Beyond Blue is an experience that is beyond words. It’s not quite a game, but it is. It’s not edutainment but you learn stuff. It’s the best possible mix of going to the aquarium and actually learning to scuba dive, but unless you have a few hundred million in high tech gear and mini-subs or work for OceanX you’re not likely to experience anything like this in your lifetime short of playing Beyond Blue. This narrative adventure is more of an activity set; an interactive aquarium on an unprecedented scale, where you will play as Mirai, a deep-sea explorer tracking a family of whales, as well as tagging and documenting all sorts of undersea life.
Over the course of this 2-3 hour adventure you will participate in eight unique dives taking place at various times of day and at various depths, giving you a breathtaking look at the ocean in a way you have never seen it. During these dives you will use beacons to locate priority targets as well as scan dozens of species of ocean life; the more you scan the more information you can access from your growing database. You’ll even get a cool manta-drone you can send in for closer inspection and analysis and special IR and UV light modes to help you explore the deeper and darker regions of the ocean.
Beyond Blue was developed with partners from the BBC (Blue Planet II), James Cameron, and experts from OceanX. Not only does this give the game an added level of realism in both content and visual design, it also provides a wealth of knowledge, as you unlock sixteen mini-documentaries containing HD footage and interviews with those who do this in real life. Beyond Blue could easily become a recruitment tool. I know if I had access to this game when I was in school I’d probably be in a mini-sub right now and not writing this review.
Aside from documenting undersea life there are some interesting side-stories taking place; one with an illegal underwater mining operation and another with Mirai, her sister Ren, and their grandmother who is suffering from dementia. These stories don’t really go anywhere and only unfold as a series of phone calls you make between missions from your cool submarine habitat. Despite their lack of necessity the narrative does add to the overall immersion and the voice acting is superior from all involved. I particularly enjoyed how the dives were setup as interactive livestream events with fun banter mixed throughout.
Your mini-sub is also home to numerous interactive points that continually change between missions; again, nothing too substantial beyond clicking on an item and reading a book title, viewing a picture, or reading the whiteboard that summarizes your last mission. You can access the Ocean Insights videos as well as your fish database from specific consoles and there is a cool tablet that gives you access to the game’s phenomenal soundtrack featuring Miles Davis, The Flaming Lips, The Edisons, and more. The music, both in the sub as well as the ambient score that plays while diving perfectly matches this Zen-like experience.
Once the story is complete you are free to return to the ocean using the chapter-select menu to explore specific areas and scan any fish you may have missed during the story. I completed all eight dives in less than three hours (taking my time and reveling in the experience) and have spent another hour or so going back to do some clean-up, but I still have many more fish to find. Beyond Blue will last as long as you want it to and dazzle you every moment along the way. There are no hazards or dangers, so the game is perfectly safe for kids – actually I’d highly recommend this for kids – and the entire family can enjoy this just as much as watching any of those BBC shows.
I have no real issues or complaints with the game; only wishes, wishes for more content and perhaps a VR mode assuming they could do this in VR without sacrificing too much of the video fidelity. Beyond Blue looks fantastic with modest system requirements, and my 2080ti was total overkill for this game yet delivered solid 4K/60fps performance with all settings cranked to ultra. You can see the game in action in my impressions video here.
If you have any love of the ocean and the mysteries it contains, or maybe you want a taste of what it’s like to snorkel or scuba dive, or maybe you want to visit an amazing aquarium without leaving the house, then any and all of these can be satisfied by playing Beyond Blue. It will give you a new appreciation for just how much we don’t know about most of our planet as well as the people who are trying to figure it out. Beyond Blue is relaxing and inspirational and one of the best experiences I’ve had this year.