When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Reviews / Console games / Still Wakes the Deep review: beyond the sea

Still Wakes the Deep review: beyond the sea

It’s not so nice up North in this 70s-set psychological horror

Still Wakes The Deep review oil rig

Stuff Verdict

A gripping, nerve-shredding and masterfully written horror game. Still Wakes the Deep is dripping with atmosphere and character.


  • Immersive visuals and sound design
  • Authentic Scottish dialogue and performances
  • Well-paced journey through a believable setting


  • Swimming can get in the sea
  • A few annoying glitches


One effective way to make something scary? When the characters you usually think are real hard lads are also utterly terrified. That’s something done extremely well in Still Wakes The Deep, a first-person horror game set on an oil rig whose personnel are primarily men who swear like sailors and wouldn’t hesitate getting physical to make themselves heard.

It’s also a considerable step-up for developer The Chinese Room, better known for its thoughtful first-person narratives – or walking simulators – though it’s also dabbled in horror in the past, such as Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. A bigger budget with more immediate and tangible stakes has only strengthened the studio’s knack for crafting mature and sophisticated storytelling.

After last year’s excellent A Highland Song, this also may well be the most Scottish game you’ll ever play – though it’s probably not one for the wee bairns.

Well oil be

Glaswegian electrician Caz McLeary has taken a job on a remote oil rig, the Beira D, in the North Sea – mostly to get away from a ruckus with the law he’s hoping will blow over by the time he’s back. That plan quickly goes pear-shaped, with a letter from his wife threatening divorce and a call from the police to his new boss. But owning up to his responsibilities becomes the least of Caz’s worries when the drilling crew discover something monstrous, or perhaps alien, deep in the sea.

The Chinese Room’s most well-known games, such as the BAFTA-winning Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and many other first-person narrative indies have created beautifully detailed and photorealistic environments – but then have stories that unravel after the fact where no one’s present. That gets around the issue of creating and animating realistic human characters, which usually requires a much bigger budget. Still Wakes The Deep isn’t about exploring the aftermath of a disaster; it’s being right in the thick of it.

The opening is effective at establishing the Beira D and introducing its crew before everything goes horribly wrong. While you never see Caz’s face, he’s nonetheless very present when looking down at his feet or seeing his hands interact with items.

It’s to the studio’s credit that even with this more immediate realism, the game excels at immersing you through its authentic environments, which feels like a real oil rig from the 1970s rather than gamey levels. It only jars a little that it’s still broken up in between loading screens.

Next-jennie scares

Most outstanding is the audio. With most of its voice cast hailing from Scotland, accents and vernacular are kept faithfully intact – and with no effort made to translate. If it helps, ‘leccy’ means electricity, while ‘jennie’ means generator. Profanity flies casually and frequently, without ever feeling gratuitous.

At times, it’s also rather apt; chances are you’ll be swearing to yourself whenever Caz does, as you navigate treacherous vertigo, claustrophobia and thalassophobia-inducing environments. And that’s before even getting to whatever monstrous thing has taken over the oil rig. I’ll avoid spoiling just exactly what kind of threat awaits, though what you eventually see often pales compared to the chilling sound design – whether that’s the screams of your colleagues or something that’s just surely not of this world.

Don’t expect to be fighting whatever lurks in the shadows. These moments are more linear than say the stealthy evasion required in Alien: Isolation. While there are lockers you can hide in, it’s more a case of finding things to throw to distract whatever’s after you before being forced to make a break for it. One mechanic you’re given is the ability to immediately swing the camera around to see what’s behind you, a feature I briefly considered than thought, “Nope.”

Caz isn’t an athletic bloke (as you can tell from his flailing arms), but the Beira D still demands a good degree of physicality. From operating heavy machinery to jimmying locks with a screwdriver, all use straightforward input prompts. The most exertion comes from having to hold the right trigger as you grip onto ladders or ledges, occasionally keeping you on your toes by another sudden prompt to do the same with the left trigger.

Get in the sea

Even with the oppressive atmosphere of dread permeating throughout, the game finds its moments of levity; the frequent trophies/achievements that pop up are a good source of jokes. Admittedly, it’s also the coarseness of the dialogue that gives a much needed laugh just when things are feeling dire. Amid some pretty gruesome sights, it’s a reminder of both humanity, vulnerability and the desperate will to survive, even when it all seems utterly bleak.

At a tight five-hours, the game rarely puts a foot wrong in its pacing. It’s quite linear, albeit with sections where you’re returning to a previous area in different conditions, but the urgency of the situation means you rarely feel the friction of forced barriers without it feeling plausible. Even the industry-wide use of yellow paint to mark waypoints feels more subtle and grounded.

It’s not entirely without blemishes. On one occasion when I was being chased, I was dying repeatedly because I kept getting caught, only to finally escape without understanding what I had done differently. There were also glitches where I got stuck between scenery, though I eventually wrangled out of it without being forced to restart a checkpoint. And for those who aren’t into swimming sections, not least sequences where there is a real chance of drowning… well, you might not be too pleased with the game’s latter half.

Nonetheless, these are but a few damp patches that can be easily forgiven when the overall experience leaves you overwhelmed with emotion. Whether that’s fearing for your life, heartbreak for the poor souls who don’t make it or the horror of what’s become of them, or just sheer relief that you’re still alive and breathing. Probably not the kind of game you’d think of playing in the summer, but one that truly captures the Scottish ‘dreich’.

Still Wakes The Deep verdict

Breaking out of those walking sim expectations from the previous decade, Still Wakes The Deep is The Chinese Room’s most accomplished game yet. As a first-person horror game, its stakes and human drama are immediate and keep your heart pounding with every treacherous step. Its detailed art direction and unnerving sound design add to the oppressive and immersive experience. But it’s the studio’s talent for sophisticated and mature storytelling that’s what makes it memorable.

Caz may be flawed, and you may question why escaping to an oil rig was ever a good idea compared to just facing his troubles back on the mainland – but by the end, you can’t imagine not being in his shoes and gripping on for dear life.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A gripping, nerve-shredding and masterfully written horror game dripping with atmosphere and character.


Immersive visuals and sound design

Authentic Scottish dialogue and performances

Well-paced journey through a believable setting


Swimming can get in the sea

A few annoying glitches

Profile image of Alan Wen Alan Wen


Stuff contributor

Areas of expertise