Still Wakes the Deep review: A masterpiece of Lovecraftian horror

Emily Stander
A glowing door in Still Wakes the Deep

Still Wakes the Deep is the brand new narrative-driven horror title from developers The Chinese Room, and it’s proven to be a masterpiece in nightmarish storytelling.


Developers The Chinese Room, known for titles like Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, set out to create an unnerving experience with Still Wakes the Deep and have left us with a masterful story straight out of a Lovecraftian ocean.

I’m an avid horror fan, starting with watching spooky films from way too young right until now where I have a silly amount of hours in games like Phasmophobia. The genre has always been an important part of my media intake, so I was quite excited for the opportunity to dive into this new title.

Still Wakes the Deep is set at Christmas, 1975, just off the coast of Scotland. You play as Cameron “Caz” McLeary, and he’s about to have the worst day of his life.

Caz’s story starts with a bit of mystery, but he’s just a guy trying to get through the day to get back to his family. After he gets fired (we don’t know why), disaster strikes – but it’s something more than a normal explosion.

Key details

  • Price: 34.99 USD/29.99 GBP
  • Developer: The Chinese Room
  • Release Date: June 18, 2024
  • Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S

Building a petrifying atmosphere

Even before the horror starts, existing in Still Wakes the Deep’s oil rig – the Beira D – is uncomfortable. Every step feels like it could be your last, and it’s down to how everything around you reacts and sounds.

Beira D in Still Wakes the Deep
The Beira D serves as the setting for Still Wakes the Deep.

You get into the action pretty quickly, and the terrifying sounds of cracking metal and panicked shouts from the crew perfectly set the tone for what you’re about to experience. 

A small tutorial of sorts ensues near the start where you’re desperately trying to get back to anyone who may know what’s going on, and you’re left facing a creature wrapping itself around the only solid ground you have while you swing and balance from one broken piece of walkway to the next.

Sound design is arguably the most important part of putting together anything in the horror genre, and The Chinese Room nailed it. The creaking metal and explosions of a torn-apart rig bred constant paranoia among the strange singsong-screams of the creatures around me, and there was no moment where I felt safe.

At the same time, this oil rig breaking away piece-by-piece serves as the only thing Caz has any hope of holding on to for an eventual escape. My only comfort became the burnt film markers in the corner of the screen, indicating where the creatures were, but still threatening a fast-progressing psychosis.

Love-crafting characters that stay with you

Still Wakes the Deep pulls you into a story you don’t expect very suddenly – and I couldn’t help but fall in love with many of the charming characters who are trying to help you off this nightmare.

Roy in Still Wakes the Deep
The characters are well-written and will stay with you.

Each cabin is adorned with carefully placed items that tell the realistic story of the lives the people around you are living. In the only moment of peace at the beginning of the game, you get to talk to some of them, and I simply couldn’t help but hope for their safety when all hell broke loose.

Additionally, the game features Scottish dialect and Gaelic prominently, which was quite a fresh experience that only increased the validity that these characters could have been ripped straight from a real-life story.

Caz’s character is revealed through his panicked reactions to the crazy things he has to do to try and escape. One interesting mechanic I thought helped ground the game among the supernatural was how cold he was getting, and having to find heaters to warm up before I could move on to the next section.

Little details like this both added to the realism of these characters and immersed you thoroughly into what it would be like to be in the middle of the North Sea.

His incessant talking to himself in stealth sections did make me shout at my screen for him to shut up, but it made him a real person. Because yes, I too, would also be incredulously asking “What the f*ck?” at every opportunity if I was where Caz is.

Creating a masterful horror experience

Still Wakes the Deep gives you a torch and a screwdriver, and that’s all you have to fight against the creatures ripping everyone and everything around you apart.

Fire in Still Wakes the Deep
Everything around you is breaking in Still Wakes the Deep.

I knew this before I started playing, and at first, I was concerned that the game may become a little too repetitive with each scenario having the same solution. But, to my pleasant surprise, The Chinese Room keeps each encounter freshly horrifying.

Combat is not a focus at all here, with Caz having to instead find his way around creatures and the broken-down rig through vents and frantically fixing parts to try and keep it working until someone comes to rescue him. 

There are stealth sections, but the game uses its atmosphere to stay true to the incomprehensible horror that stems from a Lovecraftian story. I never quite knew what to expect, and this anticipation kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end of the six-hour journey.

At multiple points during the game, I became accustomed to certain hiding points where I knew the creatures chasing me down could not get to me. And, without fault, those spots became unsafe later, instilling even more instability in an already dubious setting.

The linear nature of Still Wakes the Deep meant that the puzzles between encounters were never so difficult that I got frustrated, but the layout of each area on the rig was unfamiliar enough that the panic would settle in quickly. At times, I wasn’t sure where to go, and I was put straight into Caz’s terror.

Monster in Still Wakes the Deep
Creatures start taking over the rig everywhere you look.

Still Wakes the Deep forces you to face your own fear, and especially as someone with a fear of heights, I learned that lesson very quickly. Having to balance along a rickety bridge to get to the other side or dive deep underwater as the only way through some areas inspired some real-life horror stories in my mind. 

The game uses lots of Quick-Time Events to instill a sense of urgency, but they don’t feel slapped in as a resolution for areas where the devs were unsure of what to do. They make sense, they’re stressful, and they felt really good to get right.

The verdict – 5/5

Still Wakes the Deep is a triumphant addition to the horror genre, and besides the usual one or two bugs one would expect to find in any game, I can’t find much to fault it with. 

The horror genre often resorts to the “humans were the bad guys all along” cliche, and I am so pleased to report that the ending of Still Wakes the Deep is one I will keep with me for a very long time.

The gameplay is simple, but the narrative focus on the game means that if it were more complicated it would have detracted from what the devs really wanted you to experience – a lovingly crafted atmosphere and story within the horror.

This love that went into creating Still Wakes the Deep shines through at every moment, and it’s an absolute must-play, especially if you’re a horror fan.