Beyond Blue Review

June 25, 2020
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch

We are living in exciting times. North Korea has started to blow stuff up again, hipsters have taken control of a part of Seattle, and perhaps strangest of all, EA is selling its games on Steam again. Between all of those things, the journalism career-maker that is 2020 and the ever popular trend of games being as over-the-top as they can possibly be, it’s been hard for gamers to relax this year. This problem is something that E-Line Media, the developer behind 2014’s Never Alone, has realised and set out to solve with their latest title, Beyond Blue.

In Beyond Blue, you play as someone you’ve likely never thought about before in your life: you take control of Mirai, a free diver turned scientist who’s dedicated her life to exploring Earth’s oceans. Together with a crew of weirdly attractive scientists, you find yourself documenting the movement of sperm whales off the coast of Japan when deep-sea miners make noises that disturb the fish that you’re trying to photograph. With that minor annoyance, you and your friends decide that now’s as good of a time as any to take a stand against the evil anti-environmentalists, and you set out on a quest to do mean things to them.

Watch me take Power of Attorney over someone

If that previous paragraph doesn’t make any sense, that’s because the main storyline of Beyond Blue doesn’t either. Throughout the game’s three-hour runtime, you’ll do little else besides swim around the ocean floor IN order to take pictures of animals while a radio drama plays in your in-game headset. Occasionally your character will interject a cringeworthy line or two into a plot that has more threads than an old pair of jeans.  And like that pair of jeans, those threads never go anywhere, and the entire thing should’ve been thrown away a year ago.

Thankfully, that’s the only part of Beyond Blue that should’ve been thrown away. When the game isn’t focused on the storyline drama that would’ve gotten a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, it presents itself as a fantasy-fufillment game about exploring the deep sea. You toy with dolphins, dodge sharks and swim around places that you’re never likely to visit in your life. Your interactions with all of these things are limited to doing little more than scanning them with your in-game tablet, but despite that, they all feel weirdly realistic and genuine. Floating around the game’s somewhat open maps feels like visiting a zoo where you can’t touch anything but you’re close enough to the wildlife that it hardly matters.

Swimming with sperm whales sounds like a euphemism, doesn’t it?

This makes for a game that’s calming to say the least, and this feeling is further enhanced by its fantastic audio and visual design. From the placating music that plays as you swim around to the color pallet that seems like it was designed to force you to relax, watching the world in Beyond Blue is almost as calming as going for an actual swim. 

Like a zoo, too, the game also includes a well-thought-out educational aspect. Over the course of the game, you’ll unlock a number of things that help explain what you’re seeing while floating around the ocean. There’s a large handful of well-produced BBC-esque mini-documentaries, renders of the fauna that have real-world information sheets included with them and the game’s few well-written dialogues have real science facts included in them. None of this information is required to progress in the game, and most of it isn’t needed to understand the broader context of what’s going on during cutscenes, but it presents easily digestible information in a way that’s much more interesting than taking a Marine Biology 101 class at university. 

“We have fish move out of the way when you get close to them.”

When combined with everything else, then, Beyond Blue is an appealing package for anyone looking to relax after a hard day in 2020. Although the game has some of the most wince-worthy writing this side of Space Force and the main story is dumber than 2018’s Gotti, everything else is fantasy fulfillment for anyone who likes to swim. The game’s visuals, educational material and easy to understand gameplay may not be as intriguing as In Other Waters, but they make for something that’s simply calming to play.

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Writing that’s worth wincing at does little to drag down a hyper-relaxing and educational diving game. Beyond Blue lets you take a breath in a medium packed with games that try their hardest to make your blood pressure skyrocket.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.