Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Journey underwater is a quick, pithy and somewhat lazy way to describe Abzû, an explorative indie game from Journey's Art Director, Matt Nava and its composer Austin Wintory. You assume the role of a female diver lost in the ocean, embarking upon a watery voyage to discover her past, swimming among fronds of kelp, schools of fish and other sea-dwelling creatures.
Like Journey, Abzû is an almost meditative experience, immersing you in its underwater world, as you develop a connection with the ocean and the ecosystem that inhabits it. It's this immersion that's the focus of Abzû, with no air gauge to worry about and only sea creatures and sunken items to interact with using your sonar ping like Ecco the Dolphin.
There is no game over screen, and even great white sharks are accurately reflected as complex, rather than the remorseless killing machines depicted in movies like Jaws (or Sharknado, if you like). That won't stop them from munching on stuff should it veer too close to a great white's toothsome maw, however.
During your journey deeper into the ocean, you'll uncover broken drones beneath the sand that when repaired follow you in formation. These drones glide silently behind you, searching out valuable mineral deposits on the sea bed, or digging to reveal hidden paths into new areas. And they can be crushed by a shark in one fell swoop, if you're not careful.
Abzû is an atmospheric and absorbing game. Shimmering colours and the volumetric lighting shifts and changes to reflect the mood, while the simulated food chain involves sealife interacting in various ways as you explore. You can ride a giant trevally fish or swim amongst a school for a speed boost, and you're free to go anywhere you like, flipping and spiralling through the water, discovering ancient artefacts and the history of the ocean as you go.
Manta Rays, jellyfish and hundreds of other aquatic species co-exist in Abzû's world, and as our female diver swims down a tunnel, sweeping aside a curtain of kelp, the final thing we see before our demo concludes is a vast, open area teeming with life, pointing to a dizzying underwater world just waiting to be discovered.
Abzû follows Journey's lead, creating an enigmatic, beautiful and immersive world to explore that's refreshingly unlike anything we've seen before. Wintory's score is similarly beautiful to Abzû's irresistible art style, making for a wondrous underwater experience that demands to have its every last drop absorbed. If you enjoyed Journey, chances are you're going to fall head over flippers for Abzû too.
Abzû is swimming onto PS4 in 2016.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 @ 02:37 PM
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