Abzu (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 17.12.2016

Review for Abzu on Xbox One

Oftentimes, people play videogames in order to escape the harsh confines of reality. However, these virtual worlds become somewhat a prison of their own. In the constant pursuit of loot boxes, high kill/death ratios, and yet more improbable challenges, gamers must endure exorbitant levels of stress. Occasionally, it helps to take a deep breath and a step back. ABZÛ is a definite shift from the norm. Its players are encouraged to relax, meditate, and experience the awesomeness that is the ocean.

To be clear, this is a game where its players aren't beholden to time limits or the threat of death. They're free to explore the sea as a scuba diver, but without the weighty equipment and a need for oxygen. Although it'll likely take a few minutes to get accustomed, the swimming is absolutely wonderful. The protagonist glides through the water almost as easily as any fish. The slight learning curve makes becoming a master at swimming all the more compelling an endeavour. This game also perfectly captures the calming stillness of simply being underwater. Floating under the waves without a direction or care is a great experience.

ABZÛ opts for a more stylistic approach to the visual direction, but it also clearly emulates the behaviours and actions of marine life. The results are breath-taking. There's so much colour, movement, and life in every frame that it almost becomes overwhelming. The protagonist can interact with these marvellous creatures in a couple ways, and they react appropriately. Approaching a fish and gaining their curiosity is such a minor detail, but its' part of what makes this game wonderful. The astonishing level of detail makes every moment special.

Screenshot for Abzu on Xbox One

To put it another way, when the protagonist reaches their hand out towards a whale or a school of angelfish, it stirs this incredible feeling within the player. Here is this magnificent animal. Its existence defies belief, but it's alive and swimming around, just like most anything else in the ocean. It's a feeling that so many other games fail to grasp. A lot of effort is spent on designing impressive creatures to converse or fight with, but they're just hollow shells. Their existence is defined by whether they benefit or hinder the player's progress. That definitely isn't the case here. The impact of witnessing or even touching these digital representations is undoubtedly a fraction of what a real-life confrontation could be. With that in mind, for a game to get this close is a testament to the talent at Giant Squid.

For an adventure game, there are very few puzzles, and they never evolve from the basic "lever-pulling" variety either. Much of the time is going to be spent exploring grottos while divining the backstory from decayed ruins. If the sights and sounds don't captivate the player, then they could probably rush through everything in a very short amount of time. However, it's difficult to imagine such a possibility occurring. Even for someone who has claimed to have seen everything that videogames have to offer, a lot of what occurs in this one is startling. Eyes and mouths alike will be agape in the presence of so much splendour.

All that said; there are a few secrets to look for. Hidden pools release new animals into the wild, while seashells serve as achievement-awarding collectibles. A dozen statues can also be discovered. These monoliths allow the protagonist to meditate. Through meditation, the camera shifts to the perspective of nearby sea creatures. The camera follows them as they go about their lives, possibly up until their premature end by a predator's jaws. It's not a feature designed for puzzle solving or anything of that nature, but it's still a very neat touch.

Screenshot for Abzu on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

For anyone who has ever had an interest in marine life then ABZÛ is a required play. It's a stunning interactive aquarium with plenty of flair. The absence of restrictions allows for players to immerse themselves entirely in all of the undersea happenings. Every scene is an event to be cherished, and even the most minimal of interactions are memorable. There are a few moments that are so powerful that text or even a video could never hope to do them justice. If the concept sounds appealing, then don't hesitate to pick this game up immediately.

Developer

Giant Squid

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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