Developer: Giant Squid
Creative Director: Matt Nava
Genre: Oceanic adventure, ecologist parable
Abzu in Mesopotamian mythology is the personification of groundwater god and the progenitor of all gods. All fresh water sources (springs, rivers, lakes and wells) are considered to come from a single underground ocean, whose Abzu is the god.
The title of Giant Squid, behind which hides Matt Nava, one of the creators of Journey, is a spiritual experience for discovering enchanted worlds through crystalline waters teeming with life and full of lights, musics and colors. Someone has ironically referred to Abzu as a new Journey set in the abyss, but i think Abzu has a greater aesthetic appeal.
Everything in Abzu is ethereal and fluid, such as the sinuous and choreographic movements of your avatar, a Diver who seems to dance harmoniously, with great sense of inertia, an essential feature to really make feel yourself suspended in fluid; bright glares and bubbling water complement the amazing sensoral and physical picture.
The player directs the Diver using full analogue control, it’s a bit like driving an airplane. The goal is solving item-based puzzles; each area includes hidden collectables you have to find. You can accelerate and also interact with marine life forms using sonar pulses; the Diver can also grab onto the bodies of larger marine animals and ride on them.
You are literaly enraptured by flood of lights, colors and marvellous scenarios that leave you in awe, depicting a visual composition that enchants the view and lulls your soul. All this happens in a dynamic environment, a continuous “panta rei” of colorful fishes engaged in a perpetual dance, swaying aquatic plants and chameleon environments. Each element is in harmony and in sync with your movements and responds perfectly to your interactions, thanks to a highly advanced artificial intelligence that characterizes each aquatic species, even able to realistically manage the collective behavior of dense fish herds and “tornados”.
The harmonious music, epic, choral, orchestral, is able to support at the right time and with the right register any event, becoming the intangible backbone of your artistic experience. Listen here for OST.
Sometimes you will also take a rest upon an ancient shark-like satue and will regain your strengths by meditation; this is a kind of astral projection of your consciousness out of your body, which allows you to follow and admire closely the behavior of aquatic species surrounding you, and also to know their scientific laltin names, as in a documentary!
The game gives you a holistic experience, which surprisingly pivots around an implicit narration rich of deep content.
In fact, not only you will be exploring various ecosystems in the mythological underground ocean, but also colossal and enigmatic vestiges of ancient alien civilizations, , so that you will wander even through cyberpunk scenarios!
You will forge an unexpected and touching relationship with an “inhabitant” of the ocean and will find out what lies behind your enigmatic avatar and his strange actions …..
The game does not hide its symbolic content and its ecological message, resulting in a clear metaphor for the flourishing of life following an ecological catastrophe. You can even read a metaphor for procreation and artificial insemination. Here it would open up a wide reflection on artificial intelligence and definition of life, but we would go too far and make spoiler.
ABZU, despite ensuring a short play time, up to 3 or 4 hours, is a highly interactive and engaging holistic experience, complex and dynamic, with a high level aesthetics research, able to express universal and symbolic contents and intellectual and scientific reflections. In a word, it is a true artwork, a point of arrival and departure for the art of videogames; but only time will tell us if it’s a masterpiece!
Rating: 98/100 (Info about Rating)