Endless Ocean Luminous Review – Plenty of Fish In The Sea

Endless Ocean Luminous Review

Underwater exploration should be so cool. Who wouldn’t love drifting through the deep, scanning fish and solving mysteries? I so badly wanted to love Endless Ocean Luminous, and I simply could not. While the vibes are immaculate, the actual gameplay loop is a murderous grind with no relief in sight. Swimming and looking at fish might be incredibly cool in real life, but it lacks something essential as a video game. Perhaps there’s something here that I’m missing?

Gameplay is split between story missions and free dives. The free dives can be either solo or online shared dives. Both modes have you exploring various maps and scanning the marine life contained within. While the story mode offers a break from the simple loop of the free dives, you have to earn each chapter as you go. A certain amount of fish must be scanned before you can proceed with the story. As the story progresses, you need to do more and more scanning between chapters. This creates a pacing issue that only worsens as time goes on.

Scanning Fish Forever

Admittedly, this same monotonous gameplay loop can be very relaxing. If you play without any specific goal in mind, it can be a lovely distraction of sorts. Drifting through the ocean and checking out various fish is a pretty serene activity. The visuals in Luminous are colorful and crisp, and the fish all look terrific. Though you’re always underwater, the dynamic lighting still marks the passage of time as you dive. The only problem is the scanning. Constantly holding L and having the camera whip around to focus on your targets interrupts the flow of things. It’s a bit frustrating that the only tangible gameplay mechanic also works against the game’s laid-back vibes.

Endless Ocean Luminous Review

Shared dives are less lonely, to be sure. But they don’t do much to break up the monotony. Instead, the task at hand is divided between everyone involved in the dive. So it’s light work, but still pretty simple. The one nice thing about diving in a group is the forest of tags that end up covering the map. It feels more active and engaged, at least from a distance. The tags are a great way to map out things like salvage and rare fish. Although since it’s the player’s choice what tags are used, it’s not as useful as you’d hope.

Multiplayer Lightens The Load

All of your activities in Luminous earn you currency and experience. The experience increases your rank, while the currency is all for customization purposes. It’s nice to have something to spend your money on, though it doesn’t make a gigantic difference in your overall appearance. You can change out your color scheme and apply stickers to your suit. You can also purchase new emotes for interacting with other divers. Eventually, everything gets quite expensive. This means even more scanning between purchases, which causes the pacing to suffer again. You have to spend so much time scanning countless fish after a certain point.

Endless Ocean Luminous Review

That’s the central issue, you see. The chill vibes are at war with the persistent need to be endlessly scanning. It interrupts the flow of gameplay, and it’s also the only gameplay mechanic. Without scanning, you’re merely floating in the ocean with no agenda. While actually performing the one tangible activity gets utterly exhausting within a couple of hours. I don’t know if Luminous needs more gameplay or less, but the current balance feels deeply unpleasant to me. Perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for this game, but I totally failed to connect with what I was playing for more than a few hours.

I’d Rather Be Swimming

This is a pretty simple game to break down. You’re drifting through a beautiful ocean paradise, scanning marine life. Doing so teaches you more about them, and also saves the world. Getting to this story gets harder and harder as things progress. If you love the simple gameplay loop, you’re in luck! There’s so much of it to be had. But if this simple premise doesn’t immediately appeal to you, then this game will disagree with you completely. For the ocean life lovers out there, Endless Ocean Luminous will be a peaceful meditation and an extensive learning experience. There just isn’t a ton of gameplay to go along with it, is all.

***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Beautiful graphics
  • Peaceful gameplay
  • Chill vibes

The Bad

  • Gets old fast
  • There’s only scanning
  • Grindy gameplay loop
  • Story is locked behind scanning