Stranded Deep: Procedurally generated Castaway

The experiences of Tom Hanks’ character in the 2000 film Castaway were harrowing, difficult, and sometimes horrific all factors that seem like they could make a great video game. Australian developer Beam Team Games doesn’t openly cite Castaway as an influence, but it’s hard not to recall the film after spending even a few minutes with Stranded Deep.

Currently available on Steam as an Early Access title, Stranded Deep begins on the posh, personal airliner of a presumably wealthy lone passenger. Something goes wrong and the plane goes down, forcing the sole passenger the player to jump on an emergency raft, find refuge, and survive on a nearby small island.


My experience included chopping down trees to collect sticks with the goal of crafting a fire, getting distracted by a separate island in the far distance, and playing chicken with a shark in the ocean on the way to see what the other island could possibly hold. It was potatoes, mostly, and a few coconuts. I also tried eating a few crabs I found socializing on the beach, but threw up immediately.

Your experience, however, could be completely different. After each plane crash, the world is procedurally generated, meaning your islands differ from my own. Even the ocean floor changes.

Beam Team’s goal is to develop a world that doesn’t rely on supernatural elements to inspire fear, but instead uses a sophisticated, realistic simulation to showcase the difficulty of survival when all you have at your disposal are the few items you thought to grab from the sinking plane on the way to the water’s surface.

A crafting system allows you to combine your collected island items in a way that will be familiar to Minecraft players. You can build weapons like spears to hunt sharks, traps to use in lieu of a fishing rod, and even, eventually, craft a comfortable domicile.

This style of game has become popular recently, but Stranded Deep’s focus on realism and the desert island setting gives it a good shot of standing apart. Day and night pass in real time, shark fins bounce on the surface of the water as an obstacle between yourself and your faraway goals, and the ocean moves and even foams at the coast as it should in nature.

Even as an Early Access title, Stranded Deep already feels well-realized, though its mechanics and functions have all yet to fall into place. Where most survival titles rely on the undead  and the generosity or greed of other live players, Stranded Deep relies on good-old-fashioned fear of being alone without your cellphone in the middle of nowhere.

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