With all the violent games released these days, it’s nice to play something to break the mold; something relaxing and chill. I love my fair share of shooting guns and murdering zombies just as much as the next person, but every now and again a game like Beyond Blue comes out and it’s a breath of fresh air (well, sort of, since it takes place underwater). If you’re unaware, Beyond Blue is an underwater exploration game, with an emphasis on narrative, while drawing inspiration from BBC’s Blue Planet II series. It’s published by the same studio that shipped the 2014 puzzle-platformer, Never Alone.
What makes Beyond Blue so special is how scientifically accurate it is. According to the developer, the team partnered with marine biologists to ensure the game was as authentic as possible. I asked how the team handled something in-game that couldn’t be explained, scientifically, and the Vice President of marketing, Steve Zimmermann advised that something like that would not make it into the final product. He mentioned that there’s a lot about the ocean that is unknown, but only aspects of marine life that could be explained would find their way into Beyond Blue, which makes it feel more authentic.
Along with this, the developer mentioned that the dynamic between the team and the ocean scientists is in place not just to ensure accuracy, but as a way to deliver the best product possible. Zimmermann said, “we have to do right by them,” in reference to the scientists.
E3 2019 Beyond Blue Preview – A Playable Documentary
The team at E-Line was actually approached by BBC with the idea of making sort of a playable documentary. E-Line was given all the footage from Blue Planet II to use as reference, as well as to place in-game as a little reward for the player to watch. In addition, the developers shot their own footage to add to the game, too. By the sounds of it, this seems to be one of the most robust games in terms of educational content.
But what about the game, itself? How does it play? You control a character from a third-person perspective by swimming around and interacting with the marine life. In the short 10-ish minutes I played, I was tasked with swimming to a beacon to scan a whale and other objectives in order to gather information. I was told there would be a hefty list of collectibles to give the game more replayability. This could motivate you to get out there and explore the gorgeous ocean created by the team’s talented artists.
On the topic of art, it’s stunning. All the art was done by one person, according to Zimmermann, which is impressive. Zimmermann told the story of how, at one point, much of the art had to be redone, because it looked too realistic, entering the uncanny valley, which just didn’t fit here. Instead, a bit of a stylized touch was added to make it almost feel realistic, but with enough of an artistic license to make it easy on the eyes. This is actually part of the problem with the Marvel’s Avengers character designs. The art in Beyond Blue is one of its strongest points, though, and I’m glad the team went back and updated the assets. And my goodness, the colors are beautiful. I spent the first few minutes of my demo just looking around.
It was said that Beyond Blue could be completed in around 4 hours if you make a beeline though the story. There are optional “quests” and other side objectives to overcome, so you’d likely be looking at 8 or so hours to do everything. There will also be a narrative that takes place outside of the ocean, from the point of view of a cast of characters in a submarine above. Although, not much else was revealed about this aspect.
And for you trophy hunters out there, I’ve got you covered: I asked about how the trophy list was coming along and was told that it was not completed yet, but that it would include a Platinum. Some of the ideas in mind in terms of the trophy list will involve collecting data about the marine life and completing the story and side objectives. The developer also expressed its love for adding puns to trophy names: “Whale, Whale, Whale,” could be a trophy for collecting all the whale data in the game.
Beyond Blue looks unique, especially from an educational point of view. There aren’t many games like it, so hopefully this one does well, both critically and commercially. With the interesting blend of documentary-style education and narrative, it has all the makings of a worthwhile adventure. Beyond Blue is expected to launch in 2019.