E3 2016: Abzu Hands On Impressions


Abzu is a swimming game that focuses on pure exploration in a beautiful underwater world. Players control a scuba diver who is exploring the ocean floor and discovering various artifacts and monuments buried within the sea. A straightforward narrative is not what the game provides because it is about exploring, leaving players the task of defining the story for themselves and reflect upon what they have discovered.


It is impossible not to see Thatgamecomany’s influence on Abzu and for good reason since the game’s director Matt Nava’s previous work was on Flower and Journey. The look and the vibe is undeniable and even the music has a connection too as the score is provided by Journey’s composer Austin Wintory.

People might look at Abzu as just another one of “those” games, you know a Thatgamecompany sort of title and while on a surface level it has many parallels to those style games in the end it did not matter to me. I spent 10-15 minutes playing, swimming around and messing with the many schools of fish living their lives and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. The game is relaxing and chill. Despite being in a loud room surrounded by other games and people I found myself ignoring everything around me and just swimming.


There are even spots where the game allows the players to mediate and turn the game into a an aquarium screensaver as a form of a collectible. Scattered through the game there will be statues or points that the scuba diver can meditate allowing players to take in the visuals. In the section I played there were various collectibles to find and looking for them while optional was a good excuse to explore and a smart way to extend someone’s playtime.

The game can even get a bit trippy too when I found a deep well at the bottom of the floor and going into it brought me to this vastly different looking area. To put it simply the game is gorgeous and while I do not know how many secrets there are in the game I am intrigued enough from my time playing that I would not mind finding them all.


It is obvious that there is a deep love for aquatic life and it shows greatly in the demo and trailers. Abzu will feature hundreds of different species of fish and they will react dynamically to the scuba diver making for a realistic environment that will help engross players in the world. There is even an active food chain that means if you follow some of the bigger fish around long enough you will see them feed which is a nice touch of realism.

Speaking with Matt Nava it was clear that he has a deep appreciation for underwater life as he has experience doing dives and even has been able to get other members on his team to dive as well. He mentioned his team taking many fields trips to the aquarium to study fish and water. When asked about what he hopes this game can accomplish outside of the gaming world he was enthusiastic about the idea of gamers wanting to learn more about aquatic life and maybe inspiring some to look into in diving.


Abzu will not be for everyone and will deal with the same criticisms games like it before have dealt with questions about length or vague narrative coming up, but if you enjoy artful experiences Abzu looks intriguing.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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