Endless Ocean Luminous – Game Review


Endless Ocean Luminous

(available for Nintendo Switch only)

Endless Ocean Luminous is a new entry into a series that Nintendo hasn’t really touched since the Wii era- this is the third entry, having skipped the entire WiiU generation, so it feels a bit weird bringing it back for what will probably be the final full year for the Switch. It’s also rather telling that Nintendo licensed this one out to a Third-Party Developer instead of doing it themselves. The thing is, when Endless Ocean came out on the Wii, it was in a unique position, as there weren’t many games like it. But it’s inspired many games since that have expanded upon the concept, notably Subnautica and Abzu- both of which I played briefly to draw some comparison, and they are all available on the Switch, so these games are directly competing with one another.

For this review, I won’t focus too heavily on how Endless Ocean compares to those games, since I think it’s not entirely fair. However, I will give some brief ideas of what could be implemented to this game based on the others.

First and foremost, Endless Ocean comes with three modes: Story Mode, Solo Dive, and Group Dive (the Solo Dive game but with multiplayer opponents). If you start a new dive, you get a different location every time and your job is to scan marine life for research purposes in each of the locations that you go to. That’s it. There’s nothing else. You’re just scanning marine life.

Granted, there are over 500 species to find. In my first hour of playing, I did come across several sharks that I was hoping to find during my playthrough, as well as some Orca, and a couple of species of dolphins. There are also some prehistoric species, some of which have appeared in the Jurassic World films, so fans of that series will be happy, as well as some mythical creatures that have been created for the game- but I’ve only managed to find one of them in my playthrough.

The thing is there’s nothing else to do with these animals. You’re not building an aquarium (which is a suggestion I heard from a developer that was talking about the game), you don’t really get to look at the animals after you’ve found them, and I would say for the most part you can’t do much else in the group dive- in fact, I found those particularly frustrating.

PROS

  • Controls

I think that despite what some others have claimed that Endless Ocean controls quite well. If I compare it to Abzu, it’s a lot easier. There’s not much to it, you’re pressing the R trigger to swim upwards and the ZR trigger to move downwards, and if you want to speed up you do a Dolphin Kick.

A highlight of the game for me was the travelling with various marine life; if you have enough inventory, you can pull off, and so I managed to swim with a giant Ray. I couldn’t find much online or in-game to help me with that, though.

Overall, I think it controlled quite well. A lot of people online say that it was too simple, but I actually think that this works in the game’s favour. I think the controls in Subnautica kind of put me off even though I eventually got the hang of them, because they weren’t as accessible.

MIXED

  • Graphics

I will say the animals look alright. It’s clearly where most of the effort went to- but everything else looks a bit cheap. I get why the ocean has some fog effects on it because of the limitations of the Switch, and it does aid with some of the better moments where you see a massive creature come out from it, but overall, it doesn’t look that good. I particularly found it interesting how bad your avatar looks, especially since in the trailer I could’ve sworn they looked better.

  • Solo Dive & Group Dive Gameplay

I did actually get a decent few hours playing this at first, and did gain some joy in exploring, but after a while I found myself scanning the same fish over and over again, hoping that I would find a new species or enter a new record for size- not that you can tell the difference from sight.

But at the end of the day, there’s not much to it after you’ve done that first dive. It’s a very lonely experience doing those solo dives, and they are required- you have to fulfil certain tasks to unlock more story missions.

As for the group dives, they actually caused me a bit of confusion. I thought they wouldn’t work because when you set up a room you get given a code to invite your friends in, so I was swimming around expecting no-one to be there. When some random people did, they did some emotes at me, and then left the room. So random people (the game says up to 30) can join, but the game doesn’t reward you with any extra things to do during these group dives.

It’s also not helped by the fact that communication is terrible. If I played with my friends over a Discord chat, it would’ve been okay, but I didn’t have that since the game’s marketing wasn’t great, so I didn’t have any friends who had the game!

CONS

  • Story Missions

The story missions are the worst aspect of this game. I didn’t even finish them before making this review, since they bored me to tears. They are slow, plodding, incredibly basic, and are basically slow-moving tutorials. They really are a mess, pure and simple.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Endless Ocean Luminous was a decent idea to bring back, but it’s clear that other developers took the original concept and expanded on it, but this entry feels like it’s still stuck in the Wii era, and in that sense it’s existing for an audience that doesn’t exist anymore. The casual fans that were there for the Wii and DS era have now moved on- if they’re still playing stuff, it’s on their phones. Since I’m borrowing enough of ScottTheWoz’s opinion, I’ll add to it that that audience is probably never coming back.

The Switch has a big built-in audience and has outsold the Wii significantly- but it’s a very different group of people that own one, and not all those sales are to individual people. I’ve purchased two Switches in my life, when I upgraded to the OLED model and many people have bought the different themed ones.

They’ve given us a very boring game that feels like it’s stuck in the past. I had a chat with my cousin when I showed him the game, and he said it would do better if you ported it to the PC, upgraded the graphics, and marketed it to the people who play games like Flight Simulator. I think he’s absolutely right on this one, but that audience definitely isn’t there for this game. If you want a good chill game, there’s plenty of better options on the Switch- I much prefer Animal Crossing or New Pokémon Snap.

I commend Nintendo for publishing a game that brings back a lesser-known previous franchise, but this game gets old fast. I would say it’s average.

FINAL SCORE: 5.5/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia29th May 2024
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