Abzu, developed by Giant Squid and released in 2016, is not simply a game. It’s a breath-taking underwater journey. It transcends traditional gameplay, inviting players to explore the beauty and mysteries of the deep sea. Given that many of the team behind this gem also brought us Journey, it should come as no surprise that it offers a similarly meditative experience but in a completely different setting.
Abzu immediately captivated me. The visual design is absolutely stunning, and the fluid, graceful movements of the deep-sea diver are almost hypnotic. As an underwater explorer, you navigate through vibrant coral reefs, ancient ruins, and schools of aquatic life. It is extremely relaxing; players can effortlessly glide through the depths at their own pace, all while accompanied by an engrossing orchestral score.
What sets Abzu apart from many other games, and aligns it with Journey, is its narrative approach. Like Journey before it, it foregoes traditional dialogue for environmental storytelling. The underwater world is a silent yet expressive narrator, unveiling the mysterious story through ancient murals and the interactions of marine life. This storytelling method encourages players to interpret the story on their own, adding a layer of introspection to the journey. While many of us will draw similar conclusions to the messaging, the way that it sticks with you and the moments self-reflection ensure that the experience remains truly your own.
Above all else, Abzu encourages a deep connection with the ocean’s inhabitants. Players can interact with and ride various sea creatures, forging a bond with the marine life that populates the game world. This connection contributes to the game’s meditative quality, fostering a sense of harmony with the underwater ecosystem.
The absence of combat challenges and the unhurried flow of the adventure provides a slower, tranquil experience. This approach encourages players to immerse themselves in the beauty of the underwater world, promoting a sense of mindfulness and relaxation while exploring the depths. I found myself choosing to ride large sea creatures long after the route to the next portion of the world had opened, just enjoying the moment for as long as possible before saying goodbye.
There were times that Abzu literally took my breath away, with its simple yet effective visual approach used to great effect throughout the adventure, but especially so during key moments that I won’t spoil here. The gorgeous world provided me with the perfect platform to lose myself for a little while, while also giving ample moments to slow down for self-reflection and thought.
Players that submerge themselves beneath Abzu’s waves and into its gorgeous world will find a therapeutic experience that they will subconsciously return to long after they’ve seen the credits roll. Like Journey before it, Abzu truly is a masterpiece that everyone seeking a calming escape owes it to themselves to play.