Somewhere deep within the ocean, two underwater forces are battling for supremacy. It’s a war that will rage from one end of the ocean to the other, and you’re invited to take part. But take heed: This isn’t a fight for the timid.

Deep Quest is a rarity in casual games: A real-time strategy (RTS). If you’re not familiar, think of it as a war game where you control all of the forces. You decide which units go to war, how many of certain types of fighters are trained, which resources you’ll harvest to aid in your effort, how you’ll use them, etc.

Your side (the Abyssians) is as war with the Gordlons. Throughout the game, you’ll rise from just controlling a handful of ground forces to being in charge of large armies. That may sound daunting, but the game does a good job of holding your hand and explaining to you exactly how each of the units (healers, long-range fighters, etc.) work.

Basically, you’ll draw a box around several of your soldiers to form them into a group. As you tromp this group along towards whatever objective they have, they’ll occasionally encounter some enemy resistance. When that happens, making them fight requires little more than clicking on the baddies, though later characters will require a bit more strategy than just throwing them at bad guys.

All the while, you’re supplied back at home by two resources (crystal and magma) which allow you to build more troops and training facilities. You have a team of builders at your service, and they handle all of the harvesting and creating structures.

If you’re familiar with the real-time strategy genre at all, you probably won’t need much handling though. In fact, you could knock Deep Quest a bit for how derivative it is of other games in the RTS genre. But that would be to miss its greatest feat, which is how it makes one of the hardest of hardcore genres into something that anybody can pick up and play. (That said, it may not be for everyone. Even some children old enough to see characters offing each other with tridents may get stuck on some of the later levels.)

Even if you already know RTSs like the back of your hand, the underwater setting and really attractive character design help it to feel pretty fresh. The nautical characters are also brought to life by some quality voice-over work. Though there’s not a ton of it, what’s here is very well done.

The music is nice too, managing to strike a good balance between being appropriately regal and somewhat whimsical. We only wish there was more of it than the few tracks that endlessly repeat though out the game. That said, we do like how the music changes depending on what you’re doing.

Overall, it’s a slick, easy-to-look-at presentation. Unfortunately, that’s part of what makes it so frustrating when the game occasionally stumbles.

Perhaps it’s to be expected with such an ambitious casual game, but the experience is occasionally marred by the odd technical glitch. For example, the path-finding on some of the characters is occasionally weird, which is to say that you might order them to a specific location, only to come back and find them repeatedly running into a wall. In another instance, a boss character that I needed to kill had somehow embedded itself into a cliff, making it impossible for me to continue. These issues aren’t really deal-breakers though, just make it a policy to save fairly often.

The bigger problem (and the one that’s likely to turn some people off) is the way that the difficulty of the game occasionally spikes. For example, at one point fairly early in the game, you’ll have to escort an injured character back to your home base to beat a level. If they should lag behind or if they just get ambushed, they can die in seconds. That translates to you having to start a lengthy level all the way back at the beginning. Again, the advice from the technical problems holds true: Save often.

We wish that we could recommend this whole-heartedly, there’s a lot of imagination throughout the title, and the basic mechanic of gathering forces and waging war is a very compelling one. But with some of the ways the game falls short, it’s hard to endorse fully.

Perhaps, what really defines how much you’ll get out of the game is patience. If you have the patience to deal with technical issues and difficultly that rises and falls unpredictably, you may want to take the plunge with Deep Quest. If that all sounds to you like an exercise in frustration, you may be better off staying on dry land.