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Review

Endless Ocean Luminous Review

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With over a decade between Endless Ocean outings, I wasn’t sure what to expect with a new one in 2024. We all know, or have at least heard, that the Endless Ocean games are a bit chill and relaxed, but nowadays, we have a lot of games that fill that space – you know, “cozy games”. So, can a grandparent of the genre kick it in the modern era? Let’s – dive into it. 

For a relaxing type of game, Endless Ocean Lumious sure doesn’t kick off as smoothly as it should; you’re thrust right into the game’s story and introduced to SERA (Survey, Explorations, Research and Assistant AI), the game’s narrator and in-game AI who walks you through the story. They welcome you to the Ocean Research Project, which is trying to find out why the World Coral is dying. This massive invertebrate is vital to a healthy Veiled Sea, but it’s not doing well at the moment. Luckily, you can help by scanning over 500 species of marine life to collect “light”, which will help the World Coral repair itself.¬†

The story is a few chapters long, and most of the missions serve to be no more than tutorials. A few standout ones carry the story forward, but overall, the environment and the experiences will drive you more to play this one. Plus, the unlock requirements for each chapter are ridiculous; you need to scan thousands of species of marine life to progress, and the final chapter requires you to collect all of one particular item, which, in 20 hours of gameplay, I’ve only found less than half.¬†

The story is just a distraction from the real meat of the game, which is just enjoying a dive with yourself or others. Unlike the last two games, where you go from location to location and dive, here in Luminous, the Veiled Sea you dive into is different every time. The map has the same grid pattern, but the points of interest, things to scan, and treasures to find are all randomly generated. During the first dive I did, I was a bit worried; it wasn’t until I rerolled essentially and got a more exciting map that it was more fun to play. Several hours into the game, I can see this approach’s shortcomings as map elements repeat, and there’s a lack of big set pieces – but at the same time, it gives you the feeling of just one more go.¬†

But the diving part of the game is quite fun and relaxing. There’s no fish to pet, no sharks to subdue anymore – everyone in the Veiled Sea just gets along. As you scan fish, sharks, and everything else under the sea, you collect light to not only help progress in the story but also set a high score, unlock more tags to use to mark the map and collect currencies to unlock more outfits, stickers and emotes. The movement of your diver is really nimble, and unlike the other games, it’s not often you’ll get stuck and not sure which way is up – the third time around, it’s pretty streamlined.

You can scan batches of aquatic life quite quickly; all the fish (and I keep saying fish despite there being all sorts of underwater life) you have yet to scan are all glowing blue; it’s explained in the game as algae. It makes finding all the things you’re yet to scan easier. The only thing I found annoying was when you’re first starting out and scanning things for the first time, you must scroll through each fish in a school to get to the one you haven’t logged before for it to be added. You can also log a photo of each one to fill out your logbook. The game keeps an impressive amount of statistics on what you do and things to; it¬†also has a range of achievements to complete. There’s a lot to do before you 100% it.

So, what’s a typical dive like? Depending on whether you jump in solo or start (or join) a shared dive, the aim is to scan as much as you can to find as much treasure as you can and uncover the mysterious UML (unique marine life) creatures as well. These creatures are summoned by finding another sea life on the map that gives a strange signal. These often gigantic or prehistoric creatures are giant and beautiful, and there’s a whole list of them to find – whatever one you get is picked at random. The other big mystery of the sea is the Mystery Board; finding unique treasures on your dives or performing little missions around the map will unlock spaces on the Mystery Board.

