After creating one of the most unique games ever made, some of the fine folks responsible for Journey split off from ThatGameCompany to work on a new project on their own: Abzu. Literally meaning deep water, this game delivers on that by offering a unique oceanic experience. In Abzu, you play as a diver and are given the opportunity to swim around at your leisure and enjoy a beautiful underwater playground.
While I was streaming Abzu, one of my viewers commented that it is basically Journey after global warming, which is a pretty apt description. Giant Squid Studios took clear inspiration from Journey when making this adventure game. It follows a very similar format, you play as a relatively ambiguous character who has the opportunity to explore a beautiful environment at your leisure. Once you’ve completed whatever objective this particular area has in mind, you can move on to the next area.
Now, that’s not saying there’s no variety here. Areas range from calm open seas to underwater rapids and even occasionally ruins to explore. There are even a few points where you leave the ocean and walk around. And trust me, every single one of these environments has their own distinct beauty and charm. The game’s story is told ambiguously through the actions you take and some murals you’ll see on the walls of caverns and underwater ruins. Unfortunately the game does little to call attention to these, so it’s hard to take them seriously, even though they are pretty interesting.
I found the story to be a bit abstract in this game. It doesn’t really seem to relate to your character directly in any way, which makes it hard to feel a strong connection to it. That being said, there’s definitely an interesting history hinted at within those murals – and I strongly recommend you give them a closer look than I did on my first playthrough because they are pretty awesome. It’s just a pity that your character doesn’t seem to have any tie to this.
The game’s mechanics are very freeing. It really gave the sensation of swimming in the ocean. It was tremendously satisfying exploring the ocean, moving alongside the various aquatic wildlife, and even clinging to them as they swim. The controls were fairly simple, offering basic movement and a button to get a boost of speed that could be comboed up to 3 times with good timing, allowing you to move quickly and even jump out of the water to see what’s above. The overall experience of swimming, while hardly realistic, was one of the game’s greatest accomplishments and something that I have some truly fond recollections of.
Overall, it’s clear to see that Giant Squid Studios were trying to re-create the magic of Journey. While they weren’t quite successful, they managed to create a bit of magic all their own, capturing the beauty of the ocean in this strangely lonely adventure. While this adventure certainly has its shortcoming and flaws, its beauty and the simplicity and charm of its controls make it hard to resist taking a swim.