Game Review: Abzû (Xbox One)

Abzû is an adventure video game developed by Giant Squid Studios. A studio made up of many of the creative minds behind Journey. If that alone doesn’t make Abzû sound like something worth playing then hopefully my review will do just that. I called Journey a game that every lover of the medium should experience, you can check out my review here. Anyway, I’m here to talk about Abzû. Directed by Matt Nava, the ocean setting of Abzû was both a reaction to the desert setting of Journey and inspired by Nava’s love of scuba diving.

In the game you explore the vast ocean as a mysterious diver. The primary objective of Abzû is to restore life in the aquatic underworld using magical springs. The gameplay allows the player to freely navigate underwater environments ranging from open water and natural caverns to ancient ruins.

In a few areas, the diver is also able to explore land-based environments above the water. As the game progresses, the diver unlocks new areas and pursues the secrets behind the forces harming the local environment. The diver’s course through the game follows a linear path through interconnected areas filled with marine life. Halting your progression are switch or item-based puzzles. These are solved by interacting with certain objects within the watery environment. A neat feature is the ability to sit on pedestals within each area to observe the surrounding sea life. Also, the diver can interact with marine life using sonar chimes. Each area sports hidden collectables for all of you achievement hunters out there.

The narrative of Abzû is told wordlessly through gameplay and using cutscenes, much like Journey was. You swim through ruins and ancient murals that show an ancient civilization which shared a symbiotic connection with the ocean. The rest is up for you to discover or interpret.

I loved Journey and I suspect I am about to write similarly as fondly for Abzû as I did for the former. At times, Abzû can be beautiful and at others it can be completely breath-taking. The huge ocean is vibrant, colourful and packed full of an impressive variety of aquatic creatures. When you first take control of the diver, initially it can feel cumbersome. This is to be expected for a game in which you spend 98% of your time underwater. However, after a short time has passed you’ll be manoeuvring with ease and precision. The camera angles can be somewhat awkward in places though.

Abzû isn’t a game that is attempting to challenge you in any way whatsoever. Instead, it delivers a tranquil experience that is free from hassle. Accompanying you is a stunning musical score, crank the volume up for this one.

Gameplay is extremely simplistic and linear, as are many of the sections that you explore. However, there is always an impressive sense of scale compared to the small diver. The story is subtle, with many hidden and easily missed details. It’s one that is up for interpretation that is certain. Still, it delivers an important message on the beauty of the ocean and how important it is that humanity protects it.

I have two big complaints aimed at Abzû and the first is regarding the tacked on collectibles. There isn’t really any particular reason for their existence other than to pad out the fairly empty world. They take you out of the experience, especially when they are hidden in such obscure locations that a guide is a must. However, if you’re not interested in achievements then this isn’t an issue.

My next issue is aimed at the runtime of the game. Much like Journey, Abzû will be over in a couple of hours. I wouldn’t have complained about it being much longer. The reason I complain about this is because the game is very costly. Thankfully, you can now experience this unique game through the Game Pass program on Xbox One. That means you could play it for absolutely free!

Overall, Abzû was a joy to play through. It is a masterfully crafted experience from a group of some very talented individuals.

  • The Final Score - 8/10
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