Endless Ocean: Luminous Review – Into the blue

Reviewed April 30, 2024 on Nintendo Switch


Nintendo Switch


May 2, 2024





Taking you on an underwater journey through the vastness of the mythical Veiled Sea, Endless Ocean: Luminous is the third entry in a series of ocean exploration games that first launched in 2007 on the Wii. This sequel allows players to don scuba gear and scour the depths of various aquatic biomes, recording the vibrant marine life they encounter. With plenty of fishies to find and a lo-fi, nonviolent aesthetic, this Endless Ocean promises a chilled-out experience for players seeking a bit of calm.

There is a story in Endless Ocean: Luminous, though it’s not really the focus of the experience. You can play through short chapter-based “missions” where Sera, your AI companion, takes you through different sections of the Veiled Sea and explains lore that justifies most of the game’s mechanics. The World Coral, the source of the ocean’s wellbeing, is under threat from necrosis and it’s up to you to investigate a way to save it. This involves using your scientific scanner on oceanic creatures to capture the special “light” they emit, as well as researching secrets on an ancient slate tablet (dubbed the “Mystery Board”) that you uncover on your journey.

Most of the story missions are little more than glorified cutscenes. Sera is “voice-acted” (with an automated text-to-speech program), while other characters including your fellow human diver Daniel remain unvoiced. This largely doesn’t matter, since the story mostly serves as a tutorial for the game’s core mechanics. It does come off as a cheap solution to use AI speech, which detracts from the game’s otherwise incredible sound design.

Atmospherically, the ocean soundscape is top-notch. You’ll mostly be listening to ambient sea static, but music tends to kick in right when you approach a rare and majestic marine creature, lending an epic scale to your adventure. This, in combination with the simple but effective visual design, makes sinking into Endless Ocean’s world incredibly relaxing.

Gameplay in Endless Ocean: Luminous is based around exploring procedurally generated sections of the Veiled Sea, scanning the marine life, and salvaging any pieces of treasure you come across. Each map is divided into a number of grid squares. As you explore each zone in the grid, the topography is revealed – exploring 80% of an area unveils the rest of its map and unlocks that particular section’s Dive ID, allowing you to return to it later or share it with friends.

Maps contain a variety of aquatic structures, such as sunlit reefs, rocky plateaus, and murky caves. There’s a tonne of verticality to traverse, taking you from the tropical shallows way down to the pitch-black depths. You’ll also encounter different biomes with distinct inhabitants; freshwater or arctic waters play host to unique marine life, while ancient underwater ruins play host to forgotten creatures from the deep.

My first foray into the deepest parts of the Veiled Sea was absolutely terrifying. Your torch covers just a few metres in front of you, illuminating some of the ocean’s most alien creatures only when they’re right in your face. Thankfully, all of the creatures in Endless Ocean are completely docile — the “light” makes them calm, so you’re never in any danger. This doesn’t help to offset the completely rational thalassophobia you might experience mid-dive, but it does mean that the occasional shark-infested abandoned shipwreck becomes an enticing landmark rather than a site to avoid.

As you explore, your main activity is scanning marine life. It works pretty much exactly like Samus’ Scan Visor in the Metroid Prime series (aim and hold L to scan), but you’re able to scan multiple creatures at once before the camera zooms in and displays details of everything you’ve recorded. It’s… pretty clunky, to be honest. Every fish is shown in an enormous list that can only be scrolled through one at a time. Focusing on a fish displays options for tagging it, inviting it to swim with you, or receiving a detailed description of what makes it unique (read aloud by your trusty AI companion). Time is not paused while you’re scrolling this list, meaning you’ll sometimes see schools of unscanned fish flitter past while you’re mashing B to exit the scan interface.

It feels a little cumbersome and unintuitive, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the entire game experience wasn’t built on performing the scan action literally hundreds of times. Endless Ocean’s story missions are unlocked after scanning unique creatures at different thresholds. Initially, you’ll need to complete a few hundred scans to unlock the next mission. By the later chapters, you’ll be expected to hit up thousands of fishies. It makes these lacklustre main quests feel even more disappointing — especially if you’ve been grinding for ages only to get treated to a short, boring cutscene.

Aside from the story missions, diving adventures occasionally present miscellaneous side quests that unlock panels on the Mystery Board or summon Unique Marine Life (UMLs), which are special “undiscovered” creatures with unnatural abilities, such as turning transparent. These quests are usually very simple, involving scanning specific creatures or bringing particular fish buddies to a spot on the map, but they serve to break up the rhythmic routine of swimming and scanning with a bit of direction. You’ll also find treasure and artifacts scattered across each map, which reward you with currency when salvaged.

As you gradually accrue currency and build out your catalogue of marine creatures, you’ll unlock different customisation options for your scuba gear. These include a variety of colour palettes, funky little stickers, and emotes that you’ll want to show off to fellow divers in the multiplayer Shared Dive mode. You’ll also chip away at a bunch of in-game achievements as you play, providing some incentive to jump into the ocean and explore.

As well as its story and single-player Solo Dives, Endless Ocean: Luminous also offers online multiplayer Shared Dives for up to thirty divers at once. There’s not a huge difference in gameplay between diving alone or with mates (you’re still swimming around scanning fish and collecting treasure) but there’s an efficiency to exploring together that gives the feeling that the game was balanced around this mode in particular.

Unlocking 80% of the map is much faster with a group, as is clocking up scan-rates and completing quests. You can see each other’s tagged creatures or treasure, and the unlockable emotes encourage non-verbal interaction. Not everything is shared, however, and it was a little upsetting when my online Shared Dive squad managed to summon a UML only for it to swim away after a single player had scanned it.

While I enjoyed switching off my brain and sinking into the lo-fi vibes of Endless Ocean: Luminous, it’s hard to justify the experience at its price point. Considering you’d also need to fork out for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to take advantage of the game’s multiplayer features, I’d only recommend this aquatic adventure to diehard Maritimers or those with a good chunk of patience and cash to splash. If, however, that description covers you, you’ll find plenty to love in this super chill low-stakes little aquarium.




  • Relaxing, lo-fi ocean exploration vibes
  • Impressive variety of diverse marine life to discover
  • Lots of little secrets to unlock


  • Story mode is pretty lacklustre
  • Core gameplay mechanics are clunky
  • Price point is too high

A lo-fi ocean adventure for those in need of calm, monotonous focus, Endless Ocean: Luminous provides an experience that is entirely low stakes, low risk, and low reward. It’s incredibly soothing to dive in and chase down a huge variety of aquatic creatures through the game’s diverse, atmospheric marine environments, but anyone looking for a deeper narrative will be left high and dry. Check this out if you’ve got the funds and don’t mind fumbling through a bit of jank to reach your zen state of mind.