Oceans are…weird. Or the oceans that most people are used to, December jaunts to beaches that resemble a collection of bobble-heads dipping with the ebb and flow of the tides. But to really appreciate the beauty of the seas, you’ve got to take a page out of the Disney animation book and go under the sea. Because down where it’s wetter, it truly is better.
Strapping a tank of compressed oxygen onto your back and falling into a blue abyss might not be everybody’s idea of a good time, but it’s something that I’d highly recommend you do at least once in your life. There’s a certain serenity when you find yourself sinking to the bottom of an ocean, a tranquil calm that settles over you as you find yourself exploring the life aquatic.
That’s the kind of game that Abzu is. A soothing swim through digital waters that feels utterly cathartic. With a pedigree of developers that stretches back to the team behind Journey, there’s certainly some shared DNA swimming around here. But where Abzu differs, is in its relaxed approach. There’s a path to take here, but it’s connected by vast arenas of underwater beauty that captures the sheer majesty of an empty ocean or the abundance of life present in more crowded forests of seaweed and coral.
Abzu takes it a step further, even offering a meditation mode to drown out any distractions present. And while there are some puzzles present alongside more scripted moments, Abzu largely leaves you to your own devices instead of pressuring you to solve a mystery that connects the game to its multiple facets.
Maybe that’s the key takeaway here, the beauty of mystery. Of not knowing what comes next and swimming headfirst into the unknown. Abzu’s swimming controls are tight and reliable, but it’s only real fault lies in the fact that your actions never truly feel consequential in a meaningful way. There’s an end point you’ll find yourself floating towards eventually, but Abzu is definitely a case of the journey being more rewarding than the final destination.
Whale hello there
A journey worth undertaking however, as Abzu oozes beauty with its minimalism and a soundtrack that knows exactly when to shift between being dynamic and calming. There’s a scale to the ocean that can only truly be appreciated when you’re deep inside of it, but Abzu still manages to communicate ideas that are normally exclusive to scuba divers with some clever camera angles that truly makes you appreciate your environment.