Abzu is a unique journey brought to us by Giant Squid Studios. Giant Squid was founded by Matt Nava who was the art director for Flower and Journey, so he a has proven himself before with unique indie games. Little was known about the game before it’s release other than it was an underwater adventure of sorts. The game is finally out and it’s, well hard to put into words exactly.
Abzu starts with your character floating on the surface of the ocean. You are told to dive and little else. From there you guide your character through various chapters representing some of the different biomes of the ocean, as well as wholly unique areas. How to play, what your objectives are, and what the story is is never plainly stated. You move forward, follow the clues in the way each of the areas are developed and laid out, and the rest is up to you. It’s a simplistic game, but that’s hardly a flaw. The beauty of an experience like this lays in it’s simplicity. You can’t die, objectives are not difficult, instead of focusing on those aspects of gameplay it allows gamers to just experience. The game is peaceful, ethereal, and a delight for people that love the ocean and marine life.
Controls are solid. Water levels are notorious for being difficult to control in other games. Abzu separates itself solidly from that reputation with very tight and smooth controls. I only found myself struggling with the awkwardness of being underwater one or two times, and they were likely more my fault than the game itself. It may not seem that important, but the reality is it could make or break this game. If swimming was a struggle (as it can be in games) then it would have seriously harmed the overall experience.
The art design is amazing. While everything has a rather artistic touch there was great care in making the marine animals look at least partially realistic. They aren’t ripped out of the pages of a science text book, but there was important attention to detail to help them reflect the actual animals, while still fitting into the setting. The environment itself varies. Some are more reflective of our oceans, just with a more imaginative touch. Other areas step away from that realism even more and go straight into a dream like place. The music blends in perfectly, it’s very poetic and drives the momentum.
Frankly it’s hard to really describe the game, as it’s meant to be experienced. It is something that you can easily get lost in. If I were to complain I would say it’s a little short, and a little too guided at times. That being said it is something that you could repeat, and revisiting chapters to see what you might have missed is worth it.
If you like more artistic games, this is for you. It’s a game that focuses more on the experience than actually being a game. It’s compelling and lovely. If you like your games with a bit more meat you might want to wait for it to go on sale.