Take a deep dive into underwater city builder Aquatico

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Underwater cities don't have the best track record—it's hard not to think of the lost city of Atlantis, the perils and disasters of Sealab 2020, and of course Bioshock, where Andrew Ryan turned Rapture into a violent theme park filled with psychopathic slicers and giggling vampire children.

But let's give a city at the bottom of the sea another try, shall we? In undersea city builder Aquatico (opens in new tab), the surface of Earth has become unlivable (that's certainly easy to believe) so humanity is forced to start over on the ocean floor. And this time, you're in charge. A new deep dive gameplay trailer from publisher Overseer Games you can watch above lays out the various systems and methods you'll use to build a thriving underwater civilization in Aquatico. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm?

Things aren't quite as simple as they might be on the surface, since everything your city needs, including oxygen, electricity, and oil have to be transported via pipelines to all of your various buildings. A power outage doesn't just mean the lights go out, but also the temperature plunges because you're leagues deep surrounded by dark, frigid water. And I don't have to spell out the importance of keeping up the air supply. Aboveground cities may struggle with pollution and traffic snarls, but citizens rarely asphyxiate if a pipe bursts.

Construction materials like iron, glass, and plastic can be gathered from the ocean floor, traded for with other undersea bases, or manufactured by your own industrial buildings. I guess it's nice that all that plastic we carelessly dumped into the sea for decades can still be put to use—now you can build stuff with it.

While you can employ fleets of aquatic drones to perform jobs like building, gathering, and even food production, don't forget the reason you're doing all this hard work: to support a human population. That's where undersea domes come in, along with the Aquatico's multi-level building system. Above your busy factories and network of pipelines you can place huge oxygen-filled domes for your human citizens where they can have a home, raise a family, go to restaurants and schools and church, and enjoy all the comforts of the surface world. They can even have pets—you can catch a glimpse of dogs and cats strolling around under the domes along with all the people.

And since the depths of the ocean are still largely unknown, you'll be able to build submarines to explore the abyss to locate new resources, find lost human settlers and bring them back to your city, and possibly even discover mysterious new forms of undersea life.

Aquatico is due out January 12 (opens in new tab), and there's a free demo you can  play ahead of its release. I played it back in September and enjoyed the finely detailed buildings and animations, the chill sci-fi soundtrack, and watching my little submersible drones growing kelp on undersea farms. There's also a new diary posted today by developer Digital Reef Games on Aquatico's elaborate food system (opens in new tab). I just hope your citizens like fish.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.