ABZU Review

August 2nd, 2016 by Caleb Cajthaml

Let me say it right out of the gate, ABZU is beautiful, probably the most beautiful game I’ve played all year. From the thousands of diverse fish that populate a single section of the game, to the poignant and emotional story, ABZU is simply beautiful. There’s no other way to put it.

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Developed by Giant Squid, ABZU is an exploratory game built upon the want to create an experience that showcases the magic of deep sea diving without the hassle of actually jumping into the ocean. Giant Squid shoots for that goal and exceeds with flying colors (quite literally). Movement is elegant and not far from my idea of diving, and almost every area of the game is populated with hundreds, sometimes thousands of colorful and diverse sea life, all of which react procedurally to the player’s movements. It’s absolutely breathtaking to see a school of fish for the first time, or to swim right besides a pod of blue whales. It’s easy to see the passion Giant Squid has for ocean life; the game is just as impressive of an “ocean simulator” as it is a work of art.

ABZU’s narrative only adds to the wonder and breath-taking awe created by the visuals. The game tells a special tale that celebrates the poignancy of life and nature. On the surface, it’s a game about deep sea diving and yet ABZU can be, and is, so much more than that. ABZU  is a love letter to nature.

There was a point late in the game where I stopped moving, stopped exploring, and just took it all in. Seeing just how the hundreds of fish each reacted to one another in their own way, remembering just how far I had come since the very beginning, all of the trials and tribulations that ultimately got me there, and the deep sea companion I had made in the process was something specifically unique to ABZU. It’s special.

The game celebrates beauty in every possible way, whether that be the breath-taking landscapes or the themes of companionship and wonder explored in the story. It’s incredible to play a game that manages to incorporate both the visuals and storytelling in such a way that compliments the other to make it all that more special.

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And yet, for everything unique about ABZU, developer Giant Squid just can’t shake their deep rooted history with thatgamecompany’s Journey. Nearly identical in themes, story beats, and to a certain extent mechanics, ABZU feels all too similar to Journey. While the set pieces and environments leave plenty to discover and explore, the emotional weight carried by the game was stifled by the strong sense of familiarity. Journey is by any means not a bad game to be similar to, but it’s hard not to wonder what the game could have been with a different spin to the formula.

There’s only so much I can say about ABZU without ruining the very things that make it special. ABZU is a simply fantastic game, and while it might hit many of the same emotional beats of Journey, developer Giant Squid finds a different way to celebrate this journey we call life. It’s a game that should not be missed by anybody, “gamer,” and “non-gamer,” alike. ABZU is a special work of art that makes all those who experience it appreciate what it means to be living, just that much more.

ABZU receives an 8.9 out of 10.

This game was reviewed on a retail PS4 with a copy of the game provided by the publisher, 505 Games.


 

Caleb Cajthaml is a 15 year old who set dreams so large he needed to get started on them now. Passionate about making people happy, Caleb loves to write about all things entertainment. You can find him on twitter @Caleb_Talks tweeting about the latest happenings in the Star Wars cannon and why the Vikings are the best team in football.