Endless Ocean Luminous

Review: Endless Ocean Luminious — Under The Sea

The Endless Ocean series was developed by Arika and published by Nintendo. The series consists of two main titles: Endless Ocean (known as Forever Blue in Japan), released for the Wii in 2007, and its sequel, Endless Ocean: Blue World, released in 2009 for the same platform.

In the first installment, you are sent to explore the fictional Manoa Lai Sea, guided by a veteran diver named Jean-Eric Louvier. The sequel saw players embark on a new adventure to uncover the secrets of the fictional Valka Castle and the Song of Dragons, encountering various characters and challenges.

The third entry, Endless Ocean Luminous, takes players to the Veiled Sea. And while I’m late to the party, I’ve spent the last few weeks enjoying my time with the third entry as an introduction to the series.

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The gameplay revolves around underwater exploration and interaction with marine life. Players become scuba divers and explore various ocean environments, discovering different fish species, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and other underwater treasures.

A new feature is the 30-person dives you can partake in. These are selectable from the main menu, and each player begins their journey at different places on the map. As you begin to explore the map, you’ll come across other players you become Dive Buddies. By doing this, you can form bonds and share your discoveries.

I spent an hour in a pre-launch environment checking out a Shared Dive environment. With a dozen other divers exploring a shared space, we quickly began exploring the sea floor. It’s still the same experience in Free Dives or Story Mode but with shared goals in mind. You’ll scan and search for items spread across the sea floor with other divers, allowing your Dive Buddies to reap the rewards of your dives.

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You start at various corners of the sea floor and then work your way across the map. A Shared Dive lasts an hour in real-time, and you’re often given fair warning when time is about to expire. I was surprised at how fast the hour flew by during my multiplayer session because I was having a lot of fun dolphin-kicking through hundreds of beautiful creatures hidden at the bottom of the ocean.

Explore the Veiled Sea

If you think Endless Ocean Luminous is anything like Subnautica, I’m happy to report that it is the furthest from that. While Subnautica is filled with tension and terror, Endless Ocean Luminous is one of the most relaxing gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time.

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Endless Ocean Luminous‘s primary objective is to dive and explore the underwater world while interacting with various sea creatures. Additionally, you could explore shipwrecks and underwater ruins to uncover different objects. The initial two games also had a storyline that provided quests to accomplish while also offering several side missions. However, most of these missions involved observing different aquatic life and interacting with them.

As you begin to scan the various sea life with the L button, you begin to fill out the Creature Log, which reminded me of New Pokémon Snap. The Creature Log is an excellent tool as it serves as an in-game encyclopedia where you can learn about fish like the Goldtail Demoiselle, with an audio description giving you all the information about each fish. You can also see how many times you’ve seen a fish in the wild and also the smallest and largest seen. If you’ve played the previous games, you’ll also find some massive types of creatures that will be familiar, so be sure to watch for the more memorable creatures in the water.

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A Salvage Log also showcases all the knick-knacks on the ocean floor. Humans constantly drop things into the water, so things like wooden bracelets, hand cream, lipstick, rings, clocks, and music boxes will eventually end up in your possession. It makes sense, given how much we don’t know is tucked away on the sea floor, because humans are clumsy.

You can also acquire points by scanning and discovering salvage on the ocean floor. Points provide new colour patterns, stickers, and emotes, but you must level up your rank to unlock new gear. You can customize your entire suit, including your mask, wet suit, flippers, backpack, and air tank. Stickers can also be purchased and equipped across your entire gear setup. And lastly, the emotes are available for multiplayer to liven up your character to other divers.

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I’m a bit disappointed you couldn’t add ways to speed up the gameplay as many of the upgrades in-game are superficial, and there is room for improvement in meaningful exploration upgrades, but none more than having access to a faster character.

A Lost Civilization

The Story Mode introduces Sera, your AI assistant, who, alongside Daniel, helps ease your character into the mechanics of Endless Ocean. It isn’t long into the first chapter that you learn about the 99 Mysteries of the Sea, an ancient relic which you’ll be tasked with finding and filling up with the corresponding mysteries.

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Sera reveals early on that the Oannes built a thriving civilization on the Veiled Sea and vanished. Very little is known about them, but you encounter ruins filled with sea life and salvage. Story Mode is tied to how many species of fish you scan during free dives. Progress is locked until you complete prerequisites like finding 500 different fish species, completing the previous chapter, and finding a requisite amount of fish.

In a pre-launch environment, completing story chapters was a bit more precarious, as in Shared Dives, where you work together to scan and collect data. Completing Story Mode solo is much more tedious. It takes up much more time because you scour the entire map to update your encyclopedia to update existing data while also looking for new species.

However, the fact that progress is tied to how a few tedious prerequisites means that Solo Dives will hastily provide the breadth of what Endless Ocean has to offer. In nearly 40 hours, I felt like I had seen and done it all. Because there are no stakes, you can stay underwater permanently without worrying about oxygen.

I spent hours exploring the bottom of the Veiled Sea. It was one of the most relaxing experiences during my playthrough. I was less inclined to focus on Story Mode because progression was tied to scan progress, so it often took a backseat to Free Dives.

Dives also contain Unique Marine Life (UML) but it takes some work to get them to join your dive. In a dive, you must locate nine fish that emit strange orange signals. These fish are randomly spread across each map. Finding them can take some time, and of course, it can sometimes be tedious, but that’s why a good podcast or TV episode comes in.

In multiplayer mode, where up to 30 divers can explore the same area of the Veiled Sea, the process is quicker as everyone works together towards the same goal. However, the process can be slow and repetitive if you are alone.

Thankfully, Endless Ocean Luminous handles well and looks terrific in motion. Many fish species look great, with a fair amount of variation in how levels work.

While other games in the series had several unique maps to explore, Luminous handles it differently with procedurally generated maps. The shift to randomized maps makes sense, with hundreds of species to scan (and of which you’ll need to scan these fish thousands of times).

Verdict

While I missed the first two Endless Ocean titles on Wii, Endless Ocean Luminous is a game I’m glad I didn’t miss. It is a reprieve from a busy release schedule that’s been the perfect getaway — clean blue waters, beautiful creatures, and the sea’s mysteries facilitate an incredible experience. Whether you’re in a free dive or completing the story mode, I found peace when playing Luminous, which is so rare in games these days. I went into Endless Ocean free of expectations and gained much respect for the series and what it offers. It is, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying games to play this year,

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: Switch

Endless Ocean Luminous
Review: Endless Ocean Luminious — Under The Sea
Summary
Endless Ocean Luminous will be a sleeper hit for the Nintendo Switch. It offers a relaxing but necessary break in this year's packed schedule as you explore an exciting underwater space filled with trinkets, sea life, and mysteries at your own pace.
Liked
A relaxing and peaceful scuba diving simulator
Thousands of fish species to scan
Customization options for your dive suit are plentiful
Didn't Like
Story Mode progress is tied to how many species of fish you scan
3.9