Welcome back. Today we’re covering Barotrauma, brought to us by Undertow Games, formed by the developer of SCP Containment Breach, released in Alpha in 2015 and still in progress. It is primarily a Resource Management game with strong Survival Horror influences.
In the future, mankind has expanded out into the solar system, particularly the moon Europa. With the surface uninhabitable, mankind lives below the frozen surface, traveling between colonies by submarine. You, the player, are part of a submarine crew. Odds are, you’re going to die. Of Barotrauma: the medical term for tissue damage caused by a pressure difference, like the one might experience in a deep ocean.
Anyway, you and a few other players (or blundering AIs if you prefer singleplayer) are tasked with crewing the submarine and completing objectives that come your way, such as delivering supplies or taking out unruly sea creatures. Be warned, however. Death comes quickly, and in many forms, and one small problem can quickly escalate into a complete catastrophe. Each crew member is assigned a role, with skills to match. The Captain and Security personnel are good at wielding spearguns, while Doctors can whip up powerful drugs with the chemicals on board, and Mechanics and Engineers have the skills needed to repair damaged parts of the ship. It can be intimidating to play, say, a lowly crew member, running about on nothing but the Captain’s say-so because he’s the only one with sensors to view the outside world. That said, you’ll get used to it, because this game is all about the power of cooperation. Even on the player-designed subs meant for maximum automation, someone’s gotta swim outside and fix the hull plating once in a while.
You also get used to having a plan for when things inevitably go wrong, particularly where you’re going to run when you need diving suits, oxygen, and welders. The things that can go wrong are varied, but the result is usually the same: The sub fills with water, 70% of the crew dies, the power grid goes down, and then you’re left sitting on the sea floor, or worse, plunging into the Abyss in freefall.
As I mentioned before, the creator of this also made SCP Containment Breach, and it’s clear they put their experience making foreboding environments and unsettling enemies to good use. I always have a sense of unease when playing, with the music reinforcing the fact that even if you’re safe right now, there’s probably going to be some disaster between you and the next city. However, the procedurally generated environments are lacking once you see them outside the intentionally limited perspective of the sonar pulses, and the game’s roster of threats is very bare-bones thus far. That said, I have faith those aspects will improve over time, so if the game seems unappealing in its current form, you could always check back later.
Honestly, my main issue is that there’s no quick return time, so like Dead By Daylight, I spend more time fighting the game mechanics than actually playing the game. When something goes wrong, it often kills off half the crew and cripples the ship beyond hope of salvation, but odds are you won’t see that because you can’t see the full extent of the damage while alive, and dead players can’t tell the living “The ship’s ****’d, give up.” When things go completely wrong (or you jump in mid-mission), your options are to wait for the respawn sub and try to salvage the ship, or vote to restart the round completely. And there’s no guarantee the rescue sub won’t also careen into a wall or get smacked down by whatever originally crashed the party on the main sub. When all this is caused by an asshole of a human being rather than a honest mistake or someone assigned the “Traitor” role, it’s a little grating. So… having people assigned to prevent flagrant griefing would be a great start to making the game more enjoyable. Even then, it’s not a game where you ever feel in control, and for some people that might be a problem. Another thing to consider is that the AI in singleplayer is aggressively incompetent, and can’t be trusted to do more than keep the reactor running (and only if their pathing doesn’t flake out and stop them from getting there), so Singleplayer plays more like an RTS where you jump between controlling whatever crew member is most needed for the current issue.
Barotrauma isn’t on Steam as of this writing, and it’s still not reached 1.0 yet, so definitely don’t rush to get it expecting a complete product. You can still play it and have some fun, as I did, but consider this article more of a “Hey, keep an eye on this one” rather than the “hey you should go buy this” fare I usually author. If you want to try it out in its current roughly-hewn form, it can currently be grabbed from the Dev’s site, here.