PC Games

Published on March 15th, 2024 | by Marc Rigg

Highwater Review

Highwater Review Marc Rigg

Summary: A unique, story-driven take on the post-apocalypse with an emphasis on its story, characters, and exploration.



The post-apocalyptic scenario is often one of doom and gloom, brownish grey colour palettes and filled with bandits running around, with what looks like half a car haphazardly strapped to them. So, when a game is released that is set after the world has ended, and it be vibrant and colourful, full of life, and not overtly miserable, it’s worth taking a closer look at.

Enter Highwater, developed by Demagog Studio.

Set in the flooded region of Hightower, an area ravaged by the ‘Great Climate Catastrophe’ and war, Highwater follows the journey of Nikos and his companions as they make a break for freedom, searching for a rumoured rocket heading for Mars to escape the doomed planet.


It’s a pleasantly light-hearted look at the end of the world, presented in a visual style reminiscent of Jet Set Radio, DREDGE, and Borderlands. Low poly characters and environments in a not quite cell-shaded world. Highwater is very nice to look at despite not being the most detailed or having the highest graphical fidelity in the world.

The moment-to-moment gameplay is split into three distinct sections. Firstly, there’s the traversal of the flooded city. A relaxing journey around the world, largely free from any serious obstacles or hinderances. Your boat controls a little stiffly and the lack of independent camera control makes navigation occasionally a little annoying, but overall, it’s a good experience.

Secondly, there are on-foot sections. Taking place on the many islands, rooftops, and ruins that protrude from the water. These sections feature a lot of the story moments, as it’s where most of the other characters can be found. Collectibles scattered around the world fill in some of the lore and events that lead to the world being how it is. Most of the gameplay in these sections is spent wandering around, looking for people to advance the story or engage in combat with.

This leads us to the third gameplay avenue, combat. Taking the form of turn-based tactical battles, using a grid for movement and simple mechanics. The environment is often featured heavily in these battles. Car doors can be picked up or torn off and used as makeshift shields, damaged pylons pushed over to cause havoc, and bits of the scenery moved or destroyed to create and remove cover.

It’s usually necessary to engage with the interactive elements of the environment if you’re to survive. Your party is often outnumbered and outgunned, often literally so. Early on you’re pitched against thugs with assault rifles, and you’re armed with an oar and a fishing rod. Battles are often puzzle-like in nature because of this. It’s not a system that’s overly burdened with depth, but it works well enough.

Much of Highwater is spent listening to an in-game radio, presented by a DJ in a similar way to Jet Set Radio. His delivery comes across as a little odd at times, occasionally feeling inorganic and a little off. Often not helped during the boating sections, his softly spoken, monotone voice frequently being overcome by the boats’ engine noise.

All of the radio station’s music is original and created for Highwater, and for the most part, I did not like it. There isn’t anything especially wrong with it I suppose. It’s all very calm and ‘floaty’ for lack of a better word. How it was used reminded me of Death Stranding during some of the quieter traversal sections, though without anywhere near the same impact.

Final Thoughts?

I initially went into Highwater quite eager to discover the world and engage with the characters, however, I ended up tiring of it relatively quickly. For the most part, I found the story uninteresting and the gameplay quite dull. What began as small niggles, minor annoyances like not having any camera control, or your companions standing in narrow doorways blocking your path began to frustrate over time.

Occasionally dialogue would occur between two parties, with one of them being partially or entirely off of the screen, including their dialogue box, meaning what was being said couldn’t be read. On the more positive side of things, Highwater runs tremendously well, and any hardware from the last ten years shouldn’t have any issues whatsoever.

Highwater has very clearly been made by a team with a lot of passion and is by no means what I’d call a bad game. Unfortunately, it just fell a little flat for me.

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