I’ve been debating for a while now whether or not to post this review, having not actually completed the game but that fact is relevant so here goes. Plus I’ve checked on YouTube, I was only one battle away.
2051. The world has become consumed by the ever rising tide of the global population flood. Fertile land has been reclaimed by rising oceans and expanding deserts, resulting in famine and poverty on an unprecedented scale. Water is now mankind’s most precious resource, and conflict erupts wherever it flows.
Only one bubble of the old capitalist world survives. The Queen of the World is the largest ship ever to grace the oceans, a colossal city at sea where the wealthy elite live in exile from the chaos which surrounds them. On board this stateless paradise the Five Founding Fathers set about pursuing their Cornucopian research unimpeded.
The contempt of the outside world is offset by NanoCell Corporation, one of the five, who promise to develop Nano-technology to purify sea water at the molecular level and make the deserts bloom with the food of the world. But as they move closer to their goal, the bitterness of fanatical Malthusians grows.
The so called ‘Neo Malthusians’ timed their attack perfectly. 9.8 billion watched as they recast hope as hatred, following a prophecy to commit global genocide; drowning the planet with blood as they slash the worlds population to a mere half billion ‘righteous souls’. A prophecy they will soon find themselves in a position to fulfil.
Hydrophobia: Prophecy is 2011’s Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness – fluid gameplay and a solid story let down by the shortcomings of its engine or to put it another way a rewarding and engaging experience if you have the patience to get through it without lamping the nearest innocent bystander with the keyboard.
The game is short and tight – it only took me a day to reach the final battle – and although I generally prefer a few days worth to fully explore my surroundings, in this case the length is perfect for the content. The gameplay itself is a lot of fun, feeling like a cross between The Poseidon Adventure and Under Siege – if Tommy Lee Jones had accidentally given Steven Seagal superpowers – and for me the premise was a particular turn on. In a world where pretty much every entertainment medium is saturated with vilification of scientists for “playing God” and a heavy sentiment that in a post apocalyptic world humanity wouldn’t be worth saving, a game where the scientists who play God are treated as heroes while the humans-aren’t-worth-saving brigade are the big bad is both bold and refreshing.
Hydrophobia’s unique gameplay experience is driven by HydroEngine – the worlds first true fluid dynamics simulation for games. This ground-breaking proprietary technology is a real physic simulation of water which allows it to flow and interact with objects, characters and the environment in an entirely realistic way, resulting on the incredible emergent behaviour which is the hallmark of Hydrophobia.
Of course it comes as no surprise that the star of the game is the water physics which is unquestionably amazing, but unfortunately this is at times to the detriment of other aspects of the engine. The game is buggy as hell and on multiple occasions I found myself forced to restart an area either having got stuck in a piece of floating debris or after one or more of the controls randomly stopped working. And on that subject, the default keyboard controls are physically awkward to use and aiming and camera work require different levels of mouse sensitivity. Hence my not having completed the game – for the most part, the lower mouse sensitivity required to best control the camera is adequate for gunplay provided you have plenty of cover but come the final boss you need to be able to aim and change ammunition type much faster and the higher mouse sensitivity tends to cause the camera to spin uncontrollably.
Thus, Hydrophobia: Prophecy has joined Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light and Fahrenheit (that’s Indigo Prophecy to you across the pond) on the “needs a gamepad to complete” pile.
But despite the flaws, the game is well worth getting and for the PC gamer its very existence is important. Hydrophobia: Prophecy is affordable (£8.99 although I got it on sale for under £4) and DRM-Free as well as coming with no install limits and considerably lower system requirements than other games of the same aesthetic scale. And although Dark Energy ultimately failed to optimise or stabilize the PC version, the fact that they even tried stands for a lot in an age where games developers are more concerned with forcing PC gamers onto consoles than with making their PC games worth splashing the cash for.
There are definitely kinks to iron out with the engine but I wish all the best for Dark Energy and hope to see more from them in the future.