Abzu Review - It's A Whale Of A Tale

Dive into this gorgeous underwater exploration game. 

7 months ago by Morgan Shaver in Review

Abzu, developed by Giant Squid Studios, is one of the most beautiful indie games you will play this year. Not only are the colorful visuals and immersive underwater landscapes breathtaking, but the musical score by composer Austin Wintory fits the game’s tone perfectly. Upon loading the game, you'll find that it isn’t hard to dive right in and begin learning about the world around you. If you’re playing the game on PC, a USB controller is highly recommended as adapting to the responsive movement controls (diving, rolling) can be tricky at first.

Now that you’ve mastered the mechanics, you’ll begin navigating your mysterious female diver around the ocean and slowly uncover secrets. This explorative gameplay is a peaceful experience paired nicely with serene pacing that never feels slow. In the game, there are statues that your diver can interact with which allow her to meditate and learn more about the identities of the fish swimming around her. As you progress in the game, you’ll learn that Abzu is home to countless different species of fish, some of which you can even catch a ride on. 

While moving through the various stages, you’ll also discover little robots buried in the sand who act as your companions. Aside from these robots and the occasional friendly fish, your journey in Abzu will be one you must complete alone. Your adventure is unique, and this degree of freedom lends Abzu a high replayability factor. Which is important, as the game’s story takes around 2 hours on average to complete.

Each progressive stage in Abzu makes use of different colors, and slowly divulges the game’s secrets through mysterious ruins scattered about the ocean floor. There are several stages with Egyptian-style art painted along the walls, broken pots, and crumbling marble columns. Prior to unlocking these stages, you’ll find yourself transported to a magical world that feels like you're floating through the stars. By moving forward and interacting with a floating orb in this area, you’ll unlock the next stage and a unique creature like a whale, or giant squid. These scenes are always a delight, and we found ourselves really looking forward to them.

Another fun way to transport your character between stages are quick slipstreams that act as cutscenes in a way. You'll swim alongside fish, and have a moment to sit back and take in the world around you before being dropped off at the next area to explore. Despite the peaceful nature of Abzu, there are tense moments that will surprise you. These moments are crucial, as you will be given clues as to the identity of your diver. Shortly after, the game will begin wrapping things up nicely to its poignant conclusion.

After swimming through the credits, you may be surprised to realize that you’ve just played Abzu straight through to the end without stopping. There aren’t many games capable of enrapturing players quite like Abzu. We absolutely adored this underwater adventure, and found ourselves smiling, and sympathizing with the diver and the friendly fish around her. 

Abzu is full of depth, beauty, and grace. Because of this, we strongly feel that Abzu qualifies as one the best indie games of 2016. It’s a must-play underwater masterpiece!

Buy Abzu on Steam, and check out our interview with Abzu's Brian Balamut and Derek Cornish below! 

For more in-depth indie game reviews here at Indie Obscura, follow one family's emotional journey through their son's battle with cancer in our review of That, Dragon Cancer. Looking for another first-person exploration game like Abzu? Get lost in the woods in our Firewatch review. If you want to be transported to another world, check out the planet of Gliese in our Solus Project review.  

Pros
  • Beautiful graphics and art design
  • Magical soundtrack
  • Immersive gameplay
Cons
  • Quite short