People are messy… that’s why I study whales
Beyond Blue - Gameplay Trailer - Available Now!
System: PC (Epic, Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Apple Arcade
Publisher: E-Line Media
Developer: E-Line Media
Release Date: Jun 11, 2020
Who it Caters to
The only thing more fascinating than staring at the sky on a clear night, wondering about space, is thinking about all the things we don't know about the ocean—and ultimately, about our own planet. Thanks to a lot of amazing works of fiction, a lot of us are both curious and afraid of whatever lies beneath the deep-sea... and thanks to a lot of passionate scientists, we learned that just like Mark Twain once said, 'truth is stranger than fiction.'
For obvious reasons, Beyond Blue definitely isn't for everyone. Some may say it's boring because of the lacking action or that exploration alone is not enough to keep you playing it and scanning animals gets boring pretty quickly. To each their own, but if you ask us, we're sure that those looking for something different will love every second of Beyond Blue, a casual exploration sim that's equal parts calming and informative.
What to Expect
Beyond Blue is a game about being alone in the ocean, swimming among sharks, whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures... so even though they won't attack you and this is not a horror game, people with thalassophobia will absolutely hate it. At the same time, there are no puzzles, weapons, or anything like that, so your only goal is to scan different animals to study them while learning more about the troubled lives of the characters involved.
All that being said, this is way more than just a game about exploring the oceans and studying sperm whales. Beyond Blue is a love letter to science and wildlife; a short yet powerful, soothing experience that also lets you admire how beautiful the oceans are, and how much of our own world we have yet to discover.
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Beyond Blue's graphics are not what one would call bad, but there's a lot of room for improvement. With such simple gameplay mechanics, it would have been great to have a realistic look at all these ocean animals, and although some of these creatures actually look good when they're swimming by, sometimes the models are rough around the edges, and that throws you off a little.
We get that the human models are not the most important part here, but they all look straight out of a last-gen game. Maybe it would've been better to use real photographs for the scientists' avatars, and stick to a first-person view when Mirai—the protagonist—isn't diving? Regardless, Beyond Blue looks great for an indie game, and it really perfectly captures the thrill of swimming in the deep, magnificent, blue ocean... especially at night!
In terms of the soundtrack and sound effects, we have to say we're in love with Beyond Blue. The ambiance music really works, but turning off everything but the ocean sounds is an excellent choice once you finish the game and unlock the Free Swim mode, and hearing at the singing whales while they're swimming around you is by far one of the best moments of the whole game.
We already mention we're not fans of how the human characters look in the game, but on the other hand, the voice acting is what keeps the game going. Mirai's interactions with her sister or her fellow scientists are more enjoyable when you can listen to them, instead of just reading, and featuring professional, experienced actors like Mira Furlan or Hakeem Kae-Kazim definitely helps.
Finally, we have to talk about Mirai's playlist, a list of chill songs you can listen to in her iPad—or whatever that device is—after a long diving session. Picture yourself hundreds of meters below sea level, listening to indie marvels like The Marias, The Flaming Lips, Slow Skies, or Vanderocker while different fish of all sizes show up at your submarine's window.
Sounds eerily relaxing, right? After a few diving sessions, you can unlock different songs to complete this playlist, which also includes some tracks by Roger Payne (a biologist who creates 'music' from the sound of the whales) and a lovely folk ballad by New Zealand singer-songwriter Sophie Gibson, to name a few.
In Beyond Blue, you play as Mirai, a marine scientist who studies sperm whales and also runs a livestream about life in the ocean. That's why your primary goal is to investigate a family of whales and, more specifically, a young whale she named Andrea, but things aren't easy, and there's a lot of work to do.
Helping Mirai we have Irina and André, two other scientists constantly clashing because of their interests and philosophy: while André wants to protect the animals, Irina wants to study them and use whatever they can discover for medical purposes. As if it were a visual novel, sometimes you can pick a side or try to calm them down thanks to different dialogue options, but this doesn't alter the story that much as there are no alternate endings or anything like that.
In the depths of the Western Pacific, Mirai follows the life of Andrea and her whale family, and that's our excuse to learn more about all the animals (46 species, to be precise) we meet along our way.
The gameplay is quite simple: you need to explore different regions of the ocean, swimming from buoy to buoy, scanning and tagging all these creatures, and investigating the origins of some strange sounds. Maybe you need to change the light of your suit (infrared, ultraviolet, etc.), but that's it. Basically, all you do is going from point A to point B, and then you just press a couple buttons... but with so many distractions, you can easily lose yourself to the sounds and sights of the ocean in between quests.
Once in the submarine, you need to call your coworkers and/or your younger sister Ren before jumping into the next diving session. Some of these chats are boring and unnecessary, while some other calls actually give you valuable bits of information about Mirai's background: Ren is far from having an ideal life, and their grandmother suffers from dementia. Is this really important? Not at all, and the gameplay would be the same without Mirai's family, but we can't deny it adds a layer of meaning to it all.
In Beyond Blue, all you need to care about is exploring the ocean; in other words, getting too close to a shark won't get you killed, and there are no jump scares while swimming in pitch-black waters... although being face to face with an Atlantic Footballfish is not a pleasant experience.
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Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Exploration feels fantastic, and on top of it, you can unlock several mini-documentaries that are available at all times from the pause menu. At a regular pace, Beyond Blue will take you around 6 hours to complete it, but once you get to the end of it, you can dive at will in the Free Swim mode.
This means that Mirai's adventure might feel short, but if a virtual dive brings you peace, then you can have endless fun exploring every inch of the available regions of the ocean. That’s what we love about Beyond Blue!
The music and sound effects are wonderful, a perfect fit for Beyond Blue's atmosphere.
Exploring the ocean at night is better when you’re actually at home and there are no giant sharks, whales, or squids around you...
All characters are flawed, which makes them more meaningful to the story.
We experienced quite a lot of bugs.
The ocean looks good, but we can’t say the same about Mirai and her peers. Real photos would have suited the characters better, but these generic 3D models are hard to look at.
Honey's Final Verdict:
If what you enjoyed the most about games like Subnautica or Abzu is roaming in the water in search of cool-looking animals and biomes, then you'll have a blast playing Beyond Blue.
We're marveled at what a video game can achieve when the developers join forces with well-known entities like OceanX, the BBC Studios, and a lot of expert, passionate scientists!
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