Highwater Logo
Highwater Icon

Developer: Demagog Studio

Publisher: Rogue Games

  • Price: $19.99
  • Release Date: Mar 14, 2024
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Last on Sale: -
  • Lowest Historic Price: -
  • ESRB Rating: T [Teen]
  • Watch this review on YouTube
    The setting and concept behind it may be cool, but the execution of multiple fundamentals is a problem

    In general, I tend to celebrate indie games and the general compulsion in developers to do things in new and different ways. The risk is that deviating from the norm can tend to be an all or nothing proposition at times, either generating a ton of love and an influx of sales for new and exciting ideas, or falling pretty flat with some combination of ideas that may have merit, but just don’t come together. The latter is how I’d say I landed with Highwater, which has an interesting story to tell about a potential future world, but gameplay that fails to be as compelling by comparison.

    The world of Highwater has long passed the point of no return in terms of the climate crisis, with much of the land having been overtaken by flooding. As one could expect, as different regions were faced with uncertainty and the potential for dwindling resources, the wealthy have taken it upon themselves to try to save themselves while keeping the rest of the world out. In their fortified city of Alphaville, there’s even a rumor that there will be an attempt to have a ship leave the Earth in search of something better out in the stars. That rumor is what has motivated your character Nikos to set out on an adventure in hopes of getting himself, and some people he picks up along the way, onto that ship.

    The game’s issue is that the elements outside of the story, the pretty well-conceived post-Apocalyptic setting, and the characters you’ll encounter in gameplay itself, aren't quite at the same level. You’ll do the majority of your moving around in your boat, moving between islands looking for help, supplies, and periodically running into trouble as well. The thing is, as much as you’ll rely on it, controlling it can be unpleasant at times as it has the turn radius of a hook and ladder truck. Though that may have an element of realism to it, aside from simply making you waste some more time fighting to get where you want to go quicker, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of purpose to it in terms of making the game more enjoyable. The other issue is the isometric and somewhat tactical combat, which seemed to look promising but also feels strange in execution. Rather than relying on positioning your characters, building them up with experience and gear, and then executing a solid strategy, most of the time it feels more puzzle-like. Since you’re generally outnumbered and overpowered by your foes, the typical answer to success lies in the environment around you. I suppose it’s a novel approach, but it did strike me as odd and often just a bit too convenient to have such solutions available if you can only figure out how best to use them.

    Put this all together and it’s absolutely an interesting game experience, I’m just not so sure it’s a very good one. The fact that it was initially available on Netflix actually makes some sense in it being a more watered-down and simplified experience, and perhaps that just doesn’t sit as well with more seasoned gamers with a controller in their hands and expectations for it to be on par with console gaming peers. Regardless, if you’re more down for the environment, the story, and its message (even if a bit ham-handed at times in its delivery) you may find this to be an adventure worth taking, just if you’re looking for gameplay first you’ll likely want to keep moving.

    Justin Nation, Score:
    Fair [6.6]

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