Quarries of Scred was an arcade game brought forward in time. It mixed the tough-as-nails difficulty of yesteryear’s quarter-siphoning cabinet fixtures with modern technology to create a unique experience. In my review, I noted that its emphasis on becoming a better player through interacting with other players on social media and YouTube helped offset a lot of the issues that arose from some of the game’s more obtuse design elements.

Seas of Scred is a thoughtful evolution of the first game’s conceits. If its predecessor is an old-school arcade game, Seas is today’s equivalent of an Atari 2600 sequel. It plays upon the same core gameplay concepts but casts them in a whole new light by way of a radically different setting.

seaslootMain character Ruby is a marine biologist and must plunder randomly-generated drowned caverns for treasure to achieve her ultimate goal of funding another unsinkable submarine (she would prefer not to talk about what happened to the first one). As in Quarries of Scred, collecting resources to refine for spendable points is the order of the day and that same loop of loot>refine>upgrade is just as satisfying as ever.

In its default swift mode, Ruby’s submarine automatically scrolls down the screen, hurtling toward obstacles at its own pace. Combined with an ever-decreasing oxygen meter, this sets a frantic pace quite different from the careful mine navigation of Quarries. The result is a game that feels like a non-combative shoot-em-up with an exploratory twist. A tactical mode can be activated to allow precision movement, but comes at the expense of a great deal of speed and is best used only in short bursts.

seasskinSince the sub can only hold so many items at once, frequent home-base returns are crucial to avoid leaving anything behind. Whirlpools provide a one-way warp to the top of the screen, and I found myself having to balance the risk of probing further with the immediate reward of taking a break to refill my air and purchase new supplies. Though overwhelming at first, learning to set my own pace this way quickly began to pay dividends with each journey lasting longer and going deeper than the last.

Each time the game begins anew (usually after slamming headfirst into a shark), Ruby can choose from three different vehicles; the standard unit is well-rounded with average speed and cargo space, the heavy sub sacrifices velocity for greater capacity, and the harpoon vessel is the fastest of them all with a zoomed-out view of the board perfect for reconnaissance. The ships are a perfect example of how much customization can help the flow of a game. Using the standard and harpoon units felt unwieldy to me, but the heavy sub was just right and perfectly suited my style of play.

seasenemiesThis freedom, even more than the completely overhauled setting, makes Seas of Scred feel like a true sequel. Quarries of Scred was at times as rough and unrefined as the rocks within its mazes, but could be refined through careful play and intense concentration. The watery caverns of Seas provide a much smoother flow in comparison, and the result is a journey that feels much more focused.

The constant downward momentum provided me some much needed direction and made the goal of the adventure much clearer. Along with the better-explained interface, this alleviated much of the upfront frustration of the first game. Meanwhile, the added finesse of the harpoon unit and the returning daily challenge mode ensure there’s still plenty of meat on the bone for hardcore players despite the increased accessibility.

Overall, Seas of Scred is a wonderful example of how to iterate upon an established idea by keeping all the best bits and tweaking what didn’t quite work. Despite its waterlogged setting, the game is a breath of fresh air with plenty of new ideas on top of the refinements.