Epic Games must have a direct connection to my brain. Games that I’ve always wanted to play, but have missed out on for whatever reason (such as Celeste), have been the latest titles to be offered for free on the Epic Games Store. This past weekend’s offering included Abzu, providing players with beautiful deep-sea visuals made all the more mesmerizing with the game’s incredible musical score.
Come On In, The Water’s Fine
Abzu only takes a couple of hours to play all the way through, but that’s really all that you need. Players take on the role of a nameless diver who wakes up in the middle of the ocean, eventually making their way through various deep-sea settings surrounded by countless schools of fish and other marine wildlife. The diver is able to “communicate” and interact with certain objects through sonic pings, which includes opening doors and flipping switches. At first glance, there’s not really a story to speak of as you initially take in all of the vibrant colors and shapes swirling about the screen while whimsical music fills your ears. Eventually, a deeper meaning in the game unfolds, but it's the overall journey that makes Abzu worth playing (after all, the game does share the same art director and composer as 2012’s Journey).
A Watery World Of Nostalgia
“Epic” is a word that is tossed around all too loosely these days, but one that certainly conveys the experience that Abzu provides. Swimming in the open water amongst waves of fish and other marine life is both relaxing, as well as slightly unnerving for those with the slightest tinge of thalassophobia (fear of open water), even though there really isn’t ever much of a threat. Accompanied by the sweeping musical score, traveling through the various caverns coral-filled reefs made me feel at ease, and even a little nostalgic as memories of playing Ecco The Dolphin on the Sega Genesis flooded my mind. It probably added to that memory given the fact that you can actually grab onto the fins of larger fish (including dolphins) and ride them.
Interacting with objects is a part of progressing through the game, but not a major part of Abzu. There are some minor puzzles to solve, but honestly, calling them “puzzle” is probably a bit generous. That, however, allows Abzu to focus on what it does best by focusing on the gorgeous gameplay experience. Keep in mind that the game is best suited for use with a controller. Playing with a keyboard is possible (and how I started with Abzu), but controllers allow for more fluid, steady movement.
For the price of free, Abzu is absolutely a game that pretty much everyone should play, whether you’re a fan of underwater adventures, or just need a peaceful game to play after a hectic day.
5 Out Of 5 Stars
Abzu is currently free on the Epic Games Store through September 12th. Abzu is available now for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.