Genre: Adventure, Art Game, Simulation
Format: Playstation Plus
Abzu is one of those games that’s not so much a game, as it is an experience. The basic premise is that as the player, you guide an underwater explorer through both the ocean and the concept of the Cosmic Ocean. It has little in the way of objective, and isn’t the kind of game that you win. It’s an experience, like I said above, and it’s an amazing one at that. Abzu is a shining example of when video games become art, and shows that video games can be a powerful outlet for both artistic expression and storytelling.
The graphics and design of Abzu is stunningly breathtaking, and one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen. It’s design isn’t one based around hyper-realistic graphics. This looks like a mosaic brought to life. Smooth lines, a mixture of soft and bold colors, and attention to geometry gives this game such a mesmerizing look. There is so much attention to detail that it’s unreal. The game is so short, but with the sort of detail it has, you could spend hours just looking at it. The game encourages you to do this. In the different areas in the game, there are little spots designated for “meditation.” In these spots, the game’s action is halted and you can take in all the scenery around you. The scenes of the Cosmic Ocean are also gorgeous to behold. They capture this strong sense of peace and healing. This game is so beautiful. I can not say it enough.
Music is another amazing presence in this game. Soothing, evocative, and yet again, beautiful, that makes for quite a soundtrack. At times, there is an almost spiritual quality to it. Some pieces even sound like hymns. I also loved that the music had a heavy emphasis on strings. I’m a sucker for strings. The soundtrack itself would be great to use in meditation or study.
Gameplay is mostly centered around puzzles and getting through small obstacles. It’s interesting that with things that can hurt you in the game, such as these triangle-shaped bombs, they do not kill you, or take away health. You can still keep going, but in my case, it still made me try to avoid these things. There’s this strange emotional response to it. With playing something like Mario, you get aggravated if you fall off of a cliff. With Abzu, you have these feelings that if your little explorer gets hurt, it’s disconcerting. I knew that for myself, I hated seeing the explorer get hurt, and I strived to clear the path with the least amount of destruction done. I will admit that at first, I had trouble with the buttons, as in keeping what button did what straight, but it was short-lived. There were also little things in the game that were a delight to play. For one, the game allows you to ride on the backs of certain sea-life. Getting to ride a dolphin put a huge smile on my face, and made my night. I was saddened I couldn’t ride the large turtles or the squid that I found. Also, following the jet streams were a blast, and a huge highlight of the game.
Another unique factor in the game is the storytelling aspect. The game has no real, defined plot. It’s not exactly Final Fantasy with its complex plots and story arcs. Instead, Abzu relies more on feeling and imagination. At the heart of Abzu, it bases the game around the Mesopotamian myth of Abzu, god of freshwater and Tiamat, the sea goddess. The myth of these gods is that Abzu and Tiamat “mingled their waters” and created the world. It is a myth that ties into the idea of the Cosmic Ocean. I loved that they used Mesopotamian mythology, since it is highly under-utilized in fiction. Also, a lot of the moments in the game have so much emotional impact. I won’t say what, because I don’t want to give any spoilers, but what I will say, is that this game made me cry. It really is an emotional game, and the ending feels so rewarding.
Abzu is an absolutely wonderful game, and a game that I would highly recommend to people who aren’t gamers. With its soothing atmosphere, music, and emotional moments, it can be of great use to people dealing with stress, depression, or anything of that nature. It is available for computer use, so if you want to buy it, you don’t have to invest in an expensive console. I have no doubt that this will be a game I’ll revisit often.
Buy Abzu at Amazon.