As time goes by, interest in action games is slowly fading. Sure, there are blockbuster titles such as your annual Call of Duty or Battlefield which have a massive following who are always ready to purchase the latest instalment in the series, but for more attentive or dedicated gamers, these first person shooters just do not cut it anymore. The gamer of today is always on the lookout for that new experience which he or she has never had before, a game which tells a brand new tale. This is the case for ABZU.
Developed by Giant Squid, which already gives out the ambience of the game, ABZU is a game which takes place fully in the water. Indeed, the player will control the game’s protagonist through the vast, blue ocean, and swim across various beautiful locations to complete your quest, which is relatively short. There is nothing here which hinders the enjoyment of the game not even from the start, since upon booting the game, the controls are very easy to learn and you can just go ahead and swim through like it was second nature. Indeed you’ll be pulling off flips and tricks in no time at all, zooming from one piece of seaweed to the next.
ABZU is mainly set on exploration and roaming about, making its setting quite a unique one. Very few games put a big focus on underwater maps, and even those that do put limitations such as oxygen gauges or limited portions where to explore. ABZU puts these limitations aside and gives players all the freedom that one may desire, leaving the choice of what to do after immersion totally up to the player. If the player decides to complete the “quest” which the game tries to set, he will find out just how gorgeous the environment is. The developers really left no grain of sand unturned in this game, placing heavy importance on design. Not for nothing, one of the artists working on ABZU has previous experience working on Journey, the massive PSN hit which made the rounds on countless gaming sites about a couple of years ago. ABZU is also similar to Journey in the way that you are exploring your surroundings in both games, and going with the flow will take you on an adventure unlike any other.
The main quest in ABZU is very linear, and its “puzzles” are completed within minutes, not requiring any actual thinking or brainstorming. This may be a detriment to the game, but on second thought it could be intended by the developers so as not to disrupt that feeling of calm and relaxation which by now should be creeping on players as they make their way through the ocean. The path to the end of the game is also a linear one, and as players make their way from open waters to antique ruins, they will try to make sense of the story so far. I found it ideal to play through the game twice, so that the second time around you are more focused on your goal, can make much more meaning of what is happening around you and also avoid to be distracted by the environment.
While the story or questline may be ABZU’s weak point, or better put least strong point, its art is among the best in gaming’s history. Its graphics alone are already good enough to battle it out with the latest blockbuster titles and come out on top, let alone its style. Again, words alone are not enough to summarize just how good the game looks and feels, and one must actually play the game to experience it for himself. The soundtrack playing in the background is also a perfect accompaniment to the flow of the ocean and your diver swimming through, creating choreographies with the other fish and feeling like some great artist nailing the next big hit.
As I may have hinted before, I loved every single minute of ABZU, and even though the main story is quite short, completed in around four hours, it is still as satisfactory as any other 30 hour RPG. If anything, the short length of the game encourages players to give it another go and learn more of the secrets which the game is so good at hiding the first time playing. It is also very well priced at about a third of the cost of a full release, so instead of picking up a copy of the same yearly blockbuster title, save half the money and spend the rest on ABZU and some fried chicken. You will thank me later.