Reviews

Beyond Blue: Short but Sweet

Making a game enjoyable, immersive and honest isn’t always easy. There is a running theme of discovery, science and education in Beyond Blue that creates a framework for a short ocean exploration game. Inspired partially by BBC Studios’ Blue Planet documentary series, E-Line media followed up their BAFTA award-winning game Never Alone with a poignant exploration of the Ocean’s depths. 

 E-Line media partnered with BBC and ocean experts to create this exploration game. It’s short, just under 3 hours for the main story, but it strives to educate just as much as it strives for enjoyment. You play as Mirai, a diver who studies the ocean wildlife from a submarine lodged under the sea in a research zone. The zone is lead by André, a researcher who creates all the technology, including a sleek suit that allows you to breathe underwater seemingly forever. 

 The game runs through a series of dives where you live stream to an audience alongside André and Irina, a researcher who turned their findings into a company. In these dives, you have waypoints that you find around the ocean where different animals are. You develop ways to communicate with a family of sperm whales that Mirai has been tracking. André relies on Mirai’s dives to gain information for the research.

 The missions are pretty clear cut and guided, although you can explore more on your own. Exploring the ocean in some free for all is not what this game is. There are plenty of boundaries around you, including going above water. This is not the game to buy if you want a vast game where you explore the ocean freely for hours on end.

Instead, the game is more about education. I could see this game used at an aquarium as a tool. The animal models are accurate and stunning. The noises are so immersive. At one point, I believed there was a clicking noise messing with my headphones before I quickly realized it was an authentic whale sound.

Playing around in Beyond Blue is relaxing and eye-opening. The ecosystems of the oceans are peaceful, and you swim around all sorts of wildlife uninterrupted. You can scan any animal and then upload information to your log where you can view them. Missions have you scan specific animals up close. 

There is a story. Through your dives, you see areas of the research zone that are ravaged by deep-sea miners. There is a conflict between Mirai and her younger sister who you call between dives. André and Irina clash heads over their approach to research. Overall, the story is not fleshed out in a sub-3 hour plot. The voice acting is solid, but they never have a lot of emotion to work within a pretty conflictless story.

The graphics are wonderful. I was running them on ultra on an RTX 2060 KO Ultra and they were quite stunning. Movement in the water is top-notch as well, and the physics of swimming through the ocean feels like you are a fish underwater. Swimming up close to whales was immersive and breathtaking.

There are some features around the submarine and in the menus. In between dives you can listen to a playlist including original music as well as songs from various artists. Irina even has you listen to her daughter’s indie song included in the game.

Also, one of the coolest features is Insights, a series of videos from different scientists explaining parts of the ocean. For example, André mentions Jellyfish and their ability to regenerate back to a younger version of themselves. After the dive, a video unlocks going into depth about it. 

Beyond Blue serves as an educational piece as well as a great opportunity to relax and enjoy the depths of the ocean through technology that is fresh and exciting. I would like to see plenty of more content in the game though if possible.