Soothing and artistic, ABZU's simple gameplay offers a decent adventure overall.
In some ways, ABZU and No Man's Sky could be soul-mates. Here are two games bound by intrinsic gameplay mechanics that emphasize the beautiful view along with exploration. However, ABZU takes a more linear, narrative-driven approach with its gameplay. It's not even a narrative that's completely clear but unlike No Man's Sky, the journey is quite worth the few hours you spare.
ABZU has you playing as a deep sea swimmer diving into the depths to experience nature, mystery and intrigue. The world is bubbling with life both serene and ambiguous - you'll navigate schools of fish, explore coral reefs and generally take in the world around you. The accompanying soundtrack is all the more effective in immersing you and it's hard to not make comparisons to Journey, the artistic exploration title that stood out in the PS3 era.
There are things to do in ABZU, although they're not exactly approaching RPG-levels of depth. You'll be swimming forward for the most part, casually looking around or going off the beaten path to find secrets. Hit the boost button at the right moment and the swimmer will accelerate, resulting in the world around you responding accordingly. ABZU feels alive, even if it's world isn't trying to overwhelm you with complex puzzles, story developments or rewards. The experience itself is meant to be the reward for players.
ABZU can be generally fun but it may feel pretty limited to your average adventurer. As noted above, the story is ambiguous to the point of feeling opaque at times and you won't fully understand the ending. Yes, there is a joy in running around and exploring this world but unlike Journey, you won't be doing it with friends. ABZU is a purely single-player affair, sadly. There are also problems with the camera system. At times, it heightens the sense of tension from being underwater. Other times, it can interfere with the environment and distract you. It's not horrible though and will get you through the adventure just fine.
ABZU is an atmospheric and pretty time-waster. It doesn't have any pretensions about what it's offering to the player. While the gameplay can be simplistic and less than ideal at times due to the camera system, the world of ABZU can be spell-binding at times and oh-so-inviting to dive into. For a few hours of your life, it's worth the experience of heading underwater and not knowing what you'll find.
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