Abzu is an underwater exploration adventure. You play as a diver who explores the depths of the ocean. One of your main tasks is to introduce marine animals back into areas that are void of life. This game takes place in an unknown alternate world where some war or conflict has left the waters in desolate conditions. As you swim deeper, you come across ancient ruins where murals show depictions of people, much like yourself, diving and enriching the waters with life. You get the idea that this conservation has been going on for a very long time, and is incredibly important.
Abzu is an indie game (a game created and produced by individuals and small developing companies) created with art in mind. This game is marketed to be an experience, not a simulation. There aren’t any crazy challenges or time-sensitive levels, just exploration. Matt Nava, the creative director, worked with Giant Squid Studio’s development team to design a dazzling visual experience unlike any other. The soundtrack, composed by Austin Wintory, compliments the game to elicit a sense of adventure while playing. With such a fantastic team, it isn’t surprising that Abzu hit #18 among the best-selling titles on PlayStation Store’s PS4 charts.
The gameplay is magical. The art style is distinctive and inviting. The visual presentation of the different oceanic environments are detailed and showcase real fish species. The swimming mechanics are smooth and straightforward, making the avatar easy to maneuver. Plot-wise the game walks the line between unintelligible and instinctual. I liked the ambiguity of it all. I didn’t need to know a history of events to appreciate the real goal of the game – ocean conservation. It’s a matter of opinion, though, as some players rejected the game due to the lack of plot direction. The only thing I would change about it is a bit more interaction between the player and wildlife.
I think I’ll end up playing this game again and again. It has a certain “Zen” quality to it that might relax you after a long day. I love the underlying informative features that display species names. I found myself looking for the names of certain fish and later googling them to learn more about them. I think educational use is a huge incentive for families to play this game. As a result of playing this game, I’m more aware of our ocean crisis and how we should cherish marine life.
I rate this game a 9 out of 10
Abzu has an ESRB rating of E for Everyone.