Catch This Kickstarter Game Before It Drifts Away – Fathom Hands On

We think we know the world we live in, but what if we don’t?  Think about it: over three-quarters of the Earth is made up of water.  Can you really say you’re a true explorer, if you only know such a small portion of the world around you?  Take the plunge and dive deep into the depths of Fathom – a new Steampunk-themed game set in a beautiful, 2.5D underwater world.  Funded by gamers from all over the world and featured on Kickstarter, this game promises to deliver unique gameplay in a stunning environment, and GamerLiving has had the pleasure of taking a sneak peek into the first two levels to see what will be awaiting us when the game is launched.   While there is no opening cinematic or background in the preview yet, Ironsun Studios has provided us with a bit of a background story that will be present in the full launch of the game:

“Fathom has you playing the role of Nathaniel Lockhart, a shipwrecked Victorian adventurer of the 1870’s who is lost at sea in the Caribbean.  Lockart has no memories of the events surrounding the shipwreck, but has visions of a mysterious design for an underwater craft called the Bathysphere and recurring nightmares of a mysterious craft that violently attacked his vessel leading to the shipwreck.  Obsessed with the idea that this is the only way he can find answers to the mystery, Lockart pools his resources to build the machine and mounts an expedition back to the murky waters that haunt his every thought.  Lockhart must build and master the mysterious underwater craft and ultimately take control of Atlantis, repairing the broken machines of the Atlanteans and solving their ancient puzzles to uncover the mystery.”

Now that you understand the basic premise, let’s take a look at what we’ve discovered will be awaiting you in Atlantis.

The mechanics are very straightforward: you’ll be controlling a Steampunk-inspired submarine and trying to make your way through each level by using the WASD keys (or arrow keys if you prefer) to move and the right or left mouse buttons to fire your different weapons.  For the demo, we were allowed two of the weapons that will be available when the game is released: the Machinegun/Rocket Launcher and the Bubblegun.  The Machinegun/Rocket Launcher automatically fires both bullets and guided rockets at the enemy when you use your left mouse button.  This will be important, as there are Drones in the game that will attack you, and you must take them down quickly.  Another use for this weapon is to blast through rocks or, with the force of the blast, roll ancient stones away to trigger events that will allow you to move forward in the level.  The second weapon, the Bubblegun, is used to create bubbles that will attach themselves to various pieces of debris, allowing you to either cause them to float or pick them up to carry them to an appropriate place in the level.  This can be extremely important as well, since most of the game is about exploration and solving mechanical or pattern-recognition puzzles to continue.

While Steampunk may not be your ‘thing’, couple it with underwater exploration, thrust yourself into the lost city of Atlantis, and add various mind-teasers in the form of puzzles – it will be hard to turn down such a tempting form of entertainment.  And it’s beautiful, through and through.  What is so beautiful about this game is that they did not simply put you in a static environment and ask you to solve puzzles A through Z.  As you travel through the level, you’ll run into free-floating octopi, sharks, and various forms of underwater vegetation.  At first, I assumed that they were enemies and tried to take them down with my mighty rockets, but soon understood that they were just an incredibly lifelike part of the scenery.  The developers have spent a lot of time building art that is both familiar to us and completely fresh.  Most underwater adventures play out like a giant wall of water, with bits of plant life, rocks, or sea creatures scattered around.  Fathom has a cavern-like feel to it, instead of the open space that we’re used to, with only a few small open spaces throughout that remind you just how vast the underwater world can be.  Every detail is accounted for, right down to the bubbles you use from your gun or the gentle, lifelike glide of the octopi passing you by, and each new visualization is as crystal clear as the last.  The submarine and Drones are purely Steampunk, and you’ll also notice big gold and brass rings in the wreckage buried around the caves as well.  The graphics themselves are the main draw in a game like this, and Ironsun Studios made sure not to disappoint.

When you look at the first two levels, they are extremely short.  This is not something that you’re going to spend hours exploring and banging your head against the wall to get through.  That may be a slight disappointment for gamers, as the levels have the potential to really suck you in.  You’ll also notice that, at first, the puzzles will be hard to wrap your head around, but will quickly become second nature, and exploration will be your main draw.  An example of this would be the first puzzle; I spent twenty minutes (I’m not ashamed to admit that) searching around, trying to figure out how to trigger either of the two doors, only to realize that I needed to use the Bubblegun to lift a piece of what looked like a bridge hull up to a latch that opened the first door.  By the time I’d reached the end of the second level, I knew the runes I’d seen earlier had provided the pattern that I’d need for the puzzle to open the last door, and I spent only the time it took to click each symbol to continue on.  Keep in mind: there will be other mechanics, features, and a multitude of levels to explore upon launch, so don’t let the length or difficulty deter you quite yet.  In fact, some people will enjoy the low difficulty level, as they only want to enjoy the storyline and explore a world under the sea.

The music comes and goes, but even when it’s around, it is very quiet and non-intrusive.  It is completely instrumental, with an echoed sound and a soft high-pitched electronic keyboard tune.  In between, there will be background noises, like the sound of whales or that low hum that you get in your ears while swimming.  The sound effects jump out a little more, as you can hear the bubbles from your engine and the high-pitched wheeze of your weapons powering up.   You’ll notice little things, like the clanking sound of  bullets against steel as you hit chains or pelt things with your bullets, or bigger noises like the enemies that make low but abrasive alarm noises as they spot you.  The voice acting in the levels is minimal.  You’ll hear Nathaniel say a few things to himself that are hints for the player like, “I have to find a way to shut this thing off,” in a lower British accent that sounds almost tinny in his submarine.  That aside, while I’m normally not the kind of girl who’s a sucker for a British accent, this actor sounds like he’s mixing a bit of Bond with some Victorian era – which is almost too hard for anyone to resist.  There is sure to be more to the music, effects, and vocals in the game upon launch – so far I like what I hear!

Overall, I had a wonderful time feeling like I was floating around ocean caves, making my way to an ancient civilization for god-knows-what purpose.  This game is only in its very early stages, and it’s something that I will wait patiently to discover myself, as I can never start a mystery without finishing it.  The Steampunk theme in the artwork will gather a very particular crowd, as will the underwater theme.  But this game will translate well for any exploration lovers or puzzle grinders, regardless of its genre.  Keep an eye out for Fathom and make sure to follow them on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, or YouTube to get all the newest updates and exclusive sneak peeks!

Editor’s note: If Fathom sounds like something you’d like to play, help the developers bring the game to fruition! Check out Fathom’s Kickstarter page – pledges of £10 or more will get a Digital Copy of the game (in the very least).

About This Post

March 25, 2013 - 8:17 am

Gaming, Hands On