FREEDIVER: Triton Down is a virtual underwater adventure developed by Archiact out of Vancouver, BC, Canada. In this fairly short virtual experience, you take on the role of Ren Tanaka, a freediving expert about the research vessel Triton. From the very first gameplay tutorial, you’ll spend most of your time underwater, searching for the path forward, all the while keeping an eye on your oxygen gauge strapped to your right wrist.
I highly recommend everyone go through the tutorial, as it not only introduces the mechanics of swimming, diving, and generally navigating underwater, but it’s also an opportunity to explore some genuinely breathtaking graphics. Swimming freely inside a large lagoon, you’re able to explore beautiful coral reefs and underwater life. Don’t rush into the underwater cave system that the tutorial wants you to venture into. Take some time and smell the proverbial roses.
In fact, after starting in this beautiful lagoon environment, I wish more of FREEDIVER took place in that kind of environment. I’m hopeful that Archiact has more of this content planned for the future. FREEDIVER is quite short, though its USD 8.99 price tag is worth the hour or so of enjoyment you’ll get.
The tutorial ends with you finding a mysterious artifact inside the cave system, and some supernatural things begin to occur. We see some of that near the end of the main game, but it feels oh so much like a tease.
Once you begin the game properly, you’ll find yourself retelling Ren Tanaka’s story of survival after the research ship Triton is hit by a rogue wave. As the vessel begins to sink, you have to make your way through the corridors of the ship in search of an exit. Throughout, you’re assisted by a small selection of tools used to break things or light the way. There are a handful of puzzles, none too difficult to figure out, and you’ll spend a fair amount of time running out of air until you realize the solution. It’s all fairly obvious, however, and the game does a great job of providing hints if you’re stuck for too long.
The underwater environment is beautifully rendered, and the game runs very smoothly on my PC, which is powered by an Nvidia GTX 2080Ti and the new Oculus Rift S headset. Swimming underwater using the touch controllers is relatively intuitive. You can make large swimming motions or small ones and pretty much achieve the same effect. I got reasonably sweaty throughout my play session as I pulled myself against underwater currents and climbed several ladders. Navigating the interior of the Triton can be a little bit claustrophobic, but that’s certainly the intended effect. You are inside a sinking ship after all.
As much as the swimming motions worked quite well in VR, and I experienced very few signs of motion sickness, some of the movements do feel awkward. Pushing yourself backward underwater is fairly frustrating, and turning around 180 degrees feels slower than it should. There were a couple of occasions where my inability to move quickly caused me to run out of oxygen, but it never truly detracted from my overall enjoyment.
If there is one disappointment about FREEDIVER: Triton Down, is that it feels unfinished. The story is interesting enough as Ren recounts her escape, but it never leads anywhere. In fact, the ending could be described as a giant cliffhanger, and I spent a little bit of time trying to figure out if there was a second act I overlooked. I’m hopeful that Archiact will see the success of what they’ve created here and continue creating content in this vein. I would love to play a continuation of Ren Tanaka’s story, as will you when you’ve experienced FREEDIVER: Triton Down.