Devoid of fast-paced action, complex controls and a gripping story, Abzu finds different ways to please. Many games are comprised of graphics that are so expertly crafted they become beautiful to look at. Abzu is beauty itself.
A few minor puzzles aside, minimal hazards and an undefined plot, Abzu engulfs the player in an underwater world of wonders. Within a moment of playing you are whisked away to another dimension. Playing without a purpose has never been so satisfying. Swimming aimlessly about, gliding through kelp forests and stopping at every fish encountered inspires the same awe a child experiences the first time they visit an aquarium.
One can easily run through the game in no time at all, but why would you? The joy is not in completion, but in the journey and wonders around. Exploration and discovery reward immensely.
Simplicity reigns supreme. You navigate the waters with basic controls, swimming around schools of fish and, every so often, interacting with the environment. That's it.
It's a welcomed departure from complex gaming systems, breaking it down to the bare minimum where using your senses is key. Imagine being locked in an art gallery surrounded by works of Dali, Picasso and Da Vinci. The amount of beauty would be slightly overwhelming making it impossible to focus on one particular piece. Thus is the case with Abzu as my eyes continuously bounced around trying to absorb even the smallest of details. It's an overload of visual stimulation, but in the most peaceful manner possible.
A beautifully melodic soundtrack enhances your journey, creating total serenity. A peaceful score creates the perfect backdrop as you navigate the various regions beneath the sea. Bright, colorful tunes uplift your mood as you latch onto giant fish or dash through the waters with a pod of Orca. Dark melodies subdue as you enter areas where light becomes scarce. It creates enough creepiness to provide feelings of loneliness one might experience if they entered and underwater cavern. Aside from small submersibles that follow along on your quest you are alone. But being alone isn't a bad thing as this game is solely about you.
After completing the high-speed action extravaganza that is Uncharted 4, the simplicity and soothing quest of Abzu was a welcomed leveling agent of relaxation. Without spoiling some of the greater discoveries, there are some moments that will literally take your breath away. Traveling with blue whales created a sense of exhilaration I haven't felt in gaming since I was wandering around Hyrule in A Link to the Past. This is an artistic experience that will draw you in time and time again. It's an escape from the endless static of life that will help you unwind on a deeper level. If you expect a lot from Abzu you will not find it. In fact...expect nothing and what you will find is something you may not have expected from a downloadable game. The price tag is $20 and well worth every penny.