Games of the Year

ABZU

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From the artistic mind behind Journey and Flower, ABZU is a beautiful underwater adventure that evokes the dream of diving. Immerse yourself in a vibrant ocean world full of mystery and bursting with color and life. Perform fluid acrobatics as the Diver, using graceful swimming controls. Discover hundreds of unique species based on real creatures and form a powerful connection with the abundant sea life. Interact with schools of thousands of fish that procedurally respond to you, each other, and predators. Linger in epic seascapes and explore aquatic ecosystems modeled with unprecedented detail. Descend into the heart of the ocean where ancient secrets lie forgotten. But beware, dangers lurk in the depths. "ABZU" is from the oldest mythologies; AB, meaning water, and ZU, meaning to know. ABZU is the ocean of wisdom.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

undid what subnautica did to me. good

Review from Steam

Feesh
Big feesh
Small feesh
Pretty feesh
Blue feesh
Red feesh
T r i a n g l e
Feesh :)

Review from Steam

Hyper relaxing, abzulutely recommended.

Review from Steam

“The definition of video games as an art form”
💮 Preface
The walking simulator is a hard genre for game designers. Because the player interaction is very limited, game developers need to rely on telling a story through dialogues, or with the environment itself. For many years, the term “walking simulator” had a pejorative meaning behind it - and honestly, it had a reason.
The first game that nowadays is considered to be the “pioneer” of the genre was Dear Esther, originally released as a Half-Life 2 modification, which brought the key factors that many games wanted to follow later: a beautiful environment, a story told with inner monologues, notes scattered around the island and minimal player interactivity - because of these reasons many argued that these shouldn’t be considered games; in fact, they should only be addressed as story-driven experiences. But the best was yet to come.
Only a few years later games like “Gone Home”, “Firewatch”, “What Remains Of Edith Finch”, “Everybody's Gone to the Rapture”, “That Dragon, Cancer” and my personal favorite of all, “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” were released, and showed that strong, emotional stories can be told with a minimalistic setting in mind - and after them came Abzu, where you can experience a story told without any text at all.
⚙️ About The Game
For me, Abzu is the perfect definition of the genre, set in a fascinating, vivid, and colorful ocean where we play as a diver searching for answers - at the beginning about the world and later about ourselves. The protagonist doesn’t know anything more than us - but as we progress, this mysterious game becomes more and more familiar to everyone.
The game is divided into seven different chapters, all with different, vastly changing environments and divergent atmospheres. It is completely linear with some easy puzzles to solve, which are served more as “story additions” and are not meant to challenge the player.
The game could also serve as an educational product since all the living creatures are modeled and named after real fishes in the ocean. You can find statues called “meditation statues” scattered along your way, from where you can inspect each of them individually - and on top of that, they aren’t just some floating meshes, there is a working ecosystem behind the scenes, predators hunt for other fishes while they try to get out of the way. Really smart detail!
For Your Interest: Abzu was considered to be the mythical, distant freshwater ocean surrounding Earth according to Sumerian mythology - a secret location where even gods couldn’t enter. The game revolves around this belief with the objects reflecting this.
📓 Story
Many people believe that “The Little Prince” is a tale that has a different meaning to everyone - I think Abzu works in the same way. If we look at it in just a purely basic way, it is just a walking (or sorry, swimming) experience through different regions of the ocean, with little to no answer to who we are, and what our purpose is. I completely understand if someone would like to experience it this way, though for me, it told the narrative of a bond that is stronger than anything, the hope that we can make a change and make the world a better place to live, and the fears that everyone has in their souls. I will leave this to you to find out - and I hope that you will find your answer to this.
As I mentioned, the game features no text at all, so everything has to be interpreted from nature and the animals/helpers surrounding us - in addition, the world is filled with mysterious items from another age, and each of them adds a little to the already mysterious lore.
🖼️ Graphics And Aesthetics
Featuring a stunning, stylized environment, everything looks so colorful and alive, every biome has its own unique flora and fauna, which for me was a huge plus since everything constantly changed around me - the immersion was fully established this way!
For a fun fact in a GDC talk the creative director, Matt Nava explained that individually animating all the fish couldn’t work, since there are scenes where more than 10 thousand creatures are floating all around us. To work this out the team instead of using a skeletal animation actually made a custom shader, applied it to an unanimated mesh, and “faked” the illusion of the fish swimming. With this, they were able to boost from around 30 fish in a scene to the previously mentioned over 10 thousand limits. For me this is mind-blowing, considering that the animations look completely natural!
🎧 Audio
Words can’t really describe how touching the music is… It gives me the emotions of hope, joy, and their opposites, freight and fear as well. The original score is in a great symbiosis with the graphics and the atmosphere - it brings tears even to a grown man's eyes.
Sound effects are also truly great, I especially the ones the developers used in different areas, like when breaching into the surface or being in a dark cave. The immersion has been perfected with the cohesion between all these small details - but in the end, that’s what makes this game a true masterpiece!
Final Conclusion
Abzu is not really a game in my opinion - it is the true definition of video games as an art form. Whether you want to explore a mysterious land or experience a truly touching story, this title will fulfill your soul with tranquillity - but since art can be subjective, I’ll leave it to yourself. A true masterpiece that everyone should at least once experience throughout their lives!
+ Positive Factors +
- Negative Factors -

The game looks and feels gorgeous with its bright, vivid, and living nature accompanied by a touching soundtrack and some truly memorable events.
You interpret the story in a way that you want on several levels.
Strong, constantly changing atmosphere.

Quite a few missable achievements, which in itself wouldn’t be a problem, but it would be good if I could track my progress since I thought I got everything, but in the end, I didn’t fully collect everything.
This also lowers the replayability value.
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Review from Steam

ABZÛ is one of the most beautiful, emotional journeys I've had to experience and I can’t describe enough how this game is and will always be one of my favorite games for many years to come.

Review from Steam

the part where you get to swim is really good

Review from Steam

An outworldly plunge into colours and thoughts. Don't you dare missing it.

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