Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
“Beyond Blue” is a single-player narrative adventure that takes you deep into our planet’s beating blue heart. Set in the near future, Beyond Blue explores the mysteries of our ocean through the eyes of Mirai, a deep-water explorer and scientist. Become a part of a newly-formed research team using groundbreaking technologies to see, hear, and interact with the ocean in a more meaningful way than has ever been attempted.
If you’re curious about “Beyond Blue”, watch the game trailer so that you know exactly what to expect. The game is the polar opposite of the over-the-top; undeniably fun Epic Games release “Maneater”, so that’s all cleared up. Instead of chowing down on alligators and unsuspecting beach-goers, you play as Mirai, a deep sea diver and ocean explorer who is part of a new research team with next-gen tech that hopes to unlock the mysteries of the oceans and gain a better understanding of the creatures that live below the earth’s waters.
As Mirai, you’ll dive in the ocean with the latest dive suit and rebreather tech which allows you to traverse the ocean depths without the fear of running out of oxygen or having fatigue set in. There are various maps that you unlock as you partake in eight separate dives, all of which you are live-streaming to the world. Your team consists of two other scientists who chat with you during your dives. The presentation of the live-streaming was a unique touch to the game as you’ll interact and kid around with your fellow compatriots as well as take questions from around the world regarding your current dive objectives. You’ll swim around with your future-tech scanner scanning everything that you come into contact with. Creatures with an open circle highlighting them means that they need to be scanned while ones with a solid circle means they’ve been scanned and will appear in your logs. You can access models of scanned creatures with behavioral information in those logs.
You’ll be given objectives which usually include searching out and scanning things to further your research. Most of the information that you receive come from your scans and not from actually studying animal behavior. While this does get repetitive at times, the variety of the dive locations helps keeps things interesting as you discover new creatures and begin to unravel the mystery and suspense of the situation in which the creatures you are tracking are in.
Outside of the diving and exploration, there is a little bit of backstory and character development for Mirai. You’ll learn that she comes from a family of ocean explorers and that she would dive with her grandmother often as a child. That is where she gained her love of the ocean and its creatures. This runs parallel to your main objective in the game, as you follow along a pod of whales that have had an unfortunate situation fall upon them. Mirai’s current situation and struggles mirror that of the whales in which she is researching.
After each dive you’ll find yourself about your current housing space, a high-tech one-woman sub that allows you to interact with certain aspects of the insides an also provides clues to Mirai’s personal life. There is an interactive iPad-like music player complete with songs from the Flaming Lips and Miles Davis among others, books and notes about helping and caring for others as well as collections of poems and stories, a whiteboard with notes and a collection of thoughts that change after every mission and a hub screen that allows you to listen to messages and make and receive phone calls from your fellow scientists as well as your sister Ren.
Diving into Mirai’s backstory, you’ll learn that her grandmother has been suffering from dementia and, since you’re pursuing your research, your sister Ren has been putting off school to care for your grandmother since there is no one else to take care of her. There are some aspects of sadness and tension between the two sisters but never to the point of jealously and anger. The development of the story of the sisters is a welcome addition to the exploration aspects of the game but it feels underdeveloped. You learn these tidbits from phone interactions but sometimes it seems as if chunks of the story are missing. I would have liked to possibly seen some cutscenes or flashbacks of the sister’s situation that elaborated on how the two got to the point in the story where they’re at. While the ocean exploration aspect of the game is the main focus, the story of the sisters was added on purpose to break the feeling of loneliness and add depth to the character so I feel that they should have went all in with it.
“Beyond Blue” is a relaxing game of exploration, discovery and education. You’ll unlock video clips from scientists, researchers and experts regarding many topics including conservation, situations from in-game encounters and excerpts regarding animals that you’ve discovered to name a few. Overall, the game clocks in between 4-6 hours of gameplay with one or two more needed to unlock everything for full game completion.
There is a high edutainment value and the added depth of the main characters adds a somber realism that parallels the games ambient atmosphere. If you want a change of pace and are looking for a calming, relaxing game that isn’t challenging but is highly educational and informative, take to the seas with “Beyond Blue”.