Have you ever wanted to pilot a remote operated vehicle, guiding it through the depths of the sea and discovering majestic sharks, colorful fish, ancient wrecks, and more? Well now you can in Sub ROV: Underwater Discoveries, a true passion project by a developer who knows a ton about marine life and ROVs and is eager to share their knowledge with the world. Embark on dives in the world’s oceans, scan the wildlife you find, and guide your ROV down to the depths of the seafloor. Who knows – you might even come face to face with an enormous Humboldt squid!

Sub ROV, the debut game from sqr3lab, takes the form of a series of dives involving the titular remotely operated submarine and completing different tasks ranging from scanning rare wildlife and sampling hydrothermal vents to investigating sea mounts, shipwrecks, and other formations both natural and unnatural. None of the game’s dives are timed, and most of them can be played in any order, allowing for a lot of flexibility and freedom. Sub ROV is great for both sitting down briefly and knocking out a mission or spending several hours leisurely exploring the depths. I found myself more in the latter category – the presence of a “Gallery” that records information about every type of underwater life you discover definitely encourages exploration and thoroughness.

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Let’s go on a dive!

Sub ROV is somewhat slow to start, with several tutorial missions aimed at getting a handle on the ROV’s rather complex controls. There is a lot you need to do each mission: undock the ROV from the ship, descend to the proper depth, adjust positioning, and switch between several cameras and maps to keep track of your depth and positioning. The creator is clearly knowledgeable about ROV operation and wanted to replicate the experience as accurately as possible – which is both a good and a bad thing. You will learn a lot by playing this game, but the first few missions can feel extremely slow and repetitive, especially as you don’t actually encounter any creatures until the third or fourth dive.

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to Sub ROV. The controls are a lot to take in when starting out; there are buttons everywhere, and each and every one plays a role in either getting the ROV down into the ocean or bringing it back up again. I definitely felt frustrated at first and found myself having to replay tutorial missions to get a handle on how the different aspects of the ROV worked. Be prepared for a (fairly realistically) slow-paced game; the ROV moves slowly, and getting it into the proper position can take a while. Fish also behave realistically, meaning that you might be tracking a particularly shy or stubborn one for ages before finally getting close enough and positioning the camera just right so you can scan it and add it to your Gallery.

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Every fish you scan has fun facts like this one!

But that moment of discovery when you see a new fish and begin chasing it down, leading to that triumph when you finally scan it and learn its information is amazing. You’ll just be wandering through the ocean depths, sending out sonar pings every once in a while, when suddenly a great white shark will appear out of nowhere and send a thrill through you as you rush to get scans and pictures! At the end of each dive, I found myself wanting moremore creatures to discover and more hidden nooks and crannies to explore. While Sub ROV is so far a scientifically accurate and highly realistic game, I would love more fantastical missions based on fictional beasts like the Kraken or Ctulhu – imagine one of those slowly approaching as you frantically try to reel your ROV away in time!

Sub ROV is still in early access, and there are definitely some improvements that can be made. Some of the dives, especially the earlier ones, feel a bit empty, and I found myself wanting more fish and other deep sea creatures to encounter. As mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve when it comes to the controls, and the tutorial missions feel a bit endless at first and can lead to frustration.

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And down the ROV goes!

Still, Sub ROV is an absolutely top-notch passion project of an indie game that is fully deserving of its Underwater Discoveries subtitle. It is thoroughly educational, with tons of real-life information about both the ROV itself and the marine wildlife encountered in the depths. In the future, I could see this game being used as a training simulation for real-life ROV operators or marine biologists. I’ll definitely be spending more time with this game – and not just because that tricky Humboldt squid keeps getting away from me!

Kate played Sub ROV: Underwater Discoveries on PC via Steam with a review code. Sub ROV is currently available for PC via Steam in Early Access.

Editor’s Note: This review previously mentioned an audio issue that was patched out after our reviewer played the game but before the review was published.

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