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Previewed on PC. Played at EGX Rezzed.
In Beyond Blue, you play as Mirai, the head of a research team that use revolutionary technology to explore and map the ocean and the life underneath the waves. In my brief time with the game, I scanned some dolphins, looked at some whales, got very distracted by how nice the coral looked, and didn’t want to leave.
Like, I really didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay at the booth and play this game for the next 4 or 5 hours on repeat. Everything about it was bewitching and mystical in the way that only things under the ocean can be. The sounds and the graphics paired perfectly to serve up a slice of something that made you genuinely feel like you were underwater. I feel like Beyond Blue in VR would probably blow my entire mind.
Intrigues of the deep blue depths aside, Beyond Blue also has a perfect educational aspect. In order to make the game as perfect and as scientifically correct as possible, E-Line Media partnered with BBC Studios (the developers of the beautiful and acclaimed Blue Planet 2), world class game makers, and some of the field’s leading ocean experts in order to create something that would perfectly showcase the beauty in the depths below.
Now is perhaps the time to mention that I am absolutely enamoured of underwater diving and exploration games. I’m a one-person Endless Ocean fanclub and I’ve played ABZÛ enough times that I now only sort of cry after finishing it. I admire underwater levels in games. The low-poly water of old PlayStation games fills me with a sense of warmth and nostalgia. I always feel we need more underwater games that capture the allure of the ocean.
While Endless Ocean contains mostly accurate facts about ocean creatures, it’s sort of lacking in graphical capacity. Most of the fish are just low-res textures slapped onto a vaguely fish shaped object. ABZÛ, on the other hand, is absolutely beautiful, but lacks any sort of actual science to it. It’s great to play if you want to have a lasting impression of both hope and melancholy left on your soul, but absolutely not the game to play if you’re looking to become an ichthyologist.
From what I saw, Beyond Blue perfectly balances both of these things and is probably a decent resource for aspiring ichthyologists. I was struck by how graphically advanced it was. I felt as though I was surrounded by actual living and breathing creatures. One scene with an octopus had me almost stunned, as I could actually distinguish the individual suckers on its tentacles. You can tell that there’s been a lot of obvious love and care put into the environmental detail of the game.
You can scan the in-game creatures using a specialised tool which reveals vital information about them such as their species and gender. It’s all very scientific and very professional, unlike Endless Ocean, where you just poke the fish until they magically divulge their secrets (the sequel made that feature a little bit more technical, but my point still stands).
The game’s not all cold hard science, however. In the demo I played, Mirai was delightfully witty and snarky in equal measures, bringing a sense of warmth and humanity to the game. Beyond Blue is set to highlight the worst of humanity, including how we’re polluting the ocean with our reckless plastic use, so it’s nice to know that not everyone is a terrible human being.
Personally, I’m extremely excited to see where Beyond Blue goes. It currently gives off the impression that it perfectly walks the line between education and entertainment which, quite frankly, is a game that we all need but don’t deserve. For far too long have water levels in games been written off as ‘the worst’ – it’s now the ocean’s time to shine bright like an angler fish, before it’s too late.