Decoding the Language and Story of Submerged


When it comes to finding secrets in games I usually don’t last long before turning to a FAQ or forums. Chasing down tchotchkes is fun for a while but when it comes down to the last few I always prioritize my time over energy exerted. In contrast I seem to willingly hook myself on deciphering real and fictional languages in games. Dinosaur Hunting and Spelunker Z are both Japanese exclusives with small fan bases so understanding them required me to put in the work to climb the language barrier. Once the cipher was discovered in Fez I was right there with everyone else, jotting down symbols and translating the esoteric poetry.

For Submerged it was an excuse to stick with the game after finishing the main adventure. The story is easy enough to piece together as you slowly unlock new pictograms drawn by Miku. Her journal details the story of how she and her brother ended up in this strange city as well as the creatures and landmarks she discovers. The really interesting part is the “City’s Story”, a collection of 60 pictograms that are hidden throughout the game and tell the greater story of what happened to this world. Every pictogram is accompanied by four alphabetical characters and with the promise of more context I couldn’t help but have a go at decoding it.

So I did. I’m no master codebreaker or linguist though and I’m definitely not bragging. Ed Orman at Uppercut Games clearly did a lot of work to create the alphabet, but it wasn’t hard to decode. After he dropped a hint about the game’s logo I was off and crackin’. Since all the words are based on English it was easy to sound out and guess at the rest and after a couple mix ups I had my cipher.

If you’ve finished the game and want to know more, have a look at this gallery. But be aware: SPOILERS! Even seeing the pictograms gives away most of what you get out of the game. If the idea of a sunken metropolis and a game of exploration is at all interesting to you I recommend playing it yourself. Then come back and we can chat. If that doesn’t bother you then, by all means, click on in!

I’ve translated every bit of text I could find in the game including the achievement icons. My rough alphabet cipher is also included if you want to do some decoding (or encoding) of your own. Maybe use it for your fan fiction, I dunno.

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  • Sarah @ Well Dined

    AWESOME! Thank you!

  • Oni

    Thank you for your hard work in decoding the alphabet, it really helps explain the history of the world better, despite the fact I still can’t understand what some of the acronyms might mean. What is the Mass? The Remnants are actually copies? It makes more questions that I wish there was a larger fandom for this game to make theories of.

    • I’m glad you found it and it was helpful! It’s been over a year since I played it so my head cannon is a little rusty but I think my interpretation was an alien meteor that brought a virus after mankind already messed up the planet.

      But now that I see it again it seems more like Earth got tired of people messing it up and released a virus/algae to restore balance. The animals don’t seem to mind being green now and the people are ominous but turn out to be friendly. I don’t think it’s clones or replacing people but after so long that’s just how humans are now.

      It definitely raises more questions like you said!

  • SMattison

    I like how most ‘words’ are four letters, with the exception of ‘end’. Even when two or more words are needed, they are condensed, as in ‘we ate’ becoming WEAT, ‘we became sad’ became WESD, ‘Miku took the booze’ becoming MKBZ, and ‘Taku stopped his father’ as TKST. At least, that’s how I imagine it goes. I’m sure the authors encourage personal interpretation, but in some places, I’m stumped. NDHL, WRHL, and FNHL seem like Need/Where/Find Help. Maybe the the CT stands for City, as in Miku getting Help from the City. Could MSAL and MSPL mean Moss-All and Moss-People? And CTMS stands for a City covered in Moss…
    And I’m sure RECD stands for ‘Recede’ but I prefer to think it stands for Rekt! 😉

    Before I started playing, I imagined the letters under the title stood for the letters of Submerged, but of course they don’t.

    • I am now changing it to stand for rekt! haha I love it. I didn’t put it together until now but the first panel where you see the big green blob it says “MASS”. So MSAL and MSPL could be “Mass All” and “Mass People”. But it does look very mossy so that works too!