Despite all this, Song of the Deep still feels a bit thin. It runs out of enemies within a few hours, then resorts to recoloring them (for “new” enemies) the rest of the game. Merryn’s repertoire of abilities mostly boils down to elemental versions of torpedoes. Torpedoes you’ll barely need, I might add—combat’s fairly easy, especially if you pursue even a portion of the game’s “secrets” (shown on the map) and keep upgrading Merryn’s abilities.
But mostly the game just doesn’t have a satisfying flow. The best games of the genre (in my experience) have a way of seamlessly guiding you from area to area, suddenly surprising you with “Oh, I’ve somehow gone full circle and am back where I was three hours ago” moments. You’re given opportunities to take advantage of your new abilities without it feeling forced.
Song of the Deep ‘s progression is haphazard. The worst offenders are some sections that delve into the ol’ “Gather These Three MacGuffins” trope, sections that send you to all the cardinal points of the map to find random objects. Even at the best of times though Song of the Deep feels stilted—too big, too empty, too contrived.
To skirt this, Insomniac’s created a fast travel solution so you only have to re-run so much of each area. That’s a stopgap though, and only helps somewhat mitigate the game’s awkward way of shuttling you as far in the opposite direction as possible at each new objective. Plus it feels like an insult to the wonderful areas Insomniac has created. The storybook art on display here is gorgeous, and fast travel renders it all moot.
Okay, that’s quite a bit of negativity aimed towards Song of the Deep, I know. But I like it. I’m more disappointed that the game doesn’t reach its full potential than anything else.
Song of the Deep feels like a solid framework for a more expansive, polished experience. The first ropy strands of muscle and ligaments have been wrapped around these old bones—a creative combat system, a beautiful (I can’t compliment it enough) setting, and a mature and self-reflective coming-of-age story. These help elevate Insomniac’s efforts above the crowd of genre-alikes.
But it’s still lacking the illusive spark that would make it a must-play game.
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