There’s something very picturesque and dreamlike about being underwater, especially in the ocean. While I myself have never dived in, the ocean’s vibrant colors and ecosystems fascinate me, with fish and flora combining in beautiful and strange ways to create a much more 3D environment than most can manage above the water. ABZÛ brings that life and color within reach, serving as both a relaxing meditation/exploration style of game with the added benefit of being surprisingly educational, too.
A spiritual successor to thatgamecompany’s Journey, ABZÛ features an unnamed diver in an ocean of life, color, and movement, in stark contrast to Journey’s lonely desert setting. With several people on the team having worked on Journey, including director Matt Nava and composer Austin Wintory, this deep sea dive is a technical accomplishment given the level of fidelity with the controls, the AI behavior of all the fish and sea creatures, and the sheer volume of creatures in the game as a whole. All based on real world fish and plants, one interview with Nava states that there are around 200 total types of fish in the game, with the team being limited by time and resource constraints, as they couldn’t add every fish species they wanted by the time of release. And while many of these fish would never meet in real life, they have accurate school behaviors and pathing, swimming in and out of shoals, parting forests of kelp and reacting to the presence of the player as real fish might.
The level of research and care taken in the development of this game tells a story of love and passion, with architecture and mythos derived from ancient cultures and particular designs inspired by Sumarian creation myths and Middle Eastern influences. In fact, the title itself is a combination of these mixed histories. Here’s what abzugame.com has to say about it:
“Discover a lush hidden world as you descend into the heart of the ocean, where ancient secrets lie forgotten and encounters with majestic creatures await.
ABZÛ is an epic descent into the depths of the sea, where players will explore beautifully rendered ocean environments with fluid swimming controls. The experience draws inspiration from the deep innate narrative that we all carry within our subconscious: the story of ABZÛ is a universal myth that resonates across cultures. The name references a concept from the oldest mythologies; it is the combination of the two ancient words AB, meaning ocean, and ZÛ, meaning to know. ABZÛ is the ocean of wisdom.”
Evoking the trance-like nature of deep sea diving without being beholden to pesky real-world limitations like visibility, breathing, and water pressure, ABZÛ is a beautiful game with an entrancing musical soundtrack and stunning visuals, if you have a machine that can handle it. I won’t lie, some parts of the game really suffer on lower-end machines due to the volume of fish on the screen at once, but these moments are few and far between, mainly happening when the player is trying to move quickly through spaces. So take your time, relax, and let the ocean currents take you where they may on your journey of self-discovery and exploration.