Lucien’s Review: Abzu

ABZÛ_20160802132811

My favorite Indie game is, without a doubt, Journey.  The current crowning achievement of thatgamecompany, I am eager to see what their next project was going to be.  What I didn’t know is that one of the lead creators of that game and its predecessor, Flower, left the company to make his own company.  This game is his first brainchild flying solo.  Does it measure up to his previous works?  In ways you can’t even begin to imagine.  For those of you who don’t like art games, you won’t like this.  For those who do, you will be in love.  Let’s get to it.

There’s no reason to try and give the plot of this game.  Like Journey, the narrative is vague.  And believe me, I am going to do some unfathomably-pretentious Critical Examination of this game’s narrative because I am so in love with the way its completely open to interpretation.  In case you haven’t noticed, these kinds of art games are my jam.  I love me a game with a great story, don’t get me wrong.  It’s why I game.  But these sorts of games make me happy for the medium, to show what it is capable of.  That’s just swell.  What a digression that was.

You play this game has a nameless diver who is exploring an unknown underwater world, to accomplish tasks for an unknown purpose.  Really, it isn’t the why about what you’re doing, it’s the journey to do it.  And man does that journey take you to some cool places.

Let me lay to rest the worry that probably many of you are having.  The problem that people have with underwater levels in games is that they almost-always have TERRIBLE control schemes.  The makers of this game saw ahead on that issue and made this game with a very simple control scheme that doesn’t take much time to get used to.  And you can adjust the camera settings as you like, to make things easier.  This is not the kind of game that is going to have you feeling all annoyed.  There is also a mechanic that will allow you to hop on for the ride with the larger of the animals in this game.  So much fun!  Something about hitching a ride of a sperm whale just takes the cake.

Now, given that there wasn’t an especially large amount of things to do in this guy’s previous work, the amount of stuff in this game is deceptive!  I found there were so many places to explore.  Because that’s what this game is essentially about – exploration.  You are exploring this underwater world and finding out the secrets to the abstract narrative.  You are also finding out lots of stuff about sea life!  No joke, you can learn the names of all the fish and other kinds of life in this game.  There are these neat spots for “meditation” where you can go to different forms of life and learn about their names.  This was so fun!  I am all about the ocean, so getting to chill out and learn about different kinds of fish was just tops.  Each level had new forms of life to learn about, and I took time to get to know them all.  It’s been a fun afternoon.

The visuals in this game are incredible.  It isn’t insane fidelity, but a sheer level of artistry.  The use of color is fantastic!  My jaw was on the floor at so many times at how beautiful every single level in this game was.  Color was used to perfect effect.  From the explorative blues to the reds that showed that you are in danger.  Not one time did I think that the visuals were lacking . Every frame of this game is packed with cool stuff to see and interact with.

But the thing that truly sets this game apart from its contemporaries is one thing – Austin Wintory’s score.  Holy shit!  I am in love with this soundtrack.  It’s perfect.  There has never and likely will never be a score that goes so perfectly with every part of the game that it’s in.  The instrumentation, the use of choral backing.  It’s all so flawless!  It’s my favorite soundtrack in any game, to date.  The bar has been set pretty damn high.  Gonna look into buying this soundtrack.  Good music must be supported if we are to see more of it.

What about the negatives?  Surely I have a few.  I will say that while the controls of this game aren’t difficult, constantly having to hold down the right trigger to swim can get one’s fingers a little sore.  And like its predecessor, this game is pretty short.  I think it should be priced about $5 less, but I still think that I got a lot of bang for my buck.  Games like this aren’t supposed to be long anyway.

All-in-all, this was a fantastic follow-up to Journey, and the best Indie game on the PS4 to date.  Loving that Sony has more of these coming out.  It’s a good sign of how they have embraced the community.  This game is zen to the max.  So if that’s your jam, then dive on in and go exploring the ocean.  I promise that you won’t regret it.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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