Ocean Keeper (2024) Game Review – An enjoyable roguelike shooter with a sharp difficulty spike

An enjoyable roguelike shooter with a sharp difficulty spike

Ocean Keeper, the latest game from RetroStyle Games, is deceptively easy at first glance. After loading up the title and selecting either the tutorial or the main game, you are plunged into an underwater world as the pilot of a mech. The environment around you is pretty and ripe for exploration, so explore you will, piloting your mech using simple keyboard controls (on the PC version) to get around.

Various excavation sites need to be investigated as these are your means of gathering resources (ore). These resources are extremely important as you won’t be able to upgrade your mech without them. Failure to make improvements will equate to almost instant doom as you aren’t alone in the ocean. Your main adversaries are marine creatures of different sizes that will attack you in swarms. Thankfully, your mech is capable of shooting them from a distance, with either auto fire or manual fire, but if you haven’t taken the time to acquire the necessary upgrades, your time underwater will soon be over as you will quickly become overwhelmed. 

Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of time to scavenge for resources as you are beholden to a timer that quickly counts down. You’ll have a minute or so to grab what you can before the timer hits zero and panic begins. If you have managed to upgrade your mining and combat skills, you have a pretty good chance of survival. But if you have dawdled around, taking your sweet time to move around the ocean floor and its assorted caves, you can expect to see the ‘game over’ screen pretty quickly.

It’ll soon become clear to you that Ocean Keeper is not as easy as it first appears. Whenever that timer starts counting down, panic will set in along with the propulsive music score that will get your heart racing. Thankfully, the mech isn’t difficult to control or use in combat, so you should be able to fend off the first couple of enemy waves with little to no trouble. But the game does get harder, with tougher monsters in greater numbers, so you should improve your mech as soon as possible. 

You can upgrade the drill speed of your mech so you can dig for ore faster. You can strengthen your mech too and improve its fire rate, alongside other upgrades that will give you a decent chance at survival. There are relics to find that will also give you an advantage, including explosive bullets and a shogun that will certainly help you in combat. 

Balancing your resources between combat and mining abilities is imperative. If you continually favour combat over mining, for example, you’ll have a tougher time underground when digging for ore. The reverse is true if you focus only on your mining upgrades, as your mech will be pretty useless in combat during the later waves that require more firepower. 

So, Ocean Keeper is as much a game about resource management as it is about shooting monsters and exploration. As such, you will need to think carefully about your upgrade choices if you want to survive longer than a few minutes in the game. 

At the time of writing, Ocean Keeper is still in the development stage. I was sent an early build of the game by the developer, so what I played might not be indicative of the final product. A demo is imminent (and might even be available at the time you’re reading this review), so you’ll be able to try the game for yourself. 

I enjoyed my time with the game, although I do think the difficulty level could be scaled back a little. An ‘easy mode’ would definitely be helpful for those wanting to enjoy the game’s vibrant underwater world for longer than five minutes. Of course, practice makes perfect, or so the saying goes, so while the game is hard to play, it’s not impossible for those who spend their time getting to grips with the upgrade mechanics. 

The full version of Ocean Keeper is slated for release on mobile and PC sometime in July 2024. It will also be released on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox consoles at some point in the future. With its budget price tag, the game is certainly worth buying. It’s maddening to be sure, due to the early difficulty spike, but it has that one-more-go quality that should keep you invested in its addictive gameplay loop for quite some time. 

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  • Verdict - 7/10