I was quite excited when offered the chance to play a preview build of Iron Fish. It’s a rather intriguing and unique prospect – an open-world underwater exploration game with a psychological horror aspect.
Set within the murky depths of the Atlantic Ocean, you play as deep-sea investigator Cerys. She’s been sent to find the sunken wreckage of The Pomeranz, which disappeared under mysterious circumstances. However, you arrive to discover the distress beacon of another salvage crew. Seems you’re not the first person to have been down here – the plot thickens.
With Marshall guiding you from the surface through your equipment and objectives, you find yourself traversing the uncharted depths alone in your high-tech Farseer submarine. However, it’s not long before you’re leaving the relative safety of your sub to better investigate your surroundings and to scavenge for clues and supplies. With sharks circulating and limited oxygen, you’re far more vulnerable, but what a joyous experience it proves to be.
The developers have created an awe-inspiring underwater universe that’s begging to be explored. A gloomy world of wondrous ridges, canyons, and precipices providing home to inviting caves and wreckages. Everything teeming with beautifully-animated life from sharks, whales, and manta-rays, to jelly fish, coral, seaweed, and urchins, to your average bog-standard fish. The seeming tranquility of it all cleverly lures you into a false sense of security for when the surprises do come. Prepare for mutilated bodies, terrifying anthropomorphic monsters, and the occasional jump scare.
It’s not clear from the preview where the narrative will go, but with murmurings of sinister conspiracies, ancient relics, and a strange arcane power, I wouldn’t rule out a Lovecraftian adventure. Of course, I’m totally cool with that if done well. Though I did find the voice acting and dialogue a little hammy and some of the emerging sub-plots having the potential for formulaic cliché.
Gameplay wise, I really enjoyed the exploration aspect and the general immersion. However, I’d like to see a bit less toing and froing from the sub to replenish your scuba suit’s oxygen, whereas finding supplies, equipment, and upgrades scattered everywhere feels a bit too gamey for my tastes. And while I have nothing against optional side-quests, they need to be more engaging than finding and freeing trapped fish and photographing one of each species. Lastly, I’m not sure if it was a bug or feature, but I was always returning to find the Farseer heavily damaged and in need of repair. This despite parking it where I was instructed to by the game – bloody sharks!
Anyway, it’s definitely one to keep a fishy eye on. Iron Fish has been Greenlit by the Steam community and is coming to PC, Mac, and Linux.