Abzu Is a Beautiful Underwater Journey

Wander the bright, beautiful ocean in this unique title.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

In Abzu, there's no combat. You're not a fighter, you're a lost soul, swimming through a deep ocean. Things do die, but that's not a result of anything you do, it's the natural part of the ecosystem.

Abzu is one of the most relaxing and enchanting games I've played recently.

You are the Diver, a lone explorer who wakes up in the middle of a vast ocean. The controls are simple and in a few moments, you'll be making lazy loops in the water. You don't move all that fast, giving the entire game a slow and steady pace. The Diver can breathe forever seemingly, as oxygen isn't an issue. Once you have your bearings, it's time to push deeper into your new world.

Giant strands of kelp sway and bend in your wake, a curtain opening to a different place. A world teeming with life. Schools of fish swim around and through the environment. A large fish tries to make a meal of a straggler from one school. A sea turtle winds its way forward on the ocean floor. Abzu is full of areas of stunning beauty, with fields of amazing coral reefs and brightly-colored sea creatures dancing together in harmony.

Developer Giant Squid seems to understand the beauty and calm it has created here. In certain areas of Abzu, you have the option to sit on a statue and meditate. When you meditate, you can actually flick the analog stick to share the viewpoint of nearby ocean life. You can spend minutes or hours just floating from fish to fish, tracking the lazy path of a shark, or speeding alongside a dolphin.

Underneath all this natural visual splendor, there are secrets. You find a small drone that accompanies you on your journey, a helpful companion that can cut through obstacles in your way, opening new paths. Ruins litter the ocean floor, as does some ancient technology. Portals send you to far-off ethereal oceans in space. At one point in my demo, I came across an underwater lake: a space where the water is darker and heavier than what you previously swam through.

There is progression to Abzu; the game is trying to tell a story, even if it uses no words whatsoever. A great white shark antagonized me, eating one of my drones before gliding away. This shark appeared earlier, seeding its ongoing presence in the game.

After a ride in a swift ocean current, I found myself in front of a massive door that takes one of your drones as payment for entry. Huge doors clank and whir before opening to let you through. There was once something grand here, with massive structures that are obviously the result of some intelligent being. What happened so deep under the ocean?

If you're a fan of games like Journey, you'll like this. The game has this stark, minimal beauty and peeling back the layers of mystery is a compelling reason to join The Diver on its quest. As I sat there nudging the analog stick forward to track fish, I appreciated the calming effect of the game. Hopefully, others will find their moment of zen while playing Abzu, too.

Abzu is coming out for PlayStation 4 on August 2, 2016.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

Tagged with E3 2016, Giant Squid, Indie, PlayStation 4, Previews.

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