Barotrauma Review

2023-10-12 by George P

  • Reviewed on

  • Platforms


  • Developer
    FakeFish, Undertow Games

  • Publisher
    Daedalic Entertainment

The Depths of Europa

Barotrauma is a co-op survival horror sci-fi submarine simulator with RPG and crew management elements. In an alternate future, human expeditions have colonized Jupiter’s moon Europa in pursuit of the treasure and knowledge hidden within it. As the decades passed, the settlements of Europa slowly but steadily evolved into a new and independent society. Contact with Earth was eventually lost. With no resources imported from home, the citizens of this alien moon are now called to carry out the brutal task of surviving alone. The world that Barotrauma asks you to embrace is a bleak and hostile one. A world where a sense of dread, alarm, and despair constantly follows the steps of every one of its inhabitants.

As a submarine captain, this is a feeling you will understand all too well. You find yourself deep into the abyss, in the middle of an uncharted and seemingly endless ocean. Darkness is threatening and omnipresent. The flickering lights of your vessel are not be enough to light the path. Sounds of creaking metal and the steadily beeping sonar accompany you on this hopeless journey. An atmosphere of unease and anguish haunts the cold hull of the submarine. In the distance, you swear you heard a growl that only a monstrous creature could make, but maybe that was just your imagination. Will you make it to your destination in one piece or will you drown in the unknown depths of Europa? The art style of Barotrauma is one that I definitely would not consider appealing if I viewed it outside of the game itself. However, within the game’s universe, the art direction can only be described as absolutely fitting. The mushy textures, the off-putting lighting, and the grotesquely realistic style, all fit perfectly with Barotrauma’s dark ambience and merciless world. It’s an art direction that’s neither beautiful nor charming but works nonetheless within the game’s vision. This brings us to the vital question, what is Barotrauma’s design vision?

Something Different

Barotrauma earns the characterization “simulator” not because it is a realistic depiction of life in a submarine, but rather because the game is remarkably sandbox-y. Other nautical titles such as Sea of Thieves for example restrict the player to a specific formula in order to provide a curated and more polished overall experience. Barotrauma instead offers a very different perspective. This is a game that is not particularly concerned with curating or “safeguarding” the gameplay loop. It is much more interested in equipping players with a plethora of tools that will in turn allow them to craft and customize their own experience as they wish. This is particularly visible in the way the submarines of the game are designed to work. A vessel in Barotrauma is not a singular entity (as in Sea of Thieves for example) but is rather composed of hundreds of micro-components. These range from structural material to energy appliances, to security devices, to movement instruments, to specialized tools, and much more. Barotrauma even includes an in-game editor that allows you to construct your own submarine from scratch (whether it’s actually going to work or not is of course another question!). There is a great deal of depth and complexity, not just in terms of how these components function individually, but also in terms of understanding how all the submarine’s different systems interact with each other. The game certainly has a steep learning curve but this is actually one of the elements I enjoyed the most. The lack of comprehensive tutorials and excessive hand-holding allowed for a sense of curiosity and discovery when it came to understanding the inner workings of the submarine.

Combined with the inherently dark and mysterious aura of Barotrauma’s work, this element of individual discovery makes the overall experience much more intense and exciting (albeit quite confusing in the first few hours). However, the game is not entirely sandbox as it also utilizes traditional design concepts to create a more focused gameplay loop. This is most visible in the way the campaign mode is structured. The campaign map is divided into pre-defined clusters all containing different kinds of preset objectives that the player can choose to pursue. These range from transferring goods between stations to escorting unarmed personnel to hunting down gigantic monstrosities, to raiding bandit outposts, to deciphering the secrets of ancient ruins and more.

The Boring, the Janky, and Beyond

This loop of moving from cluster to cluster to complete a variety of objectives while simultaneously managing your crew and your logistics is interesting, engaging, and quite immersive. Until it is eventually not. For me, there was unfortunately a point in the game where I started becoming desensitized to the whole process. Going through the motions of the loop began to feel more like completing a list of chores rather than embarking on an epic adventure. I think many players will eventually encounter a similar time point in their experience. A time point where feelings of routine blandness will slowly replace feelings of discovery and excitement.

Another characteristic of Barotrauma that I believe many will view negatively is the fact that it is a very janky game. Jank is so ubiquitous throughout the experience that it would be genuinely difficult to imagine Barotrauma without it. Surprisingly, unlike the issue of eventual boredom, this is not something that particularly bothered me. And to add, I would never expect a sandbox game with as much freedom as Barotrauma, to have anywhere near the same level of polish as a more streamlined and curated title. To conclude, I believe there is absolutely a dedicated audience for Barotrauma. And I am certain that a great number of players belonging to different niches will be able to get hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of the game. For me personally, there were multiple aspects of the experience that Barotrauma offers which I highly appreciated. Especially, the immersive sense of curious discovery as well as the moments of either heart-pounding intensity or comforting relief. However, for me, Barotrauma worked more as a one-time novel experience rather than a replayable one. As a result, I would probably not revisit the game in the future.


Barotrauma is a co-op survival submarine simulator with RPG and crew management elements set in a viciously dark sci-fi world. The game offers an engaging, intense, and remarkably distinct experience defined by a high level of sandbox-style freedom. Unfortunately, some players may find Barotrauma repetitive and boring after a relatively early point during the adventure. Additionally, many can be turned off by the lack of polish and refinement in certain areas of the game.