Beyond Blue is a 2020 game inspired by the documentary Blue Planet II. In it, you play as Mirai, a diver who is helping to lead various dive expeditions related to their group following Sperm Whales. Mirai introduces herself and the story with the fact that her grandmother used to take her free diving, and one day she came across a pod of Sperm Whales and was forever changed by the event.
The game is similar to walking simulators, although swimming would be more apt. You have 8 different dives to do, and then once you complete the game, you are able to revisit different regions. While on the dives, you have various set tasks, such as scanning specific animals, getting biosamples, etc. You can also just swim around and enjoy yourself, although it might be worthwhile to wait until you complete the game for that.
There are a few different stories happening. One of your fellow researchers is concerned with saving the sea turtles, while another is more in the biomedical field and wants you to focus on certain things that would help her to that end. Both of these characters compete with each other a little but ultimately have the same theme, one which carries over the entire game, that the ocean is important and must be protected. Mirai is also dealing with leaving her sister back home with their grandmother with Alzheimer’s and the emotional pain that brings. There is also a lot of connection between Mirai and the whales as she was raised by her grandmother, and whales tend to be matriarchal.
Gameplay is simple enough as with all of these types of “walking” simulators. You have your swim controls, a scanner that you will leave on most of the game, and then you will occasionally control a little drone to get closer to animals. It is straightforward and easy because these types of games tend to be less about gameplay and more about the experience.
Which this game is a heck of an experience. It is absolutely beautiful with a variety of locations and different marine life to interact with. The music and overall feeling of the game are ethereal, and it is easy to lose yourself in the experience and just want to swim around. One of the complaints that some people have, and I must echo, is that the animals are not as dynamic as they could have been. All animals tend to have a very basic pattern they stick to, and there isn’t a lot of change even when you get close. Animals, in fact, tend to just bump you out of the way and stick to their designated course. This is a bit disappointing but doesn’t actually end up negatively impacting the experience all that much. I would have liked it to be a bit different, but I still loved the experience.
My only other issue is that the ending felt a bit rushed. The last few dives are emotional but also rather short, and the end of the game seems to hit out of nowhere and doesn’t feel fully developed. I found myself feeling like the emotional impact of things you experience (spoiler-free) was not given room to land and that Mirai’s story is not fully complete. It is still well done, though, and a beautiful and worthwhile experience, just something I wish had been a touch more fleshed out.
In the end, though, I think this game had specific goals and that it ultimately managed to succeed in them. It is a beautiful, almost otherworldly experience, it makes you emotional about the ocean and our impact on it, and importantly it makes you care. I think the flaws are completely overruled by just how wonderful the game is.
So bottom line. HIGHLY recommend. It’s easy for anybody to play, it is a stunning experience, and I keep wanting to go back for more. I hope they might consider a sequel someday, but until then, I can just load up this game and continue to swim for hours.