In Still Wakes the Deep, the monster isn’t even the scariest part

At Gamescom 2023, we got the chance to try our The Chinese Room's new psychological horror game, Still Wakes the Deep, and it's just as dark as you'd expect.

A ghostly silhouette with an oil rig in his chest stands on a blue background

December 19, 1975. Somewhere in the reaches of the North Sea, the hardworking crew of Still Wakes the Deep’s Beira D oil rig prepare for their Christmas festivities – a small moment of joy and relaxation underneath the darkness of the clouds and the thunderous crashing of the waves. For the RPG game‘s protagonist, Caz McLeary, the season brings about reflection best not remembered – reminders of a torrid year that has left his life in tatters, ultimately leading to his assignment aboard the offshore platform. A naive effort to put false distance between himself and his life’s problems.

But while escaping to Beira D seemed to be something of an answer to McLeary’s woes, all it will do is bring about new nightmares, almost beyond comprehension…

…Something wicked this way comes.

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Still Wakes the Deep is the next project from The Chinese Room, renowned for its psychological thriller titles such as Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Dear Esther, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. The experience and renown built off the back of those releases will find form in what is looking to be the studio’s biggest and most cinematically driven project to date while evolving its penchant for telling tales of horror, both abstract and within the mind of the protagonist.

At Gamescom, I was invited to try out Still Wakes the Deep’s first gameplay demo, a short preview that offered context-free experiences pulled from McLeary’s terrifying odyssey. We were first shown everyday life aboard Beira D, as a crew of tired men and women worked to carve out a life and society for themselves miles away from the shores of Scotland. The vulgar language and sighing attitudes present people who are, for the most part, weary of their work, yet remain committed to maintaining some semblance of camaraderie. Unfortunately, the sad Christmas decorations do little to mask the dismal, clanking, metallic walls around them.

A red helicopter uses a search light to locate an oil rig in the dark and rain

Moving ahead, an incident known only as ‘The Event’ takes place. An ethereal, otherworldly catastrophe that leaves the crew scattered and the rig in a state of perpetual collapse. As McLeary, you’re tasked with negotiating what remains of Beira D, picking your way through treacherous walkways, collapsed balconies, and hazardous shafts as the whole structure threatens to collapse at any moment. If the dangers posed by the rig itself were not enough, then McLeary is also being pursued by… something. An unseen assailant that skulks the wreckage – inhuman roars bouncing off the walls, pipes, and girders.

McLeary’s journey to find a route to rescue will be hampered not only by the real and unreal dangers, but also by his own human limitations, and the developer is keen to note that our protagonist is no superhero, hampered by their physical limitations and driven by relatable and realistic emotions. The Chinese Room, no stranger to terror, is aiming to capitalize on multiple naturalistic fears to bolster Still Wakes the Deep’s fear factor – with elements of deep water, the dark, heights, confined spaces, and isolation all utilized to present a nerve-wracking physical and psychological experience.

A dark corridor with a door at the end lit by glowing red and orange light

The development team describes the game’s inspiration as “Annihilation meets The Poseidon Adventure,” and while this is extremely clear from the video, it’s also hard not to recognize elements of sci-fi/horror classics The Thing and Alien in the atmosphere and tone of the piece. While still some ways from release, Still Wakes the Deep is shaping up to be a taut, evocative, and tense battle against the unknown. Driven by themes of isolation, guilt, and loneliness, perhaps its ultimate theme will prove to be that of facing your fears. While we can all place distance from that which is chasing us, we all must eventually look our demons in the eye.

Still Wakes the Deep is expected to launch in 2024 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S, so why not check out some other horror games in the meantime to get in the mood? Or, alternatively, we’ve got a list of the best survival games if you love the feeling of having the odds stacked against you. Check out our lists of new PC games and upcoming PC games for more.