your ears, you’ll swear you’re actually submerged in water.
World of Diving takes you on a calming journey through a gorgeously rendered underwater world that plays like a dream. There’s already enough content here to warrant the asking price, even if it’s labeled as just Early Access. Whether you’re a diving enthusiast or someone simply looking for a genuinely different gaming experience, World of Diving undoubtedly delivers. Vertigo Games is a remarkable developer and it’ll be exciting to see what else they’ll add to their already astonishing universe.
Preview by: Tin Salamunic | Previewed on: PC