‘Surviving The Abyss’ manages to make city-builders scary again

Terror in the deep

Something is out there in the dark. Surviving The Abyss, the latest colony sim in the Surviving series, doesn’t explicitly give you a reason to be scared. There’s no Jurassic Park water glass moment as a monstrous sea creature approaches through the inky blackness.

Nonetheless, there’s definitely something out there. Its presence hangs over Surviving The Abyss, just out of reach of the towering lights that illuminate the ocean floor around your undersea colony, keeping it safe from the unknown.

Not that the known is any less scary. In Surviving The Abyss, you’re tasked with running a deep-sea science facility to master human cloning. From the moment you’re plunged into the abyss, though, you’re responsible for turning it into a self-sufficient colony, making sure there’s enough food to eat, air to breathe and power to keep everything ticking. As you grow, you’ll need more crew to man the stations, but you’ll handle that yourself too, cloning willing workers using biomass picked up from the sea creatures.

Surviving the Abyss undersea lighting
Surviving the Abyss credit: Paradox Interactive

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These first clones will be lucky to survive two months, riddled with mutations and a bunch of other quirks that happen when you mix human DNA with that of a clownfish. You’ll never see these colonists, instead you’ll see them in the submarines that trawl the ocean floor, the transportation subs that roll from place to place and the softly lit corridors.

The building itself is fairly relaxed, although you’ll have to consider how buildings like your coal generators might impact air quality, installing purifiers or building garden domes to try and keep your colonists happy and healthy. There are multiple research trees you can spend your way down by blowing research points generated by your labs, unlocking more efficient buildings but also fun stuff like docks or science buildings.

Surviving The Abyss. Credit: Paradox Arc.
Surviving The Abyss. Credit: Paradox Arc.

It could be because I have a lifelong fear of deep water, but there’s something oppressive about the dark depths, so much so that survival here feels tougher than in the franchise’s other titles Surviving Mars and Surviving the Aftermath. You’re doing the same thing you do in other colony sims in that you’re getting resources and using them to thrive and survive in harsh conditions, it’s just that the location here feels so desolate and cold.

I haven’t been to the bottom of the sea (lifelong fear of water), or Mars (game journalists are not natural astronaut candidates) but they both seem pretty hard to survive in. However, while Surviving Mars paints an optimistic picture of living amongst the stars, here on earth, deep below sea-level, the cold war setting and general tone makes it feel like thriving down here is going to be an uphill struggle.

People are going to die, even if that’s just the hundreds of clones you’ll churn through in the pursuit of science.

It’s too early in the game’s Early Access cycle to actually recommend it, but Surviving The Abyss is looking promising, even at this stage. Regular updates could make this the colony builder to watch in 2023.

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Surviving The Abyss is available on PC. 

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