Whether you dive alone or with people, anything you find or unlock carries across both modes. If you find a specific creature while playing with a friend in one dive site, you don’t need to do it again by yourself. That’s where playing with others can come in handy, as you can split up the work and scour the map quickly with more people. There was a dive session with other media types. While a few did try and help complete the missions on the dive, a lot just floated around – there’s no real way to set an objective with a group of up to 30 people, but you can tag items of interest as you scuba around and see what others have tagged as well. There’s also a fun feature: after uncovering 80% of a map, you can share that map with others with a dive code. Here’s one I quite enjoyed.¬†

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For a game that’s meant to be playing it however you want and chill, the story mode requirements aren’t challenging to unlock the chapters, but there is a bit of grind. The grind is less when you have people to dive with. The game does give you 7 days free online to try out if you’re not a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber, but you might not get as much as you want out of this game if you’re not playing with others. What starts as a chill diving game, where you go around scanning, turns into a cheap scan fest to bump numbers up. Especially when completing everything in a timed dive. The game is at odds with itself in this regard.¬†All online sessions are timed, but there’s more than enough time to find one UML. Solo dives are untimed and you can spend literally hours just exploring a map (provided its a good one).

If I can’t scuba, then what’s this all been about?

Believe it or not, this is the first Endless Ocean game in HD, and being stuck in SD on the Wii meant the low-resolution blurry visuals helped sell the underwater atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, Luminous can be a beautiful game in places, but at other times, the map is a desolate underwater landscape with plops of coral and fish sporadically hanging around. The random nature of the map means there’s no thought into spacing things out. The one or two points of interest on the maps are great; an ice cave, a sunken pirate ship, and the caves and ruins that go right down to what appear to be lava are highlights. The game never takes itself seriously; the number of cross-species and extinct animals in the same place, let alone not ripping you or each other apart, should be an obvious tell. Most of the marine line is modelled well, but some species have a few low-resolution teeth or other odd things. But honestly, this game has so many species that it more than makes up for it.

There’s mixed news on the music front, too; the first game belted out licenced music on repeat, and the second game toned things down a bit volume-wise – but there were still some licenced music tracks. All of this is gone in Lumiuious with an entire soundtrack of soft ocean-suited music; it’s not terrible; it’s suitably relaxing and serene – but it feels a step back from the previous game. 

There’s also a problem with the SERA AI character because no one voices it; it’s an actual AI voice (like that annoying TikTok voice). For a game with over 500 things to scan in and encyclopedic entries to read out, using an AI works fine – but they’re also using it as the only voice in the game during the story; there’s another character in the game who just mute much like the previous games which had no voice acting. It feels cheap and bizarre when the AI tries to crack some jokes. 

That’s the general vibe of Endless Ocean Luminous. Despite the great work that has gone into cataloguing all these creatures and making a fun game around scanning them all and exploring with friends, it feels like corners have been cut, and the budget was just a bit scant.¬†

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Endless Ocean is the granddaddy of the cozy game, and there are some great chilled experiences to be had here. Diving with a bunch of people, uncovering mysteries, plus cataloguing and photographing some of the ocean’s cutest and most disgusting creatures is a lot of fun. However, the grating AI-voiced story and the near-essential requirement for online to get the most out of it goes against the chilled vibe for which the series is known.¬†It is a game somewhat at odds with itself, but deep down, it is a relaxing, chilled experience one that you can share with massive group of people.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Good

+ Shared dives are a lot of fun, working together with a group of people works well
+ Lots to scan, collect, customise and see and do
+ Randomly generated levels give a "just one more run" type feel
+ Impressive amount to unlock, collect and leaderboards to top too

The Bad

- The story mode is grindy and average, with stupid unlock requirements
- The AI voice in the game comes across as cheap
- Music isn't bad, but it is missing the series staple of licenced music
- Some Randomly generated levels are poorly spaced

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Endless Ocean is the granddaddy of the cozy game, and there are some great chilled experiences to be had here. Diving with a bunch of people, uncovering mysteries, plus cataloguing and photographing some of the ocean's cutest and most disgusting creatures is a lot of fun. However, the grating AI-voiced story and the near-essential requirement for online to get the most out of it goes against the chilled vibe for which the series is known. It is a game somewhat at odds with itself, but deep down, it is a relaxing, chilled experience one that you can share with massive group of people.

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About The Author
Daniel Vuckovic
The Owner and Creator of this fair website. I also do news, reviews, programming, art and social media here. It is named after me after all. Please understand.

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