Right now, the world seems crazier than usual. While tragedy is all around us at all times, lately many are being swept away in fear and uncertainty. It’s why gaming has become such an incredible solace for many and why many are seeking out adventures they might not otherwise have known about. For those looking for something to get lost in, In Other Waters is a unique experience that has a way of engrossing players slowly and steadily and in a way that feels impactful long after the end credits roll. Through the art of scanning and discovery, Switch owners can find peace in an unexpected place while discovering mysteries that promise to astound.
When I first heard about In Other Waters, I wasn’t totally sold. The idea of the story sounded phenomenal, but games that are paced like this are usually a huge hit or miss for me solely because I have trouble concentrating and staying engaged, but being placed in the role of an AI in aid of a biologist named Ellery Vas soothed something in me that I didn’t even realise was agitated. As a huge RPG fan, I thought I would also be turned off by the limited interaction, but it turns out that this design choice acted as one small puzzle piece to a much grander picture.
As the story progresses, the conversational tone between the biologist and the AI shifts in a meaningful and natural way. That report is earned and feels rewarding when reached because the AI and Vas are intertwined and their success relies on the thirst for discovery as well as the ability to communicate effectively, something that this text-based adventure pulled off beautifully and in a very unique art form.
The biggest gameplay mechanic that players will run into, and something that may put certain types of gamers off at first, is the scanning. Players will be given a prompt that allows for a specific path of trajectory as the game progresses and seems simple at first glance, but each one line is one line towards the bigger picture. Discovery places of interest are key and it’s within connecting those dots that the player’s relationship with Vas is developed as well as the ability to unlock secrets from the world outside of one biologist.
Scanning is important and is vital to the story and not only its progression but its understanding as well. It’s not like scanning in games like Mass Effect where it’s important but sometimes a bit aimless. Each scan is a critical piece of intel needed to satiate that innate human curiousity, even when said human is playing the role of an AI.
As players find more and more entries of knowledge compiled, more and more understanding of the world is gained and more about those mysteries can be learned about. There are also main story objectives to find and overcover while also a few side options as well. For those that are interested in playing all the way through by completing everything, the total game time comes in at about 11-12 hours. Main objectives will bump that experience time down by a few hours, with some reporting as little as 8 hours depending on speed and time spent reading about those discoveries.
Like with any Nintendo Switch game, there’s the option to play both docked and undocked. Personally, I loved this game in the portable format. That fit better with the overall vibe of the AI – it’s in my hands, it’s a scanning device, whereas playing In Other Waters on a big screen very much broke that immersion a bit. That being said, that comes down to personal preference and I would recommend playing docked if you have any eyesight constraints because the text size and coloration can make it a bit hard to read for some.
Overall this game was magical because it wasn’t magical. It’s realistic, but not something realistic to most of the human population. In Other Waters gives players a chance to discover a new world in a beautifully minimalistic fashion that will appeal to both hardcore indie lovers and casual gamers alike. It offers peace, purpose, and dutiful distraction in a time when we need this the most. If you’re looking for a game that is very much outside of the traditional gaming experience, In Other Waters is an unforgettable journey that’s very existence is a juxtaposition in the most beautiful way possible.
Our Score: 7 out of 10
In Other Waters is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.