Abzú Review: Into the Abyss

★★★★★ | $20 on Steam / PS4

Bethany Berg, Photo Editor

There is so much beauty in the world that we see every day. The changing leaves, the cloudless blue sky, all patterns and art and color. It’s a commonality to our lives, something we can share with one another and feel connected to the world around us. Since some of us live in the Midwest, landlocked, the ocean is something we don’t have a constant and physical connection with. But the subconscious, innate connection still exists within all of us. It just takes phenomenal art and music direction in games like Abzú to bring it out.

Abzú is a representation of everything the ocean is to us – beautiful and dangerous. At first glance, Abzú may look like just a diving simulator, but it’s not. It takes all of the harsh realities out of diving and gives you a character who doesn’t need to go back up for air. You begin at the surface, and as the game continues, you venture deeper and further into the mysterious abyss.

This isn’t a game for all types of gamers. It’s such a specific genre, aimed more at a relaxing, meditative type of gameplay, with a light and linear storyline. You advance the diver from one area to the next, dynamically interacting with each new environment and new species as you progress.

Every few environments, there are small puzzles to solve before continuing. Simple ones, that include flipping a few switches to open relic doors and finding robot pals to get past blockades in environments. The further you go, the deeper you dive, the more clues you’ll find into knowing the diver’s past, and more about the dangers that await her.

Abzú is beautiful. There’s no other way to describe its wondrous lush ecosystems, hundreds of real types of sea creatures, ancient relics and forgotten mysteries. Each area is an open world, with items to collect and secret areas to explore. The controls are very simple, everything is dynamic and fluid with dream-like grace. Each flowing kelp leaf, school of fish, sandy ocean floor, all react to the diver as she interacts with them. Even with the extra exploring, gameplay will last you around three to four hours.

One of the biggest parts of this game, that really makes it feel alive and real, was how music-driven it is. The soundtrack was recorded by a live orchestra, and in that, paired with the timing of some scenes, really brought out the emotional aspects of Abzú. The rush of music as you rip through high-speed currents alongside hundreds of multi-colored, vibrant fish, to the light and triumphant feelings that match the swell of harmony as you leap out of the water alongside dolphins. Everything is so reactive and magical, that even though this is a purely single-player game, I never felt alone.

Sometimes, we see the sea as all boneyards and shipwrecks. How sea-foam soaks into the sand, all fluidity and buried secrets. The ocean can be many things: the raging tide, the calm waters, the tsunami on the horizon, just like us. All saltwater alongside air, so full of life and secrets and everything kept hidden in the dark. Throughout playing, I never found myself lost at sea in Abzú. Instead, I found myself.