I didn’t have to follow the news for this game. I knew I was going to get from the very moment it was announced. People were calling it the new Journey or, at least, an underwater version of it and that was enough information for me to know that I was going to eventually get it.
Journey was to me the game of the year from 2012. It was original, it had the most interesting online mode of a game in the last decade and, above all, it was beautiful. With that precedent, Abzû had to climb a steep hill to impress me. Let’s see if the game lived up to my expectations in the following review.
Abzû is an adventure title by the indie developer Giant Squid which was founded by some of the guys at That game company which were effectively the makers of the downloadable masterpiece Journey. That kind of legacy really breathes through the concept within this game and how it plays. Again, there is no combat and whatever resembles a puzzle is actually just solved by exploring the environment to find the “figurative key” that will open the door towards the rest of the game. In that sense, this is not a regular videogame experience and that will probably turn down most videogame purists. To enjoy a game like this you have to wander in with an open mind and a taste for beauty, just then you’ll be able to actually inmerse yourself in the unique experience that a game like this offers.
For anyone who played Journey they’ll know that the storytelling in that game wasn’t explicit. There was no dialog between characters, no text to read. The game would give you snippets of history in a visual fashion here and there but those were up to your interpretation. It was a backstory pretty easy to follow anyway but the one in Abzû is a little more complex so, by the time I finished the story, even if I have my own interpretation of what the game is trying to tell me, I don’t have the same degree of certainty that what I constructed in my head is the real story. That is not a bad thing per se, I prefer when games treat me as an adult and don’t spoonfeed me with unnecessary exposition so that nobody feels left behind.
Now moving to my judgement on the graphical department. This game doesn’t have the most detailed environments ever with ultra realistic textures and the best particle effects in the industry. However, it has a defined artstyle that gives Abzû a kind of watercolor look and it certainly has a very good team of artists that crafted what it is to me the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. And I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. I set my expectations very high and even then they surpassed it. What I saw on my screen as I was playing this game was the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever experienced. The colors, the light, the movement… it’s all jaw-droppingly good.
As for the music department, Austin Wintory was back for the soundtrack and you can tell his style on this work as well. I personally didn’t like this soundtrack as much as I did with Journey but that’s not to say that it’s bad at all. I can say that it’s more varied though and that I’m definitely going to be listening to it further outside of the game because some of the tracks were pretty great.
Things I liked
- Gorgeous: I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. This has to be hands down the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. You’ll want to make wallpapers out of every frame in the game.
- Mystic: This is mostly regarding as the “implicit” way the story is told. For obvious reasons I won’t get into detail and spoil what the game has in store for you but it’s intriguing and fantastic. It gave me an Ueda kind of vibe that I simply love.
- Emotional: Usually when people use the word emotional to describe a game they usually mean the ability of such game to make you cry but that is not what I’m trying to say. Abzû has quite the ability to convey emotions to you, the player. That emotion can be sadness but it’s not only that. It has moments of wonder, moments of fear and moments of pure bliss.
- Length: The arc of your playable character is more complex than in the original Journey resulting in the game being longer than that game. It’s still a short game, you can (and should) beat it in one sitting. But had the game been any longer I feel like it would have overstayed its welcome.
Things I didn’t
- Not Groundbreaking: Not to say that they just made Journey and put it underwater because that’d be quite an unfair statement but, while the former game blew my mind back in the day, I had expectations for what this game would be and it was that exactly what I got. If these two games swapped spots and it was Abzû the one to be released on 2012, then I wouldn’t have anything to complain about.
Who’d like this?
You should know already if you’ll like this game or not. Did you enjoy games like Journey? You’ll love your experience with Abzû. You don’t? Abzû won’t change your mind.
I do feel like this game is even more beautiful than Journey but while I felt like that game was almost a life-changing experience for me, Abzû doesn’t have that extra novelty factor to achieve that.
<You can check this beauty in motion here>