Discover an enchanting world beneath the waves in ABZÛ

By , on August 11, 2016
Last modified 7 years, 10 months ago

Now available to stream on NVIDIA SHIELD via GeForce NOW, ABZÛ is a visually stunning underwater adventure that takes you from waving forests of kelp to lightless abysses via a mysterious sunken city.

If you own a SHIELD device, you can instantly stream ABZÛ for a special launch price of $15.59, which is 20 percent off its normal full price.

There’s a staggering amount of gaming convention that ABZÛ ditches on its way to creating its uniquely serene experience, making its vibrant, detailed beauty a surprisingly rich source of transgression.

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These undersea worlds – ranging from huge open spaces to long-sunken buildings to black, abyssal depths – are full of life, but you’re not there to fight it. You’re there to explore and discover its mysteries. And because developer Giant Squid has modelled an entire ecosystem, you see creatures hunt and kill. Just because you’re not a predator doesn’t mean nothing else is.

Even animals with larger teeth, such as sharks and killer whales, aren’t really interested in you. That’s lucky, because you’re not armed. And this lack of conflict means if you’re quick you can grab on, take a ride and find out even more about this mysterious sea.

Central to that mystery are the traces of the lost civilisation that grow from small ruins to the remains of giant, grandiose buildings. Who were these people, what happened, and what are these little robots doing down here…? There’s a strong narrative to ABZÛ despite its emphasis on self-guided exploration, but its telling is not conventional either.

There is no script – there are no words. Even your diver has no name. There’s nobody giving you directions over a radio in your ear, and there are no missions, though there are still moments of action and drama. So what do you do? Explore. Live.

There are no objectives beyond your own curiosity to uncover what else lives, and what previously lived, beneath these waves. And while you find the odd lever and exploratory puzzle, they don’t form the familiar usual barriers to progress. They’re just more things to explore, and part of ABZÛ ’s genius is to provide a sense of movement that’s pleasurable in itself.

Your diver swims with a powerful kick, and can throw graceful somersaults that can pique some creatures’ curiosity. It’s a unique thrill to attempt to communicate with – rather than target – the creatures you meet in a game. Everything from vast shoals of tiny fish to lone manta-rays, lobsters and giant squid behave in random, procedurally-generated ways, and will react to conditions, predators and you. Some might appreciate you more than others… naturally, dolphins are a good place to start. Though of course, because behavior is not scripted, the game never plays the same way twice.

If you really want to see the depths at work, find a sunken statue. Sit on top and ‘meditate’ and your consciousness (along with the camera) can attach to any nearby animal. If it gets eaten, the camera follows the new fish. If that gets eaten too, the camera swaps again.

ABZÛ’s ability to drag you hook, line and sinker into its world is as much dependent on its soundscape as its seascape. It’s orchestral score ebbs and flows, building lushly in the bright, densely-populated shallows, swelling in the presence of danger and sinking away along with the light and life as you plunge into abyssal trenches.

In fact, Austin Wintory’s soundtrack is getting as much attention and praise as the ABZÛ’s visuals. ABZÛ’s designer, Matt Nava, also worked on Journey, so if you’ve played that you’ll have at least some idea what to expect here, in so much as it’s more about the journey than the destination.

Your rewards lie not in headshots or high scores, but in a stupendous amount of beautiful scenes, an all-enveloping atmosphere and the truth behind the fate of a once-great civilization. That still leaves graphical power in the foreground, of course, and that makes GeForce NOW – NVIDIA’s unrivalled 1080p, 60fps streaming service for all its SHIELD devices – the ultimate destination for ABZÛ. If you purchase the game on GeForce NOW you will receive a key to download the game on PC at no extra cost.

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.