Beta Hands On with Namco Bandai’s Treasure Abyss

Gaming on social network sites has really taken off in the past few years. Look how many millions of people play Farmville, Mafia Wars, Castle Age, City of Eternals and more. In some cases, these games are played by more people than a lot of the console or PC best sellers. As such, it makes sense that several companies like Sega are shifting their focus towards making games for the Facebook-esque crowd.

One such game is Namco Bandai’s Treasure Abyss, which is in beta mode as of press time. Namco’s first such game, Voyage of the Planet hasn’t fared to well, with only 108 active users, but that hasn’t deterred them from going forward with Treasure Abyss and the upcoming City of Football. So far Treasure Abyss has proven to be more successful than Voyage of the Planet even in the Beta state, as it has nearly 1,500 players. I personally found it to be interesting because the game appeared to closer to a full out console style RPG than anything we’ve seen so far out of social networking games. Sure, Castle Age and Dawn of the Dragons can be addictive, but all you’re doing is clicking a mouse and looking at static images and the focus is too strong on Player Vs. Player rather than any real co-operative gaming. After spending a week with Treasure Abyss in its beta state (along with fellow DHGF staffer Dave Olvera and my friend Shane from down under), I can honestly say it’s the best RPG style game out for Facebook users so far, even with some pretty noticeable flaws.

The first thing you will notice about Treasure Abyss is the massive loading. It takes several minutes for the game to load, which can be rather annoying compared to other social networking games and they almost instantly load up. Of course, Treasure Abyss is also a deeper game with full combat animation, so this explains why. After creating an account, you create a character. Everyone starts off as a warrior, but you can choose your gender. Once you complete the tutorial you can customize your character. You’ll have to stay as a warrior until you unlock one or more of the three remaining classes (wizard, thief and monk), and you do that through alchemy and creating a weapon for one of the aforementioned classes. Performing alchemy is done by combined items you collect from fallen foes and treasure chests.

Gameplay is quite unique for a social networking game and it really does feel like a true console RPG. You’ll equip your character, choose one of the three dungeons that are currently available (It’s in Beta, remember) and then after a brief loading screen (which features monsters not in the game yet, including a dragon) you’ll be on the ground floor of a dungeon. You then use the mouse to click around in an attempt to reach treasure, monsters to fight and ultimately the next level. Repeat until you have cleared the dungeon. Currently there is only one boss and that’s in the third and final dungeon where you fight a rock golem.

The game also features typical RPG trappings such as Hit Points and stats that go up with each new level you reach (Strength, Vitality, Agility and Intelligence). Each class is unique. Warriors have the highest Strength and Vitality, Wizards have the highest intelligence, Rogues have the highest agility and the fastest attack rate and Monks are all around characters. I personally play as a thief since I was lucky enough to gather the materials for their most powerful weapon before any other class and found the attack rate to be better than pure power. Currently our team is Dave, who plays a level 10 warrior, Shane, who plays a level 17 monk, and myself who plays a level 21 thief. It’s a nice well rounded team. None of us really cared for the wizard, but then we’ve only tried it in solo mode and that is definitely not recommended unless you want to die easily. However, I have recently made a staff of fire, so we might see how that works out in comparison.

The game features a shop where you can buy armour and shields for your character, but weapons can only be made through alchemy. You can also send materials to your friends, but for some reason you can’t send weapons or armour, which is a shame. When you send an item it actually comes from your stock rather than a random generated item ala Castle Age. I think this is actually a pretty good idea, as it keeps you playing with just your friends rather than complete strangers in an attempt to have the most gaming “friends,” which is what Castle Age eventually boils down to in order to do anything. With Treasure Abyss, the emphasis in on small parties of real friends and there is no PvP element. You can also play the game solo if you want – it will just take you longer.

There are three things unique to Treasure Abyss when compared to other social networking games I’ve fiddled around with. The first is the graphics. This is a nice looking game and it is dramatically better looking than any other Facebook game I’ve seen. Sure the characters and monsters have a chibi look to them, but everything is brightly coloured and completely animated. It’s fun to watch a fight go down and it actually keeps you engaged instead of just being a “click 100 times and then you are done for the day” sort of thing. The second is that a candle is the most important thing in the game. Each section of the dungeon you crawl through takes up three of your “candle points,” for a lack of a better term. When the candle goes out, you have to either light a new one, leave the dungeon or try and proceed. A warning about the latter – monsters become insanely powerful in the dark, to the point where they will kill you in a few hits even if when the light is on, you can go through an entire dungeon without losing a hit point. Just a head’s up. The final unique thing is that you can go adventuring with your friends even when they aren’t online. As all battles are controlled completely by the CPU (Think 30 Second Hero), you can take your friends down to fight with you, and they’ll earn XP and gold without even being there. They can also do the same for you. Be careful not to use them too much, or they’ll suffer fatigue and not be able to fight. In this case, they’ll just hang back exhausted letting you and any other teammates fight it out. At least they’ll still get a reward though!

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with Treasure Abyss. It’s cute, it’s designed for friendly team play rather than PvP, it looks and feels like a real RPG and it’s surprisingly addicting. My only complaints right now are that the two tracks of music are annoying and the game is better muted, that I can’t give weapons or armour to my friends, and that there are only three dungeons right now and by the time you hit level 14-15, you can cakewalk through all of them. More content is desperately needed, but I’m sure once the game is out of Beta, that won’t be a problem. Personally, I think Namco Bandai has a winner on their hand and hopefully this manages to be a success. I know some gamers swear like sailors at the idea of console developers/publishers making social networking game, but personally, I could care what the game is played on as long as it’s fun. I’ll play Neverwinter Nights on the PC, Guardian Heroes on my Sega Saturn, and Treasure Abyss on Facebook. Give it a try and see what you think.