Endless Ocean Luminous review — Lukewarm waters

I really wanted to love Endless Ocean Luminous. I’ve always been interested in the series, but never got around to it, so this newest entry seemed like the perfect time. Unfortunately, Luminous seems to be lacking a lot of the charm and features that made the original games special. I expected a low key, relaxing experience, and while that core is still there it quickly becomes boring.

While the game is multiplayer focused, let’s start with the Story Mode. Ostensibly, this is supposed to be about you and your diving partner, Daniel, saving a large part of the Veiled Sea’s ecosystem called the World Coral. It supports a lot of the local fauna, but is slowly dying due to a mysterious Necrosis. As part of Project Aegis, you document the constantly changing Veiled Sea and, in doing so, release glowing microorganisms on fish that are slowly healing the World Coral. Along the way, you discover a tablet that contains 99 Mysteries, unveiling them by completing certain tasks – basically an achievement list.

Endless Ocean Luminous Gameplay - Switch [GamingTrend]

This is an interesting premise, but it’s quickly abandoned in favor of busy work serving as a tutorial. The main draw is the multiplayer, so I could forgive this if each chapter of story mode wasn’t gated behind scanning hundreds to thousands of fish. Each chapter is only a few minutes long and often teaches you game mechanics you’ve already learned simply by playing the multiplayer to unlock the chapter. It’s a baffling structure, making progressing the story feel like a chore.

The multiplayer is where I started to enjoy myself. You dive into a randomly generated sea along with a bunch of other players and start scanning creatures, picking up treasures, and exploring. Learning about all these different species is neat, but the overall experience gets stale and frustrating. You’re constantly interrupted by group missions to scan a big unique fish, immediately followed by someone having already found the fish, then yet another text interruption of them scanning it. All this text is narrated by a generic text-to-speech program, and frankly I turned that off after about an hour because I would rather have no voice acting than a computer doing it.

On top of that, you’re constantly receiving notifications on the right side of the screen. These notifications almost always have their text cut off because it can’t fit in the small box. You’d think the text would scroll so you could read all of it, but no you have to go into a sub menu to fully read all of the recent notifications. You know what else is on the right side of the screen? Bios for fish you can read after scanning them. The notifications always cover this text, since another will appear after scanning, which becomes incredibly annoying when I just want to learn about cool fish. Eventually I just stopped reading bios because it felt like the game was wasting my time.

After a dive or two, it’ll start to feel like you’re doing the same things, exploring the same locations, over and over. There are interesting locations, like a shipwreck or caves, but once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Literally in the case of shipwrecks, because I encountered the exact same layout twice in a row. It’s fun to interact with people with emotes and find treasures and fish they’ve marked with stickers, but there’s really nothing to do with them outside of those more passive interactions. It feels like you’re alone together in an empty ocean.

That’s about it for gameplay. All you do is dive, there’s no island or fish tank, no boat to talk with story characters on, nothing. You can unlock diving suit colors, emotes, and stickers with in-game currency, but every diver still ends up looking the same thanks to the single body type everyone shares. It just feels so empty and lifeless, something I feel can be applied to the visuals too. There are some cool sights to see and the models for fish look great, but everything else feels like it never left the Wii. The underwater fog feels intrusive rather than immersive, deeper structures like caves feel far too angular, and overall it just looks… bland. I get that on some level the game is going for realism, but the ocean in real life can be just as colorful and gorgeous as it is dull and dark. Luminous hangs somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, ending up with the appeal of neither.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.



Endless Ocean Luminous

Review Guidelines

Endless Ocean Luminous’ highs come early, with a relaxing atmosphere and excitement of seeing new sea creatures and learning about them. Those highs quickly drop off and what you’re left with is an often frustrating, bland game that completely abandoned what made the series special in the first place.

David Flynn

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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