New combinations are now being tried in videogames today with such invention and concoctions being sorely needed. Everblue from Capcom and Arika offers a startling mix of adventure and exploration as an RPG with underwater diving in an attempt to bring something new to gamers. Does Everblue prove to be a magical or poison potion?
Set on the island of Daedalus you take the role of the young Leonardo Deplhino whom as a local has grown up with the sea very much in his blood. The island is a haven for sailors and fishermen with tales of wrecks and buried treasure rampant throughout the local bars. By doing tasks for people that you meet you can acquire such information, leading you to wrecks and possibly a fortune in treasure. Deplhino is also haunted by a recurring dream of a missing friend becoming trapped in a wreck and only through solving the mystery can he hope to put the nightmare to rest. The oceans have been ignored in videogames of late, with the only exception being Ecco and his friends. As the last great unexplored region of the world the ocean holds a certain charm and mystique that attracts many explorers. The developers have built upon this feeling with the inclusion of a photography feature, which allows you to record your discoveries and any marine life as you see fit.
As with most RPG’s you start the game at the very bottom, a novice diver with limited diving abilities and equipment only able to reach a pathetic depth of 30 metres. By gaining diving experience you can increase such attributes as stamina, allowing you to dive deeper and for longer. Yet this is not enough, to go deeper you require two things, firstly knowledge and secondly equipment. Knowledge can be acquired by doing tasks, equipment can only be bought and to earn the necessary cash you may need to scavenge the ocean bed for valuable items. When you discover an item you have to consider its size and weight as these both have implications whilst you are underwater. As you prove your skill as a diver, residents of Daedalus will approach you with possible dives and although dangerous, the reward may justify the risk.
Diving in Everblue isn’t what you would immediately presume; the game takes its cue from the early era of diving history where you are restricted to the ocean floor because of your iron boots. This results in Deplhino only being able to walk around, with no control over his depth but as the seabed can suddenly drop you must always be aware of your depth and limitations. As you would suspect, with such equipment on, Deplhino has the speed of a fly stuck in a jam jar however you do have one piece of equipment to help you. Your sonar is vital, as with practice it can immediately pin point and guide you towards items or wrecks, rather than aimlessly exploring the vast seabed. Yet the developers didn’t want to make locating wrecks or items this straightforward as your sonar works in tandem with an element and without one it won’t function at all. Each of the elements that you can find has a particular strength; a wood element for instance will only locate wooden items and won’t be much use if you are looking for the wreck of a metallic ship. You can buy more equipment to improve your performance and abilities underwater but the sonar is key throughout.
Everblue is a laid back and relaxing game to play; there is no reliance on speed or violence with the relaxing lift music and sound effects playing a part in creating this ambience. The game will not win any awards for graphical prowess or creative presentation as it is well below average and fails to push the Playstation 2 in any direction. This is disappointing because initially the game is a run of the mill PC title, forgoing any 3rd person view and instead relying on a point and click system to navigate the town similar to that used in Broken Sword. Whilst on dry land the gameplay is similar to Broken Sword but more straightforward as you are confronted by puzzles and mysteries but just asking around tends to reveal the answer. When you land with your latest haul you can use the various shops to identify exactly what you have and how much it is worth, possibly selling it if you so wish. The backdrops are nicely detailed but given the Playstation 2 masses love of graphical candy these won’t be enough to entice anyone.
Only when you dive do things take a three-dimensional perspective and even here the game plods along with effects and environments bettered in Sega Bass Fishing several years ago. The marine life is good displaying variety and detail but set against the poor environments these stand out even more. Even with this said, Everblue retains a unique feel but as with most games these days you need to do more than scratch the surface to discover the game within. Even at a shallow depth the waters around Daedalus must be some of the must polluted ever seen, as you can only see 10 metres in front of you. Perhaps this tactic was used to enhance the atmosphere, as something looms out of the murky depths, for a moment you wonder just what you have found. Inside the uninspiring wrecks the amount of pop up and graphical building in front of you is terrible, even when Doom first arrived on the PC it didn’t look as poor as this.
Most Playstation 2 owners who are into their RPG’s will favour the flashy visuals of Final Fantasy, the linear gameplay, random battles and a game that you cannot fail to complete. Everblue shuns all of this and tries to bring a game with more imagination, exploration and atmosphere than Final Fantasy can ever hope to achieve. At £29.99 Capcom have made an attempt to prevent Everblue being lost amongst the tsunami that is the Square RPG and hopefully you won’t mistakenly judge quality on the basis of price. Everblue fails to impress when it comes to looks but once you’ve gone down a few times you won’t want to come back up for air.