Review: Abyss Odyssey (PC)

Abyss Odyssey
Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Atlus
Genre: RPG/Roguelike
Release Date: 07/15/2014

Roguelikes (or at least incorporating elements thereof) seem to be all the rage these days, with the likes of Rogue Legacy, Dungeons of Dredmor, FTL: Faster Than Light, and Dungeon of the Endless. ACE Team’s (who also made Rock of Ages and the Zeno Clash games) contribution to the genre involves a mashup of elements from roguelikes, platformers, and fighters. Let’s see how all well those all mix together.

Monsters keep emerging from the eponymous abyss to the surface and overrunning the towns above, the product of nightmares from a warlock’s slumber. In order to stop them, some brave souls (and hapless officers) descend into the abyss in an attempt to defeat the Warlock and eliminate the monsters. This isn’t a particularly story heavy game, but some interesting backstory can be found within pages of the Warlock’s diary. Overall, though, the focus isn’t on a deep riveting plot, though what’s presented here is more than sufficient and serves as a good backdrop and driving purpose for the game.

The backgrounds are varied, making repeated treks down the abyss less monotonous. I admit I marveled at how good they looked during my first runs. The character art looks nice and detailed, though characters only get one portrait each and don’t change expressions. Given that there’s only brief dialogue scenes and not a whole lot of emoting occurring in them, that’s not much of a problem. The officers all have the same portraits, but since they’re background characters and serve and substitutes should your main hero fall that’s understandable. The music complements the mood of the game well and is easy on the ears. The voice acting is alright, and none of the voices are grating or sound out of place.

While you could technically play this with a keyboard, I’d very highly recommend a controller. While the controls are configurable, the default controls worked just fine for me. For the 360 controller they are the following: X for a regular attack, Y (and a direction) for a special attack, B to throw, left and right bumpers to dodge left or right, and the trigger buttons to block. In addition, pressing X and Y simultaneously while your mana meter is full triggers an attack that deals a lot of damage and captures the enemy it hits. The controls can take a bit of getting used to considering the fighting game elements (the developers have mentioned Super Smash Bros in the Steam forum for this game), though there is a training room you can practice in until you’re more comfortable with them. The developers even wrote a guide on some of the more advanced moves not covered in the tutorial. That guide proved helpful while I was getting the hang of the mechanics (let’s just say my fighting game style is button mash fu and leave it at that). I still can’t pull off combos as fancy as some of the combo videos, but I can at least fight decently enough to proceed.

When your main hero falls, a soldier character takes over. That’s your chance to run to an altar and revive your main hero. There aren’t any save points, though you can buy camp tokens with which you can set a checkpoint at an altar so that when you die you come back at that altar rather than start all over again. How many times this occurs depends on the level of the camp token you buy. In addition, a band of soldiers will pop up at points and help fight enemies. However, there’s an element of luck involved in that a merchant won’t always be near an altar, and even if one is he won’t necessarily have a token in stock. Tokens can also get expensive, especially the higher level ones, as can weapons. The third main hero is unlocked by dumping lots of money into a fountain, so that’s another demand on your hard earned gold until she’s unlocked. When you die, weapons and items don’t carry over, but money and levels do, so you can at least save up for later runs. Each character has three special attacks that can be upgraded in damage and the like. You can also carry enemy tokens to summon that enemy in place of your character. It has a separate life bar, so it’s useful if you’re starting to run low on your hero character.

If you look at it purely in terms of getting to the bottom of the abyss and beating the Warlock once, this game isn’t very long, though naturally the actual length depends on how many times you get killed and start from a set checkpoint or the beginning. However, ACE Team continually patches the game and pays attention to player feedback. For example, a lot of people asked for a way to turn friendly fire off, and the game was soon updated with that option. During my initial foray into co-op I discovered friendly fire was on the hard way by getting hit by my co-op partner’s sword and fireballs (and hitting him by accident in turn). I found myself treading carefully to avoid that, leading me to play defensively and not dealing damage as fast as I could with a more aggressive fighting style. If you do toggle the friendly fire off, your victory against the Warlock won’t count on the leaderboards, but if you just want to play with someone for fun and don’t care much about the leaderboards, having the option is nice.

Whenever the Warlock is defeated by anyone, a piece of his mask breaks. When the mask breaks completely, a new form of the Warlock is unlocked, and a new mask becomes available to break. Other enemy types and tweaks in balance (damage, AI, etc.) have been added since the game’s launch. The stages are procedurally generated, so they won’t be the same every time, though the basic obstacles remain similar from map to map. At the beginning you only have access to one entrance and one character. However, there’s two other main heroes to unlock, as well as enemies that become playable after you’ve captured them and have their own move sets. There’s also the new Warlock forms and other things that will be added over time, like the Nightmare mode that was added in. An online versus mode is also supposed to be in the works (currently there’s a local versus mode). If you do pick this up, I’d recommend the PC version because you’ll get the updates faster than on consoles.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Abyss Odyssey is an amalgamation of genres that may not click well with everyone. There is a learning curve involved with the controls, though with practice they’re manageable. The main value in Abyss Odyssey lies in replaying the game to unlock all the characters, as well as new Warlock forms and other content the developers add over time. The developers are open to feedback and continually update the game accordingly, so that will help keep the game fresh for at least a while.



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