‘Abzu’ Review

Platforms PlayStation 4/PC Platform Played PlayStation 4

Genre Adventure Developer Giant Squid Publisher 505 Games

Abzu is a short but memorable experience from developer Giant Squid, taking place in one of world’s most mysterious locations – the depths of the ocean. Developer Giant Squid has done an incredible job at bringing a gorgeous, yet secretive world to life.

When you begin your Abzu adventure you will find yourself controlling a lonesome underwater diver. Abzu focuses on a unique brand of environmental storytelling to offer clues to the diver’s background and existence, and due to this the diver never once utters a single word throughout the adventure; actually there is not a single word of written or spoken dialogue throughout Abzu. Players must piece together the diver’s mysterious connection to the underwater depths for themselves, offering much room for interpretation.

Players will discover hidden artefacts, Egyptian-like underwater murals and other hints to the diver’s story, but nothing is ever clearly explained. Even if players do discover every single clue, there is a fair chance you will leave Abzu knowing very little about the world you just explored. That’s not to say the internet won’t dissect every clue to piece together the diver’s mysterious underwater connection, but due the lack of overall gameplay throughout Abzu’s screen time I found very little incentive to experience the adventure once more. Like its clear inspiration Journey, I feel Abzu is best left with the mysteries of this world undiscovered. After my Abzu adventure was complete I continued to think back to the clues I had found and the possibilities they could be hinting towards, but was never motivated to ensure I had a definite answer to the mystery. As they say – some questions are best left unanswered.

Abzu never informed me of the true goal, instead it merely offered an abundance of beautifully constructed areas to explore at my leisure. While later sections of Abzu require some evasive manoeuvres around obstacles, there does not seem to be any way to die or fail. Aside from the previously mentioned obstacles and a few areas requiring a few easily found objectives to be interacted with before moving on, there is very little in terms of actual gameplay throughout the entire experience. While players will master the well implemented swimming mechanics almost instantly, which allow them to breach from the watery depths in a serene water ballet (or do the exact same thing while holding onto a dolphin) there is almost next to nothing else to do in Abzu. I loved exploring the picturesque beauty of the underwater depths, but others may find the lack of “things to do” draining. Fortunately, Abzu does conclude its memorable experience rather quickly (under 2 hours if players do not choose to explore each area) which meant the lack of options never became an issue for me; but it is best considering this aspect before making your purchase.

The well-implemented swimming mechanics do allow for almost anyone to pick up and enjoy Abzu. Seasoned and casual gamers alike will almost instantly be mesmerised by the beautiful use of colour and almost watercolour-based art style. Each area of Abzu is uniquely coloured and styled creating an epic sense of scale to the adventure taking place. As previously stated Abzu doesn’t allow players to die or fail, and while this may seem off-putting to some, it actually allowed me to truly appreciate Abzu’s beauty without the stress or worry of failure. Abzu is a perfect incarnation of a true relaxing gaming experience, which offers scenic splendour as far as the eye can see, as players swim through schools of colourful fish and underwater wildlife.

Abzu’s visual beauty is only one piece of the serene spectacle, as Abzu contains one of my favourite soundtracks since the likes of Dust: An Elysian TaleBastion, and Fez. The phenomenal orchestral tones would constantly sweep me into the moment, creating some wondrous scenes that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. This incredible soundtrack and elegant visual display worked in perfect unison to create an evocative experience. Abzu may not be the gaming experience every player wants, but the atmospheric greatness created by such an incredible score cannot be denied.

Abzu does reward players that explore outside the main path, with more scenic murals hinting towards the narrative, hidden underwater creatures that can be unlocked and a series of collectables. Abzu also features a selection of Meditation areas, where players can simply sit and view each underwater creature as they go about their underwater life; think back to the classic underwater screensaver almost everyone had on their first PC. This is a perfect opportunity for players wanting to sit back and embrace the beautiful world of the ocean and see its population interact with one another.

Abzu is a serene, gorgeous and memorable experience that will greatly satisfy those who were enamoured by the critically acclaimed Journey. While Abzu is an extremely beautiful ride, I couldn’t help but feel I was merely a passenger throughout this exotic road-trip. But the sights and sounds Abzu possess are second to none, with Abzu producing one of my favourite soundtracks of 2016.

Those who decide to sit back and enjoy this picturesque journey will be greatly satisfied, but those wanting to take the wheel and interact with Abzu’s memorable world may feel disappointed once the credits finally roll.

The Good

  • Gorgeous use of colours.
  • Phenomenal musical score.

The Bad

  • Lack of actual gameplay.

The Score: 8.0