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There are some video games in life that cannot be compared to anything else, and most likely, will never be comparable and will remain in their own category.
I very vaguely remember hearing about ABZU when it first was announced, and so when the day of its release arrived and all of my social media accounts were bombarded by screenshots, videos and articles about the game, that is when I realized what would make me buy this game in a matter of seconds: Matt Nava the art director behind what is hands down one of the absolute best and most beautiful game & experience I ever had in gaming, Journey, was the founder of Giant Squid, the studio behind ABZU, which is their very first game. If this wasn’t already amazing, I quickly learned that Austin Wintory, the composer behind Journey’s soundtrack (again, one of the best soundtrack of anything you will ever get to listen to), was also in on the project.
I was sold. That was it. I went on steam, purchased the game, and nearly cried at the excitement and feeling of privilege that I was suddenly filled with.
I played ABZU that very same night. I waited until everyone in my apartment complex went to bed, for the streets to go quiet, and for a nice breeze to settle and travel throughout my apartment, I wanted the right setting for what I knew without any doubt was going to be an absolutely amazing experience. After Journey, and now after ABZU, Giant Squid, and especially Matt Nava & Austin Wintory have my unwavering support in whatever project that have planned for the future. They are geniuses.
In ABZU, just like Journey, you follow some sort of neither human not clearly animal creature who is set in a beautiful and intriguing environment that you have to explore. In Journey, the goal was to get to the tower, as you learn about your people, their culture, and what possibly could have gone down in a distant or not so distant past. In ABZU the game is similarly linear but the way the game is constructed and looks invites you to explore every piece of it, its depth, its population, and to interact with the very various aquatic life that surrounds you, sometimes passively, sometimes not so much. As you are given the option to free some various types of fish, you learn a little more about the people that used to coexist with them, your people, their past, their culture, and some other things that may or may not be all that ambiguous to you.
In moments when I thought that I understood ABZU, its setting, the story it was trying to tell, things turned up on me and a lot of the aspects of the game that was simple and beautiful remained beautiful but touched on a lot of darkness I had not expected.
As you swim, sometimes something that was a bit challenging to do in terms of being able to control your character and move exactly like you mean to, you are surrounded by what is one of the most beautifully designed video game world I have ever had the chance to experience. The color palette, the way that fish, whales and seaweed moves, and the way that the world interacts with you, truly going the opposite direction from some sort of silent observer.
Just like in Journey, Austin Wintory offers us such an incredibly amazing, powerful and unique soundtrack, songs that brought me to tears so many times, as I smiled for very various and complex reasons: that is what video game music should be like. That is what music should be like. Austin Wintory’s compositions are the hands holding the art design of ABZU, working so perfectly well together in order to transport us into a world, an atmosphere, a place that although I expected the quality of due to the amazingness that is Journey, reached a new set of highs. Went where Journey had not excelled all of my expectations.
10/10 – In one night, ABZU became, without any possible, even the smallest of doubt, one of the very best game I have ever had the chance to play in my life. And for this, I am so proud and grateful for the existence of video games as a medium for magical storytelling.