Beyond Blue is the latest game from the publisher behind the ground-breaking Never Alone. It’s a game that invites players to be a part of a research mission in the uncharted ocean, placing exploration and experience of the deep unknown at the heart of gameplay. However, it also has an educational bent. It’s the result of a collaboration with the team behind Blue Planet II. This collaboration could provide a great pay off. The game looks set to be as interesting a portrayal of life inside the ocean as the documentary series, while reflecting contemporary issues over our research with and treatment of the ocean.
Beyond Blue puts you in the shoes of a scientific team leading a study on the world’s oceans and the damage mankind is doing to them. It’s a topical start. The impact of human’s lifestyle (more specifically our plastic habit) on the ocean has come under increasing pressure recently. These issues are in the context of those actually working to resolve them. This will interlink with the game in a similar way to the depictions of Alaska Native culture seen in Never Alone. The developers have also spoken with researchers. This should ensure an accurate portrayal of the work currently going on in the ocean. While the pedigree for a well informed educational experience is all there, how will it actually play?
Research Management Fantasies
Beyond Blue is aiming to release in the first half of 2019 on PC and ‘selected consoles’. Just what that vague statement means is up for debate. The game takes a fairly grounded approach to managing a scientific mission, but it does take some liberties with technology. The team and expedition that you manage has technology from the near-future. Scientists interviewed by the development team believed this technology would be in regular use within ten or fifteen years. This gives the game a more high-tech approach and an element of fantasy. While still allowing it to keep its attachment to scientific reality.
You are given complete control over how research is conducted. You decide which areas are worth perusing and which aren’t. The developers have described the game a story-driven title, making the few years’ time skip in the game’s background important. This allows Beyond Blue to present work currently being done by scientists in a heightened way. The clock is definitely ticking over our treatment of the world and its impact on the climate, this will likely factor into Beyond Blue.
At the heart of the game, is an educational exploration of our oceans and the creatures within them. While you’re swimming around, you can see the level of detail that has gone into the wildlife in Beyond Blue. Learning more about these creatures is a centre point of the game. You can conduct your research and set up up your equipment by hand or by drone. However, in either of these options, you come face to face with a lot of ocean life. The world is beautifully realised. It also provokes you to learn more about this world. This is something that the final game should facilitate.
One Big Underwater Level
Beyond Blue’s current demo shows an impressive scale of sea-life. The gameplay itself is pretty much just swimming from various points to another. It’s an excuse to give the player a quick tour of the main attraction, the digital sea and the creatures within it. The full game should be considerably wider in scope than this. Even within the depiction of sea-life, it should be pushing the envelope of how far it can go in its scope.
Beyond Blue is a fun and informative hands-on experience. An experience with a world that is currently under threat. What the final game will do with this is still a bit of a mystery. The story-driven label from the developer hints at something deeper than this undersea tour.
Beyond Blue will have to strike a difficult balancing act of being educational and thought-provoking with it’s grounded subject, while also being enjoyable as a game. Never Alone would imply that this is well within the developer’s reach. However, you can’t always assume that a developer can replicate past successes. Beyond Blue could be the most important undersea game made, it certainly has the scientific and artistic talent to do so. It could equally finish up a bizarrely dry diving simulator.