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Endless Ocean Luminous Review

Endless Ocean Luminous

Developer: Akira
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Switch
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $49.99 – Available Here

Overview

Some games come and go, while other leave a lasting legacy. In some ways, the Endless Ocean franchise was forgotten in a sea of Wii releases, as its niche appeal – while welcome, was never deemed a massive hit with fans. Nintendo are odd about their IPs though and have decided to take another stab at the underwater exploration game on the Switch, with some online features in tow. Does Endless Ocean Luminous float to the surface, or will it sink due to its limited appeal? Let’s find out.

Story

There is a narrative in Endless Ocean Luminous…sort of. Players take the role of a diver who is assisted by a rival of sorts by the name of Daniel and an AI named Sera, and must take to the sea to discover wildlife and complete objectives. The story is fine as it highlights the dying coral reef and other mysteries of the deep, but never really acts as anything other than a tutorial as the chapters are buried behind high walls of scanning XX amount of fish before moving on. When I say scanning fish, I mean scanning a lot of fish, sometimes up into the hundreds before progression can be made. Sure, there is a plot, but it feels a bit flat and lifeless as this game really doesn’t need a story and it seems the team who created it just pasted it in to give it a sense of direction. There is an audience for this game, and one that is looking for a tale of excitement and lavish adventure will be disappointed, as these chapters play out like a slow-moving nature documentary. That is not a bad thing to someone like myself who understood what I was playing prior, but keep that in mind before snagging onto this hook.

Gameplay

The gameplay here is very simple. You dive, you discover, you swim. That is really it. There are objectives to complete and a ton of well-researched underwater knowledge, so most will initially be quite impressed by how deep this knowledge goes, as it can be quite soothing just to dive in and feel around for actual marine wildlife and facts that you never knew existed. Dives are the heart and soul of this game, and while the story feels a bit linear, being able to just paddle around underwater leads to lovely moments where you can befriend species who will follow you as you discover underwater wreckage and locales – which is really where the meat of the game is found.

The large addition here is the online functionality, as up to 30 players can dive and a communication system has been implemented to let players tag their discoveries for other players. The ocean is large and dives are generated randomly, so each dive is likely to lead to something new. Sure, its a lot of fun poking and prodding around with other players, but I don’t know if it is something that really is needed for this game. Do we need to dive with 30 players in a game that sets a tone on humanity’s negative impacts on the sea? Not really. That said, if your friends are down for a change and have an open mind, there is some fun in this mode to be had.

I want to take a moment to reflect on how this all sounds, as on paper, Endless Ocean Luminous sounds boring, but it really isn’t. Video games are an escape from reality and I get what they are going for here. You just escape. You dive, you find, and yeah, you actually do get lost in the underwater wilds here and can spend hours doing nothing with a calming sense of satisfaction. The controls are tight and work well, and the performance is fine. This is a well made game but it just isn’t going to engage someone looking for what they can get in more involving experiences found elsewhere. This is a liquid sandbox where you just go and find your own lore and mysteries. I do think Nintendo could have added more charm and character to the world to make it shine, but I could see future marine biologists possibly crediting something like this for inspiring them to follow that path from this title. Again, eye of the beholder in that sense.

Audio

The music is gorgeous for what is here. The soothing soundtrack bodes well for the threat-less experiences found in the ocean, and the small sound effects work well to create a ton of atmosphere for a realistic diving feel. This is kind of a vibe type game and not much else, but the sound and audio really amplify that and make Luminous stand out from your standard diving fare in other parts of the market.

Visuals

Endless Ocean can be a dazzler when it wants to be. While the character models are a bit flat and generic, the sea looks amazing and the color work here is outstanding, making some parts of the game feel haunting and even enchanting at times. I was actually surprised as to how well the game’s online mode functioned as well. Never did I see much if any slowdown, as the frame rate seemed to be consistent throughout both online and offline dives without much issue.

Overall

Endless Ocean Luminous is a hard one to review as if you don’t “get it”, you won’t enjoy it. Its black and white and there is no grey area. This is a game where you just explore without much substance or reason, in search of fish facts, locations, and whatever else you can conjure up underwater. The reward is the journey as there is not much of an end, and in my own experience, that was fine. This is the kind of game you keep in your library and turn on during a rainy day just to escape for a bit, or just to unwind. Its not going to thrill you, but might fascinate a player who is open minded enough to just go in and explore. Nintendo took a risk to even bring out a title like this and I appreciate it and welcome the variation offered. It may not be an adventure, but Luminous is still a worthwhile addition to one’s library as we wind down the console with our last year of major releases.

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Summary

Good
7.5
Endless Ocean Luminous is not for everyone, but does offer a very rich and soothing experience for those willing to take the plunge.
Endless Ocean Luminous is not for everyone, but does offer a very rich and soothing experience for those willing to take the plunge.Endless Ocean Luminous Review