E-Line Media's Never Alone
was an unusual title. Not only did it draw inspiration from Alaska Native culture to create its story and gameplay, it added documentary footage that gave players a real background to what they were experiencing. It should come as no surprise, then, to find that the team will be taking the same approach with their latest title, Beyond Blue
. Together with BBC Studios, the creator of the acclaimed documentary series Blue Planet II
, they're creating a narrative-driven game that lets players explore the oceans as part of an underwater expedition as part of their aim to help players to explore the real world on their own terms.
At EGX 2018, E-line's CEO Michael Angst and BBC Studios' Head of Digital Entertainment & Games Bradley Crooks took to the stage to explain how the partnership came to be, as well as an introduction to the title and the research that went into creating the game.
When we managed to get our hands on the title, we joined deep sea diver Mirai as she explored the depths of the China South Sea. As this is set in the near future, she has the use of groundbreaking technology that allows her to freely move about the ocean floor without having to worry about the realities of oxygen supply, water pressure, or light levels. Her team is on the track of whale pods, but one of their underwater beacons has stopped working and if they're to get any useful data from this area, she needs to fix it. A small waypoint appears on the screen and we're given the choice whether we wish to head over in that direction or not.
The thing about Beyond Blue
is that players are given the chance to explore at their own pace. There's no obligation to head straight over to each new objective. Instead, you can explore underwater caves and other hidden areas, you can scan nearby creatures to learn more about them, or you can simply take in the environment as you leisurely swim through the water. However, seeing as the beacon offers more opportunities to track these creatures, it seems like a prudent decision to fix it.
A simple thump is all it takes to reboot the temperamental device, but now it needs recalibrating. Using the onscreen indicator, three spots are marked for the beacon to focus, and it immediately kicks out some useful data. These beacons are the source of the game's missions, both those that further the story and optional side missions. The former, marked with an orange waypoint, states there's a stationary tracking device nearby. It was attached to a whale. Is it still attached and there's been a death that needs investigating, or has the tracker become detached and need retrieving? It's up to Mirai to find out. Alternatively, the latter (shown with a white waypoint) says there's a rare turtle nearby that might be worth a diversion. Again, the choice is yours.
Along the way, we meet one of the ocean's more unfriendly inhabitants — a camouflaged octopus that isn't pleased to be disturbed. While a coating of ink may seem more like a mild irritation, the ink can attract predators and it's wise to clean it off as soon as possible. It's a reminder that despite its peaceful setting, the ocean can be a dangerous place and it's wise not to become too careless.
The floor demo was just a brief teaser of the gameplay players can expect when the title arrives on Xbox One early next year. Will you be diving into its depths?