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ABZU, a relaxing underwater journey with some drops of anxiety.

The closest I’ve ever come to an open water dive is when I was younger and went to the beach. Back then, I’d simply dive under the waves and skirt around the bottom, just looking at all the seashells. Never did I venture too far out–never did I have a reason to.

The furthest out to sea I’ve ever been is, again, when I was younger, my parents took me and my brother out deep sea fishing. I loved to fish. (Still do, but it’s been years.)

I ended up being the only one to catch something. A variety of other people were actually catching sharks. That amazed me. I wanted to touch one.

Don’t worry, my parents wouldn’t let me.

Fast-forward to now and the open water scares me. So when I got ABZU, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, most underwater games cater to man’s fear of the unknown, so I figured this wouldn’t be any different.

Cue my pleasant surprise.

Well done, Giant Squid. Well done.

ABZU

Pros:

  • Soundtrack
  • Graphics
  • Immersive experience

Cons:

  • Movement is hard to get used to

Gameplay

ABZU

If you were to ever deep dive or venture out into open water, what’s one of the aquatic wildlife that you’d want to encounter?

What I find most fascinating about this game is that you can meditate on statues that look like sharks (you’ll need to use your sonar on them) and from there, scroll from one variety of fish to another and learn their names in the lower right corner of the screen. A lot of the wildlife I knew of, but a lot of them I had no clue.

Thus is the mystery of the depths, right?

You’ll also be wanting to release fish from “burrows” to free them into the wild. Again, you’ll learn what fish they are while they’re being set free.

What’s more fun is the ability to “ride” some of the larger wildlife. While riding, you won’t be able to control the animal in question (until a later point), and some of them move rather slow, but it’s not all meant for a wild ride. Take screenshots. Enjoy the moments. Look around while you’re riding them and you might notice something in the environment you missed.

Speaking of, in order to complete a location and move on, you’ll need to do specific things. Little puzzles, if you will. They’re never difficult, but some may require you to actually get out of water and walk on a platform. Sometimes you need to free a sonar buddy. Other times you need to crank levers and pulls chains.

I hope I’m not the only one who found it weird how water fills up places when we’re already underwater.

The deeper you go, the more threats you face. I’m not talking about megalodons either (which is what probably killed that T-rex you see buried half in the sand). I’m talk about bombs that detonate when you’re too close.

They aren’t much of a threat to your life. Trust me, I had a simultaneous explosion of three and still lived to tell the tale.

Navigation

Some might classify this as an open world game, but I wouldn’t call it such.

Sure, ABZU gives you a chance to swim around at your leisurely pace and explore the environment around you, but you can never go too far. There are invisible walls that you can hit and they’ll immediately make your character turn away from the direction you were headed. Sometimes you won’t know just how far out or down you can go. Other times, the area you’re in is confining, so there’s not much you can explore anyway

As far as movement, holy crap it was painful to learn. This is my only gripe about the game.

Maybe it’s more controlled on a keyboard than, ironically, a controller, but my character loved to do back-flips and twirl around when all I wanted them to do was swim up or down..

I never completely learned to swim and turn my character with 100% accuracy as to where I wanted to go, but the game moves so smooth nevertheless. I had no hang-ups or anything of the like.

Graphics

The graphics are just as simple as the game itself, but they are stunning. It might not look like much work has been put into the art style, but don’t let it fool you. It’s not awe-inspiring realism, but more gradient-shaded shapes appropriately fitting to the wildlife and structures you see.

From wildlife, to algae, to waterfalls, to chains and mechanisms.

It all stands out that if you were to play another game where this artistry comes into play, you’d immediately recognize the style.

So many gorgeous moments to capture in a screenshot.

Soundtrack

For such a seemingly simplistic game, the soundtrack is on a much more grand scheme of things. It’s epic and instrumental, and I swear I just swam around areas for longer than I needed just to listen to more of it.

I can’t say for sure if the instrumental play fits the mood of all areas of the game, but for the most part, it was certainly background pleasure no matter what area I loitered in.

Unfortunately, there’s no DLC of the soundtrack, which surprised me.

If you enjoyed the music, it was created by Austin Wintory.

Characters

ABZU

While there’s not many characters in the ways of interacting with, I would like to say there’s more than you.

As for you, you don’t speak or anything, and there’s no telling exactly why you’re in the place your in–the ocean–but I think the game devs wanted to leave it up to interpretation. You can interact with things via sonar, as well as cling onto the larger oceanic wildlife for a mellow ride.

Bugs & Glitches

None that I encountered.

Final Thoughts

ABZU

There’s a lot of good things to say about a game that’s so short. There’s no intrusive narrative that takes your mind away from what you’re doing. If you have to walk away, you can always crank up the music and enjoy it if you’re in range.

The game (I believe) has an auto-save feature, but don’t quote me on it, because I’ve always finished it in one sitting.

If you enjoy swimming without a care in the world and finding oceanic life that you didn’t know existed, then you’ll like this game, and I certainly urge you to buy it or try it.

FAQ

What system(s) can you play ABZU on?

How long does it take to complete?

If you’re not looking to complete all the achievements the first time around, it takes maybe 1-2 hours. Not a long game by any means.

Easier to play on mouse and keyboard or controller?

Honestly I haven’t played it on mouse and keyboard–I’ve always stuck with my controller. The controls (on a controller) take a while to get used to since your character can do front and back-flips in the water, or just continue rotating completely if you continue to hold a button down.

I’ve heard keyboard works just as well, though, and there’s no need to use a controller.

Off-Topic, but…

If you’ve got one of these consoles:

  • PS3
  • PS4
  • Xbox One
  • Xbox 360
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Nintendo 3DS

and you’re interested in renting a game for one of them, possibly just to try it out, or possibly just to play and finish and not have it sit at your place for the end of time, then GameFly would benefit you. It’s kind of like the Redbox of video games (though you can also rent blueray movies and DVDs on GameFly). You can check out the games they have, as well as the upcoming.

Get video games delivered to your door with GameFly

Is Abzu scary?

There might be a startling moment or two, but aside from that, this game is by no means scary. You could have a fear of open water, and that could make you unsettled during your play, but that’s about it.

Abzu is meant to be a casual, relaxing game. Its story is one that isn’t spoken, but observed.

Is paying full price worth it?

Personally, I believe so. I truly enjoyed playing this game, but…I am a fan of walking simulators.

If you’re someone who likes to be engaged and doesn’t want to just look at a pretty environment with not many situations to interact with your surroundings, then paying full price is probably not something you’re going to want to do. Luckily, there are sites where the price may be discounted (Fanatical, mentioned above, is one of those sites).

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