Abzu is a Walking Simulator in where we play as an unnamed diver on a quest to restore nature to its former glory. There is not much more info on who or where you are since this title is designed as to piece together the story yourself and interpret it from your own views. Despite the name of this genre, you will do very little actual walking as most of the time you will be underwater, swimming with the fishes and solving simple puzzles. You do not have to worry about air or is there even any way to get a game over. It is going to be a calm & peaceful journey and a real feast for the eyes as well. From the vibrant plant life to the color schools of fish swimming around, you will constantly find something to gawk at in sheer wonder.
Most of the locations you’ll find yourself exploring are pretty wide open areas in both the horizontal and vertical sense, with a clear way to progress if you want to rush right through the game. Besides the occasional switch or objective, you are free to do just that. There are arbitrary conchs to collect and statues in where you can meditate to learn the names of the various types of fish, neither all too tempting to go out of your way for. What will likely be your strongest reason for deviating from the path is likely to be to admire the absolute beauty and details crammed into every nook & cranny. If you are anything like me, you’ll end up taking more screenshots than you would in a run of Pokemon Snap in this short two-hour adventure.
Your range of movement is in the full 360 degrees, meaning you can swim up, down, and just about go anywhere you set your eye on given it is within the confines of the map. The basic swimming speed is rather slow so you will likely end up using the boost button quite a lot for a short burst of acceleration. Contrary to your first instinct to mash that button nonstop, you will actually want to get into a proper flow for it to truly be effective. It is quite easy to do with a simple combo of three correctly timed boosts, leading to a short burst of glowing golden energy which allows you to glide around with great speed. You will never have to run from anything or have much need for going fast, so it is mostly a button for the impatient gamer or merely wanting to pop out of the water and fall back into the ocean with an impressive dive.
Another interesting feature for navigating about the place is one where you can latch onto bigger fish and let them drag you to your destination. This never comes into use either and is mostly something you do only for fun. In fact, from begging to end, this game plays it really safe with its formula and never bothers to mix things up from its usual hunt for switches to progress gameplay. The biggest change of pace comes in the form of currents that drag you along to new areas, and while cool, it doesn’t require any input from you to make it through to the end. It’s all par of the course in this genre but lacking a story, engaging puzzles or anything of the sort does make it kind of dull at times. Luckily, its dedication to wowing you with its incredible set-pieces never lets up, so those flaws are somewhat masked as you eagerly await to see whats next.
They do not only rely on nature alone for their environments. At times they also bring in the ruins of a long lost civilization into play as well as technological structures far more advanced than anything we currently have to spice things up. The soundtrack is just as good as its art style and amplifies the experience, helping set the varying moods all throughout. Abzu is just one of those perfect examples of video games being a true art form and is a title simple enough that anybody can pick up & enjoy. One of the biggest hurdles for most I’d imagine is the price. It does seem a tad high for an experience that will last you around the same time it’d take to watch most movies, and there is little reason to go back to replay outside of the collectibles. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a relaxing game with vistas that you will fondly remember far after you have put down the controller, Abzu is undoubtedly a title to consider.