Abzu is a moving, timeless tale wrapped in veils many and beautiful.
Ineffable (adjective): incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible.
I feel a bit dramatic using the word ineffable to describe a game, to be honest. The word is typically reserved for some kind of breathtaking sight or life-changing event. The Aurora Borealis, a near death experience, a lover’s kiss, a solemn, religious ritual… these things are ineffable. I’ve only ever used the word to describe one game before today, and that game was Journey.
When I heard that Matt Nava, the art director of Flower and Journey, was working on a new game with composer Austin Wintory (Journey, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, The Banner Saga), I knew it’d be something worth playing. When it comes down to it, games like Journey aren’t so much played as they are experienced, and that’s certainly true of Nava’s latest: Abzu. Abzu is a third-person meditative adventure in the same vein as Journey, but it stands on its own as a unique and unforgettable treasure. It’s a true work of art; a sight to behold.
It’s really hard to talk about Abzu in concrete terms without giving anything away. There’s no clear-cut, A-to-Z story here, and so there aren’t really plot spoilers per se. Things do happen, and there are a few underlying themes that gracefully unfold throughout the course of the game. Playing through Abzu isn’t like turning through the pages of a book, though. It’s more like witnessing the blossoming of a flower. You just feel lucky to be there; to be seeing what you’re seeing. At times you wonder if anyone else has experienced what you’ve experienced and felt the same way about it. The point of Abzu, like all great art, isn’t necessarily to entertain you. It’s there to stir something in your soul; to evoke emotions through impressions; to inspire wonder.
To that end Abzu is a dazzling success, and I had a dumb smile on my face the whole way through. It’s a two-hour, underwater dream full of beauty, curiosity, fear, sadness, and wonder. As you guide your mysterious deep-sea explorer through jungles of kelp, dark, open depths, underwater gardens, and mysterious ruins, you’ll uncover a unique telling of a timeless tale. A tale of man, of nature, and of the connection that they share.
There’s really nothing that gets in between you and Abzu’s tale as you play. I’m not so enamored with the game that I’d intentionally neglect to point out its shortcomings if it had any. If I had to mention something, then I’d say that at least a few of you will have some trouble with the controls. No matter how you direct the camera with the right stick, your character is steered completely by the left stick and can rotate 360°, free and weightless. Once you adjust your position and begin moving, the camera will re-center itself behind your character, so I’m sure some of you will get disorientated from time to time expecting your character to turn with you as you rotate the camera with the right stick. It took me about 30 seconds to get my bearings, and exploration was simple from there onward.
As you explore and interact with the seemingly countless forms of marine life that surround your character, Austin Wintory’s angelic score completely engulfs and compels you like a strong current. Abzu‘s soundtrack is a triumph, and there were two points in the game where the visuals and music synchronized and synergized so powerfully that I was almost moved to tears. Upon finishing the game it’s likely that you’ll feel compelled to find any means to reach out to the man personally and thank him for his music; I did.
What else can I say about Abzu without spoiling any of the experience? All I can say is that it’s certainly worth the asking price. I can say you’ll want to play it through more than once. I can say with confidence that the game is timeless, and will be just as beautiful and meaningful a hundred years from now as it is today. Don’t miss out on this beautiful game. Shut your door and quiet the noise of this crazy, busy world. Turn off your lights and be alone. Put on your headphones and accept this gift from these gifted developers – they’re offering you something very precious. It’s restorative. It’s other-worldly. It’s ineffable.
Below is embedded my livestream of Abzu. Please do not watch it if you plan to experience this game for yourself.[fvplayer src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNLzBkWbpj0″ width=”560″ height=”315″] [fvplayer src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgsSjNhT0nI” width=”560″ height=”315″]