Still Wakes the Deep review


There is something special about Still Wakes the Deep. A horror film that is essentially Scottish, with an atmosphere so tense that you can hear your heart beating as you explore each location, has the right ingredients to make for an unforgettable experience. What’s more, it’s produced by The Chinese Room, the studio behind award-winning titles such as Dear Esther, Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. And yet, despite these advantages, it still falters when it comes to fundamental aspects.

Still Wakes the Deeps puts you in the shoes of Cameron “Caz” McLeary, an engineer working aboard the Beira D oil platform, which is located somewhere in the North Sea. Caz, who has been struggling at home, soon experiences much worse events as what was initially thought to be a machine malfunction leads to something darker and more deadly. All of his co-workers know that something has gone wrong, but when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, you don’t really know if facilitate will ever come. What follows is a tightly woven, fear-inducing romp where you’re not entirely sure anyone will survive the night. Think of it as The Thing meets Amazon Rig – just replace the glowing spore pods with actual monsters and you’re on your way.

- Advertisement -

From the very beginning, Still Wakes the Deep immerses you in its setting thanks to its talented voice cast of Scottish actors. To be clear, I’m Filipino and know next to nothing about Scotland, except for the fact that the likes of William Wallace and WWE’s Drew McIntyre are from there. Still, I was hooked, especially when the characters started saying regional slang after slang, some in the Glaswegian dialect.

It’s true that I had difficulty understanding hefty accents and some terms; for example, I wondered who “Leckie” was, but realized it was another word for electricity. However, this only proves the studio’s commitment to offering an original experience, so I appreciated the opportunity to get a glimpse into a culture and dialect I’m not familiar with.

Similarly, the layout of the oil rig was simply fascinating to me. Yes, the facility is made up of diminutive rooms, narrow corridors, and vast decks, and I found myself visiting the same areas over and over during my playthrough. However, a certain imaginative flair came when I realized how each area looked and felt different due to events that occurred as I progressed. For example, previously accessible corridors could become flooded, and open doors could later become bolted shut and covered in a mysterious, purulent growth. Interconnectivity also comes into play, especially with facility maps that pinpoint my location as I reach up-to-date sections.

Moreover, the game is full of contextual interactions, such as using fire extinguishers, unscrewing ventilation shaft covers and removing latches from devices. There are also several platforming sections where you jump, slide across gaps, or climb ladders, with quick presses of event buttons preventing you from falling. And yes, in some places you have to swim to safety. Overall, these sections are basic, direct and flawless, although they served as a nice break from the main theme: body horror.

What drew me in during my first few hours of playing Still Wakes the Deep was the sense of foreboding. As mentioned earlier, a machinery failure on an oil rig leads to nightmares of “waking from the deep.” At first, I could only catch a few glimpses of what lay ahead, such as a red, sinewy branch sticking out of the water or a vine-like object stretching across several corridors. It got progressively darker, and the tense atmosphere was heightened by spectacular shadow and lighting effects.

It wasn’t long before I heard the agonized cries of a worker begging for facilitate and the bloodcurdling screams of another who had driven himself mad. And then I saw what had become of them: words like gruesome and grotesque were an understatement when I saw people smashed into fleshy lumps, their faces frozen in death screams. They had multiple limbs and clicked as they moved, all while screaming Caz’s name. One of them was actually a giant head with diminutive arms, chasing Caz throughout the facility. The designs of the creatures, as well as the people in the throes of mutation, were disgusting, vile, and downright impressive.

Unfortunately, Still Wakes the Deep spoils “survival” in “survival horror.” The most surprising part of the game is that all these bizarre creatures, no matter how scary they look, are dumber than a bag of rocks.

Since there’s no combat or weapons, I mostly relied on stealthily making my way through rooms full of enemies, occasionally throwing bottles to create a distraction. If the monster even noticed me, all I had to do was hide under the desk, the sidewalk, or the pantry, and they wouldn’t be any the wiser. Those long limbs they have? They just click and mare; they don’t click. Those acute, serrated teeth and gaping mouth? They won’t bite you if there is a structure above your head. They would see you and after a few seconds they would forget about you or just hang around in front of you.

Outside of the chase sequences, which were few and far between, there wasn’t much that excited me about these monsters once I realized the limitations of the AI. Randomly, as you gaze upon these creatures and their otherworldly goo, blurry and dotted outlines appear at the edges of the screen, although there are no other effects; it comes close to including a crippling “sanity” mechanic, but since they aren’t actually present, it felt more like a tease.

Still Wakes the Deep is a relatively tiny game (I finished the campaign in under five hours). The story is strictly linear, like some of The Chinese Room’s other games, with no collectibles or secrets. While it’s true that the game relies on setting, atmosphere, tension, and body horror, it misses the most crucial aspect: the moments where you actually come face to face with the creatures. It’s as if the Thing is “otherworldly,” but is revealed to be extraterrestrial due to how harmless it is. Ultimately, this romp through an infected oil rig may look glossy, but it splinters and slides when it matters most.

Related articles