Endless Ocean Luminous is an empty underwater world

The veiled sea covers less than expected

Endless Ocean is back with Endless Ocean Luminous, but instead of being a true sequel to Endless Oceans 2: Adventures of the Deep, it’s more of a soft reboot of the first game’s concept, combined with online features from the second game.

If you’re looking to leisurely swim around an ocean with your friends, then this is the game for you, but if you want an undersea adventure, I’m sad to say the story here is extremely underdeveloped.

But we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s start with how developer Arika has put together this undersea world.

The Veiled Sea

The main game world in Endless Ocean Luminous is called the Veiled Sea. The light is soft here and keeps all the sea creatures in a relaxed state, so you don’t need to worry about aggressive sharks like in Endless Ocean 2. There are also different parts of the sea, including fresh, brackish and salt water, allowing intrepid divers to discover all manner of fish.

When you load into the sea on a solo or online dive, the game generates a new area for you to explore. You can go back to the same places you’ve already been, but at its core, this is random and shakes up each dive with new areas. By my third world, I spawned in a cave network, and it was really fun finding my way out to the open areas of that map.

However, my first two maps were far less enjoyable and the first felt pretty empty. It took me a few hours to stumble across my first interesting underwater location. Before that, there was a lot of swimming over similar-looking coral reefs, sand and caves.

All that being said, the fish models look decent at a distance and you get a great sense of the look and scale of each creature. What would have been icing on the cake would have been some form of fish AI that would allow them to react to the diver. Instead, you can swim right through certain schools of fish, which breaks the immersion slightly.

You can scan the fish to get a closer look and catalogue new species you discover. Endless Ocean Luminous has a ton of different varieties, even ranging as out-there as prehistoric creatures. Scanning fish is also how you get ‘light points’ to level up. However, it only gives you points when you scan a fish for the first time. If you circle back and rescan it by accident, you won’t get any points.

Some fish you scan will also have a glitch effect on them that will trigger you to find more glitched fish. If you find seven of these, it leads you towards a super rare UML, which stands for Unique Marine Life. There is one UML per map, so you’ll need to find these glitched fish to locate everything in the area you’re diving in.

As you’re looking for fish, you’ll also discover hidden treasures. For the most part, these look like small sparkles and air bubbles that you click on to reveal a trinket. Some of these are collectibles, while others just count toward your salvage score at the end of your dive. As you’re swimming, you’ll also see a small yellow indicator light flash in the top right beside the map. It does this when you’re near a hidden treasure and points towards it. This makes exploring underwater more leisurely and less purposeful since you just stumble upon treasures instead of actively looking for places where they might be hidden.

The story

This is the part of the game that let me down the most. Coming from the globe-trotting mystery adventure underpinning Endless Ocean 2 is not great for Luminous. The story opens with chapter one, which makes sense, but then that chapter is broken into five sublevels. And then, when you play them, each one is actually a really short tutorial that’s less than five minutes long. Just swim from point A to B, and you’re done. Scan this fish, done. Next, type stuff. It feels like these short tutorials could have been written into one longer level that taught players all the basics at once.

If for some reason you’re like me and decide to keep pushing through the story after the extremely boring tutorial, you’ll very quickly be greeted by the game’s fish-scanning level gates. To get to chapter two, you need to scan 500 fish. Chapter 2-1 is another 500, and it just goes up from there. I’ve unlocked four levels past the tutorial and to get the fifth, I need to scan 1,300 fish. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Is that hard?” And the answer is no; it’s just incredibly tedious and takes hours.

And now you might be saying, “But are the story missions fun at least to make up for it?” The answer again is a resounding “no.”

Past the tutorial, most of the missions are just exposition cutscenes. Even the ones with gameplay aren’t much better. One of the story missions that had some gameplay was just ‘scan 10 starfish in this area.’ Generally, levels feel barely connected.

Speaking of exposition, 90 percent of it comes from your AI companion Sera. It uses an old text-to-speech model, so it sounds like a talking computer, which is kind of annoying, but it gets downright aggravating once you realize there is no other acting in this story. Instead, Daniel, the only human character, just grunts and text boxes appear when he’s talking. There wasn’t voice acting in the last two Endless Ocean games, either, but what they did feature was a full cast of quirky, fun characters that felt alive. Unfortunately, can’t say the same for Sera and Daniel in Endless Ocean Luminous.

Perhaps there’s something interesting buried at the heart of Endless Ocean Luminous, but I don’t feel a reason to keep pushing forward and I expect most people to feel the same unless they really love swimming or fish. If you want to learn about fish, this is the game for you – it really can be rewarding at times. But even that feels stunted when all you get is a short paragraph telling you roughly three random facts about the creature. Including more information like the fish’s real-world location, lifespan, diet and other facts would have been nice.

There’s also an online component to Endless Ocean Luminous, but I was unable to test it prior to launch. Using the game as a chill spot to swim and hang out with friends sounds like it could be fun, but with how little else there is here, even that is a tough sell.

Endless Ocean Luminous releases on May 2nd for $64.99.

Image credit: Nintendo

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