When you first load up From the Depths it directs you to an hour long developer’s tutorial. An hour. Developers Brilliant Skies obviously intend FtD to be the sort of game where you have to work to play it. It is not even particularly easy to describe the genre we’re working in here: vehicle construction, combat, story missions and resource management? I think it’s best to say it’s something like a really complicated Minecraft mod. Indeed, I expect to see it played on the Yogscast before too long.

Probably it’s best to begin with the vehicle constructor. You start with a piece of wood floating in the sea. Now you can build damn near any boat, plane, or even, though I never managed it, a spaceship. Land vehicles do not appear to be implemented, and there are only a few featureless islands in the huge maps.

My first boat spent most of its time underwater. I called it “Boat”. After some time I managed to build an even better boat, this time with lasers. I called it “Laserboat”. Then I attached a huge jet engine to it and “Flying Laserboat” was born. It spent most of its time underwater. I’m not a very good vehicle designer.

Also, you're a robot

Also, you’re a robot

Alright, I may be an incompetent builder, but I will say that the controls are extremely awkward. For some reason the default, confusing control scheme is marked as “strongly recommended”. Directions are relative to the camera, but never manage to be intuitive. Removing blocks requires some concentration as it is quite easy to accidentally remove some key block on your boat. Vehicle controls require the use of around half the alphabet, and I’m sure it was intended for someone with an extra hand. It’s possible to overcome the problems, but be prepared to muck around in the options menu to find a comfortable scheme.

You can then import your vehicles into the campaign mode. If, that is, you have the resources to build it. You start with a flying fortress where you can drill for oil and harvest for wood and metal. You have to be quick about it though, as the computer is trying to kill you. Several factions, some more aggressive than others, will be trying to build up their own seaborne empires to destroy your own steam-cyber-sea-punk monstrosity.

Combat is amazingly fun. The key aspect of FtD is that you can build these ridiculous boats, and then fight other equally silly (though usually better designed) vehicles. It reminds me so much of the TV show Robot Wars. The thrill of captaining your Frankenboat into smashing a huge hole in the enemy’s giant Octopus Sea Fortress is hard to match.  Admittedly you have to endure a long tedious cruise to reach the fortress, but to be honest, I was just so happy that my boat managed to stay upright. Incidentally, I built a new boat for the campaign. It is best described as a tank that, against all odds, floats.

I don't remember what I was attempting to do here, but I think I was failing at it

I don’t remember what I was attempting to do here, but I think I was failing at it

There are also story missions. There’s not actually many of them at the moment, but the scenarios do give a nice introduction to different vehicle types and how to use them. In the first one I tried I was given the task of running a blockade in a speedboat. I succeeded by driving the boat under the blockade – FtD is filled with these hilarious emergent moments. Again, it’s so much fun.

The game is currently in Early Access, but I’m excited to find out where on Earth it’s going in the future. It’s filled with bugs and idiosyncrasies – a lovely one is that when you leave the map screen the camera defaults to outer space. It’s going for £15 right now, which is perhaps little much, but I think you can easily get your money’s worth, at least in terms of sheer content. Gather some creative minded friends together and build some crazy mega boat together. Then make another one and make them fight each other. They’ll probably spend most of their time underwater to begin with, but you’ll get better. Better than me, anyway.

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