The horror game where architecture is your true enemy

Set on an oil rig, Still Wakes the Deep takes a classic horror theme and places the distortion of a safe space at the centre of the narrative.

It’s a staple of horror and science fiction. Gather a group of people. Lock them away in the middle of nowhere – be it a research outpost, a ship, a spaceship, or just a house. These settings span space, the ocean, and dense forests. Soon enough, a monstrous presence infiltrates their midst. From Gordon Pym to True Detective, from Alien to The Cabin in the Woods and The Fog, these monsters show how fragile humans are against the raw power of nature. We crumble. And that is the chilling premise of Still Wakes the Deep, the latest creation from The Chinese Room, known for Dear Esther and the highly anticipated Bloodlines 2 from the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG series.

Still Wakes the Deep blends John Carpenter’s The Thing with Ken Loach, Midsommar with first-person exploration, and a touch of Die Hard. The game is set on an oil rig in 1975, just before Christmas. Our protagonist, Caz, is an ordinary electrician with no extraordinary abilities. He’s one of many isolated men in the vast North Sea, their voices echoing with a distinct Scottish lilt. The massacre is just around the corner, but on the platform, in the cafeteria, and in the work areas, it seems like a normal day’s work.

At first glance, the game might remind you of other first-person survival horror games like Resident Evil or Prey. But there’s no fighting here, no combat system, which has sent many video game critics into a tizzy. Or rather, there is a battle – but a more subtle one. As a monstrous force engulfs the rig, Caz must save his own skin by confronting the rig’s architecture, meticulously reconstructed and then destroyed by the game’s creators.

Caz’s true enemy is not the monster itself but the devastating effect the monstrous event has on reality. The geography of the platform is completely turned upside down and thrown into chaos. Every point of reference slips into a universe of nonsense. Some sections collapse, others are taken over by the creature. Caz’s adventure is an extreme walking simulator, half lost in a labyrinth, half trying to create a new personal map. He jumps along walkways that collapse as he passes, crawls through ventilation ducts, and redesigns paths between warped corridors and engine rooms where creepy creatures roam. Friends and colleagues are scattered about, and the monster lurks around every corner. The irrational is everywhere.


The architecture of an oil platform is a work of functionality, with a lot of engineering and everything clearly laid out. The platform provides a safe haven in the midst of the hostile ocean. There are maps, precise signage, watertight doors. For those who work there, it is the most reliable ally. Still Wakes the Deep shows what happens when that home in the sea becomes your worst enemy. And there is nothing more terrifying than a home that no longer welcomes you but frightens you.

We played Still Wakes the Deep using an Xbox Game Pass subscription from Microsoft.

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