Endless Ocean Luminous

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Endless Ocean Luminous (Nintendo Switch) – Review

As an avid Sir David Attenborough fan, I love learning about the ocean’s strangest creatures and terrifying depths. Endless Ocean Luminous, a diving adventure sim by Arika and published by Nintendo exclusively for the Switch, seeks to explore the deep. Players can step into a diver’s flippers to explore further down than most of us would ever dare to go. I’m still determining whether the exploration is immersive enough to feel like I’m discovering beautiful ocean creatures from the comfort of my own home.

The Endless Ocean series has had a long hiatus between titles, with Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep being the last title, released on the Nintendo Wii in 2009. Endless Ocean Luminous continues exploring a new region, The Veiled Sea, where our diver is tasked with documenting the residing creatures. There’s much more to be discovered, from the dying World Coral, which needs to be restored to save the region’s waters, to mysterious ruins within the depths of the sea.

The story is relatively straightforward and has a decent premise, especially since restoring reefs is a real issue now more than ever. However, the gameplay doesn’t do the issue justice. The primary goal is to swim through the ocean at various depths, scanning lifeforms and finding the occasional shipwreck, ruins, or relics during your travels. Beyond that, there isn’t much more to it.

There’s a massive amount of sea life to find, including the usual favourites, the lesser-known well below sea level, prehistoric beasts, and mythical beings. My favourite element of the gameplay was the search. I came across some incredibly bizarre critters. I thought my favourite silly fish, the Sunfish, was up there with the weirdest, but there were many stranger things the further down I went. The gameplay, however, is just that, find fish, scan fish – rinse and repeat. I would have liked that little interactivity beyond swimming alongside them; I would love to have a school of fish scatter as I swam close or if getting close to a shark felt scarier.

There are multiple gameplay modes, including solo dive, where I spent most of my time meeting progression requirements, a story mode, and “shared dives,” a multiplayer mode. All these goals are the same: scan creatures and collect treasures. Only in shared dives, it’s with up to 30 people, and you can tag creatures and items with emotes to point them out to other players.

Story progression is very slow to unlock; essentially, once a certain number of fish are scanned, the next level unlocks, but when you’re finding 500+ fish to unlock the next part of the story, it’s a slog. All my research efforts felt unsatisfying when each new level unlock was barely a few minutes of gameplay and, in some cases, a very short cutscene with no gameplay.

Visually, Endless Ocean Luminous feels outdated, almost on par with its Wii predecessor. There was minimal light variation, and the scenery felt washed out. Environments are empty, with sporadic rock formations, seaweed, coral, and too much sand; in some areas, it just felt like water with nothing else inhabiting it. My favourite visual element is seeing the sealife. I appreciate the team’s effort in researching creatures and recapturing their likenesses for the game.

The diver has a limited amount of detail to them; they just serve as a body to move around in. I don’t feel the sense of wonder exploring beautiful, vibrant reefs and grim grottos I have in games like Abzû by Giant Squid in 2017.

The most beautiful part of the game is the soundtrack, which makes the experience much more serene. When I enjoyed the game, I had the music turned up during a dive. The ambient score was stunning and made the journey relaxing. The AI, Sera and the divers aren’t quite as calming to listen to; luckily, the volume sliders helped to take care of the sound of the divers speaking through bubbles and the monotone AI. Out in the field, though, the sound of whales calling out and fish of all sizes swimming made the experience more engaging, but not enough to compensate for the dull gameplay loop.

Both docked and handheld, the graphics don’t look current, and the textures could be more varied; they don’t translate well to either screen and feel way too lifeless. I preferred to play it handheld; it was less noticeable on a smaller screen. Overall, the game ran fine on both, with no notable frame drops, just the occasional loading screen that went for slightly too long.

Controls are standard, with a button to swim faster and a simple hold of the L Button; thankfully, multiple fish can be scanned simultaneously to speed up the ranking. The story mode acts like a tutorial for the first few chapters. It’s not difficult to play at all, so it takes no time to master the simplistic gameplay.

Overall, Endless Ocean Luminous wasn’t as deep as I would have liked it to be; it felt much shallower and devoid of life than I anticipated. As a fan of exploration-type “cosy” titles, I sunk a decent amount of time into the game. However, with such a niche gameplay style, only some may discover this release. Though like its predecessors, Endless Ocean Luminous may be found to be a cult classic in time.

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The Good

  • Exploration can be interesting
  • Serene soundtrack

The Bad

  • Overly simplistic gameplay
  • Outdated visuals
  • Slow, uneventful story progression

Written by: Yasmin Noble


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