Developer: Giant Squid
Creative Director: Matt Nava
Abzu in Mesopotamian mythology is the personification of groundwater god and the progenitor of gods. All fresh water sources (springs, rivers, lakes and wells) were considered to come from a single underground ocean, whose Abzu was 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 pulsing 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 our avatar, a Diver who seems to dance harmoniously, with a great sense of inertia. An essential feature to really make feel yourself suspended in a fluid. Bright glares and bubbling water complement the amazing sensory and physical picture.
The player directs the Diver using full analogue control, able to interact with the environment to solve switch or item-based puzzles. The Diver can accelerate, and interact with marine life using sonar chimes; he can also grab onto the bodies of larger marine animals and ride on them. Each area sports hidden collectables to find.
On an aesthetic level, we are enraptured by a flood of lights, colors and scenarios that leave us in suspense, depicting a visual composition that enchants the view and lulls our 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 our movements and responds perfectly to our 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.
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 our artistic experience. Listen here for OST.
Sometimes we will also take a rest upon an ancient shark-like satue and will regain our strengths by meditation; this is a kind of astral projection of our consciousness out of our body, which allows us to follow and admire closely the behavior of aquatic species surrounding us, and also to know their scientific laltin names, as in a documentary!
The game gives us a holistic experience, which surprisingly pivots around an implicit narration rich of deep content.
In fact, not only we will be exploring various ecosystems in the mythological underground ocean, but also colossal and enigmatic vestiges of ancient civilizations, even alien civilizations, so that we will wander even through cyberpunk scenarios!
We will forge an unexpected and touching relationship with an “inhabitant” of the ocean and will find out what lies behind our 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!