We seem to have reached a point in gaming where developers are desperately pushing to make video games the next interactive art form, which has been struggling to find merit in the last few years. In attempting to convey an artistic landscape or deep story through a players action, often times the gameplay itself is left outside of the equation.
The ‘walking simulator’ as many of these experience are know, are often enjoyable but feel heavily aimed towards a very small demographic in the gaming industry.
Value for money is the biggest concern, and in attempting introduce classical art methodology into gaming can result in an experience that feels like it might be half finished. But to look at these types of games understandably misses the point, as the message and experience is the very core of the games existence.
Unfortunately this debate surrounds our experience with Abzu, a stunningly beautiful deep-sea adventure from first time developer Giant Squid. The story tasks you with exploring a truly lovely recreation of the ocean, slowly building to a number of alien discoveries.
This is usually where some sort of action or horror set piece begins to take place, but Abzu never quite falls into this trope. It isn’t a game about surviving, fighting or working out complex puzzles. Instead, it’s all about the journey.
There is very few traditional video game elements, with no HUD to speak of, enemies to fight or any real story conveyance other than through a visual medium. And it works very well to immerse in the world the game presents, which is both delightful and sinister at different points.
The thrill of entering a new area is what you pay for, and watching the expertly detailed sea life and environment interact with each other is a breathtaking endeavor.
The music is major part of why the game hits very close to the mark, evoking the bizzare orchestra of the ocean floor, thanks to another stellar effort from Journey composer Austin Wintory. They would be worth playing through the game alone, and certainly will be tucked away on a few playlists shortly after launch.
But now we hit the same wall, the same problem, we were ranting on about at the start of this review. What is there to do other than explore and observe.
Honestly, not much. The character controls extremely well and can even pull off a graceful twisting jump should you break the surface, but it never comes into use throughout the game.
Abzu has one or two puzzles of not, but all are so simple it hardly becomes a significant gameplay element. Simply put, yo never really interact, you just watch and move.
But we can’t stress enough that isn’t necessarily a problem with game, but it will be problem for certain types of gamers. Abzu is only around 4 hours long, and asks you to spend £11.99, which does feel fair for the what you get.
So, truthfully, your enjoyment comes from what sort of games you think are worth you time. Abzu was a great, short and visually captivating experience for the time we played it, but we don’t exactly have the drive to go back and start it again. Think carefully before you choose to invest in the game, and you might just have a lot of fun for an afternoon, but not much more.