You’re probably wondering what the hell ‘barotrauma’ means. In simple terms, it refers to injuries caused by changes in water or air pressure. For divers that can mean burst eardrums or drowning. The latter is what Barotrauma is mostly concerned with, being a game set in a leaky submarine where a watery death awaits the crew if they don’t work together.
Set in an alien ocean on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, Barotrauma is reminiscent of FTL, but on a much larger scale. You view your sub from the side and can freely wander around it as one of several classes including captain, engineer, mechanic, and medic. There are dozens of interaction points around the sub such as lockers, water pumps, engines, and other mechanical stuff that keeps the thing running.
And, inevitably, this stuff is gonna break. Europa’s oceans are filled with alien horrors, and a shunt or a chomp from one of these massive, toothy beasts will damage the sub, letting water in or causing machinery to malfunction. This is when the crew has to spring to action, plugging leaks, sealing bulkheads, pumping water out and repairing things. But that’s easier said than done with up to 16 players per submarine online.
You can play with bots, but multiplayer is where you’ll probably have the most fun in Barotrauma. The scrabble to stop water rushing into part of the sub, trying to get everyone to work together, is massively chaotic. You’ll have to work together to seal off parts of the submarine that are filling with water. Sometimes this involves pulling on a diving suit and swimming down into the flooded depths of the ship. And with every gallon of water that spills in, the likelihood of sinking to the depths and being crushed by the pressure rises.
If you’re joined by 15 friends, communicating with voice chat, patiently following the orders of the captain, you might be alright. But when you’re online, with strangers, you never know what people’s intentions are. Someone might get a kick out of sealing the engineer in a flooding room and drowning them, meaning no one will have the skills necessary to repair the nuclear reactor. Someone might just steer the submarine into a rock, for a laugh. This kind of griefing might be annoying, but it’ll be certain to generate some great stories.
Any player can attempt any role on the sub, but if their class isn’t dedicated to it, it’ll be slower and more likely to fail. If the medic is trying to repair an engine, they might be able to muddle through it, but much less efficiently than an engineer.
It’s not all terrifying sea monsters and leaky hulls, though. There’s exploration to be done in this ocean, and your crew will have to work together to steer the ship and adjust the ballast to ascend and descend.
If the writhing tentacles of one of these Lovecraftian creatures do get a little too close for comfort, you can equip your submarine with weapons systems including turrets and sonar. These can be controlled by players and it’s possible to repel an intruding alien if you work together. But attacking an enemy will just make it mad, and make your sub a target.
Barotrauma comes with a suite of creation tools too, letting you create your own submarines and sea monsters and share them on Steam. There’s also basic scripting in there, similar to redstone in Minecraft, which you can use to create mechanisms and triggers. Barotrauma sounds like a game tailored towards player creation and community, and if it takes off once it enters Early Access in spring, it could be home to some amazing stories.