Abzu Is a Beautiful Underwater Journey

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!

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

Read this next

USgamer's Best Games of 2016: Best Visual Style

What were the best-looking games of 2016?

Abzû PlayStation 4 Review: (Dis)enchantment Under The Sea

Giant Squid's stunning, serene underwater adventure trips over itself, despite rarely setting foot on land.

Abzû, a Reminder That Games Don't Need to Be Totally Original to Feel Fresh

While it borrows from half a dozen classic games, 505's underwater adventure could be the most revelatory work of E3 2015.

Borderlands 3 Eden-6 Typhon Log Locations

Here’s where to find all of the Typhon Logs on Eden-6.

Gears 5 Collectible Locations - Where Are All the Gears 5 Collectibles?

This is our full Gears 5 collectibles guide, including all collectible locations in Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, and Act 4.

Gears 5 Spoiler FAQ - All Gears 5 Endings and Questions Answered

This is our guide covering the Gears 5 endings, answering every question you might have in our detailed spoiler FAQ.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019 Weapons List - All Weapon Unlock Levels

Here's our guide compiling the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019 weapons list, including all weapon unlock levels, and more.

More Previews

For Honor Preview: A Whole New Sword Game

Jaz plays Ubisoft's upcoming sword fighting game, and talks to creative director Jason Vandenberghe about how it was developed.

Dragon Quest VIII 3DS Preview: New Characters, New Dungeons, New Challenges, Black Sabrecats

Though Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for the Nintendo 3DS isn't a ground-up overhaul the way Dragon Quest VII 3DS is, there's still tons of new stuff to get excited about.

Will Final Fantasy XV's Big Twist Ruin The Game?

Early details about about FFXV's endgame have emerged, to much consternation.

Final Fantasy XV Travel Diary, Final Day: Stray Thoughts and Observations

There's still plenty to see and do in Duscae, but it's time to close the book on this massive RPG (until November 29).

More on PlayStation 4

Borderlands 3 Eden-6 Typhon Log Locations

Here’s where to find all of the Typhon Logs on Eden-6.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019 Weapons List - All Weapon Unlock Levels

Here's our guide compiling the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019 weapons list, including all weapon unlock levels, and more.

Starting Screen | Games are Running Worse Than Ever on the Base PS4 and Xbox One. Is There a Solution?

Owners of the base consoles are increasingly saddled with long load times when playing games like Borderlands 3.

George Miller Once Called Death Stranding "Mathematically Correct," Hideo Kojima Says

The Fury Road director seems to like what Kojima's going for.

Thinbloods and the Politics of Living Forever: An Interview with Bloodlines 2 Writer Cara Ellison

We talked love, loss, and lots of blood with one of Bloodlines 2's writers.

Highly Ranked Apex Legends Players Will Get Their Own Trail, so You Know Where Not to Land

At least you'll know if you're landing next to an Apex Predator.

Borderlands 3 Athenas Typhon Log Locations

Here’s where to find the three Typhon Logs on Athenas in Borderlands 3.

More Indie Games

Apple Arcade Springs Soft Launch on Developers, Some Games May Not Be Final Versions

Some iOS 13 beta participants can play games that don't even have official release dates yet.

Haven is an RPG Where You Control Two Star-Crossed Lovers at the Same Time

It's a wonderfully fresh take on video game romance.

New Celeste DLC Includes an Affecting Revelation About Madeline That Casts Her Story in a New Light

Madeline's battle with depression and anxiety take on a new meaning in Farewell DLC.

Celeste's Final Free Chapter Is A Brutal, But Fond Farewell

Celeste gets a beefy new chapter for its last update that's just as intense in difficulty as The Core.