[Review] Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret (PC)

If I were to assign a particular theme among the games I have played this year, I would have to say that a strong nautical theme would definitely be one of them. Escape The Emerald Star, Myst, and BioShock all have themes where you are out to sea, in water, under water or live in some sort of waterlogged utopia. My latest game, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret can definitely be placed in that category, actually borrowing some familiar plot devices from each of the aforementioned games. But, before you write this game off as a derivative boring game, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret uses these devices by infusing its own flavour to them, creating a charming little hidden object adventure game for the PC that I feel is worth checking out.

Imagine you are coaxed awake by an unfamiliar voice only to find yourself locked in a sarcophagus in an underwater city called the “Ark of Humanity”. This voice calls himself Jacob – your name is Anna, so he says. He tells you that you have been locked away for almost a century; that it’s time to rise and “save your people”. Immediately, you question yourself: who am I? MY people? You don’t understand what he is talking about…This is all too confusing! Then another voice can be heard – that of a young girl. She tells you not to believe Jacob because he is a senile old man. Jacob says the young girl cannot be trusted. Who to trust? You try to extrapolate truth from lies while you search this underwater mecca to find out who you are, what this all means and the secrets of your destiny.

The Good: Great graphics, atmospheric soundtrack, that can unnerve at times. Nice variety of puzzles. Hooray for a great map!

The bad: Hidden object scenes are super easy. Story is a little bizarre, but I forgive it.

Definitely, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret copies elements from other games. Specifically, the underwater Ark reminded me of BioShock, minus the mutant un-dead residents found on rapture. In Myst, there was the round ball gondola to get you from point A to point B; same in this game!

What sets this game apart is, of course, the gameplay. The game bills itself as Hidden Object, but more than that there is an adventure element that forces the player to go from one end of the Ark to the other. There is no getting lost here though, as the game provides you with fantastic navigation, complete with an awesome map. The puzzles in Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret are unique and various. Some include searching famous nautical paintings, like Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa for items, or having to line up a drawing of Cassiopeia on a starry sky. The strongest part of this game has got to be the immersive soundtrack. I recommend playing this game with earphones on – it will surround you with the sounds of lapping water and diving bells.

The Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret  is a great game and I highly recommend it!

4.75/5

Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret
Developer: Big Fish Games
Released: 2010

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8 comments

  1. Neat! I don’t know from games, really, but I know I like movies shot around and under the water. Is it a whole lot of time spent under the water, to the point of feeling claustrophobic? ‘Cos with the soundtrack as you describe it, that could get intense. Or is there a nice mix between water and inside-where-it’s-dry stuff?

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    1. The entire game takes place under water and that in itself can make you feel claustrophobic, but it wasn’t oppressive. Mostly, the ark feels like the great outdoors with a sky that is the ocean instead of an actual sky. The gondola was the one and only time I got the full picture of being under water, actually.
      I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack – and thinking about it now, it gave the more claustrophobic feeling than without it.

      The claustrophobic feeling was more present playing BioShock, which had its underwater city interconnected by a series of leaky tubes.

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      1. That’s good to know. I think of movies like The Abyss, where it’s just so oppressive all the time. But if it doesn’t feel so bad, this sounds like a neat game. You certainly gave it a rating close to perfect!

        Those leaky tubes in Bioshock sound terrifying.

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    1. Exactly! It wasn’t complete perfection. I mean the hidden object scenes were easy, and it lost point for being derivative. But still, for what it was, it was great.

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