It’s time to strap on your scuba gear and take a deep dive into the luscious underwater world of Abzu. Developed by Giant Squid Studios and published by 505 Games, Abzu was released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on August 2, 2016. It is one of the two free games on PlayStation Plus this month, so if you own a PS4 you should definitely pick this game up.
Abzu is an underwater exploration adventure game where you play as a mysterious diver left out in the middle of a vast ocean to go explore and open up new locations filled with caverns and ancient architecture. The little bits of storytelling are told through environmental visuals, where not a single word is spoken (very similar to Journey).
The gameplay of Abzu is built around underwater exploration, and for that, you better have amazing swimming mechanics to keep me playing. Well, I can assure you that this is one of the best swimming mechanics I’ve ever used in a game. It is very intuitive and easy to use. Anyone can pick up a controller and start playing with ease. You use the left analog stick to control your character’s direction while pressing R2 to propel you forward, simple as that! The controls are inverted, so if you’re not comfortable with that, you can easily switch them in the options menu. When it comes to other mechanics in the game, there isn’t much, besides pressing the X button to boost your speed, L2 to ride on large sea creatures, and Square to activate objects. There’s no need to worry about survival, as you have no fear of dying in this game. Just kick back, relax and enjoy the sights.
Speaking of enjoying the sights, the graphics are absolutely stunning! From large tangles of seaweed flowing gracefully back and forth, to coral of all varying colors and beautifully crafted architectures, the backdrops are just littered with things to look at. Most prominently, you will be swimming past the abundant ocean life. Colorful schools of fish, sea turtles, all types of sharks, and even giant squids! There’s a point in the game where you will be swimming side by side with massive whales, which make you feel very insignificant in the grand scope of things. Even with all of this going on, the game runs at a constant and smooth 30 fps without any slowdown.
To accompany all these beautiful sights is the orchestral music, performed by Journey composer, Austin Wintory. From soothing orchestral tones to rousing melodies his brilliant use of string instruments and flutes brings the gorgeous world of Abzu to life. Even when the music dissipates, you still have the ambient sounds of the ocean to remind you that you are alone in this long forgotten world.
The one minor gripe I have with Abzu is the story. After playing for roughly 3 hours, I didn’t quite understand what the game was trying to convey to me through it’s visuals. Perhaps if I played through it a second time, I would get more out of the story now that I know what to look for. Nonetheless, this doesn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the game.