By: Jeff Cater
Developer ACE has sought to step into the recent roguelike craze with Abyss Odyssey, which draws inspiration from many games in its wheelhouse but doesn’t break ground in any one area. Instead, we have a highly accessible but technical romp into the depths of a literal nightmare.
Navigating the limited menus is a very clumsy ordeal, with placement of your skill tree constantly sending you mixed signals as to what button to push as well as unclear descriptions of what the action may actually do, so you’re largely left to experiment.
When not in the menus, the controls are generally pretty responsive and easy to use. The left stick moves your character while the face buttons take care of the attacking — square unleashes basic attacks modified by directional input, while triangle unleashes an array of special moves.
Occasionally, during hectic combat, you’ll find that sometimes your character will not turn the direction you want resulting in extra health lost due to a hit or a miffed jump. That’s because all attacking animations cannot be cancelled to do a different action. This is in place to prevent button mashing and promote careful and technical gameplay, but it can be an annoyance while dealing with lava pits, swinging blades and enemies cartwheeling around the stage simultaneously.
Abyss Odyssey provides a very unique visual presentation. The cut scene sequences are done in an old-school, portrait-dialogue exchange, so even though the characters are drawn extremely well, the animation is kept strictly to the gameplay. Getting good at the game means being familiar with your chosen characters set of moves and knowing how long each swing is, so almost half the game is paying attention to the animations of your character to maximize your lethality.
Getting back to the graphics, the gameplay portions look great but suffer from slowdown during some of the more intense fights and also during some of the levels. The environments your voyage drags you through are often beautiful and deadly at the same time, with several environmental hazards and enemy variants blending perfectly with the scenery.
Unfortunately, even though the level design is randomly generated, you will see familiar set pieces repeat quite often so you’ll quickly be able to predict where to jump, where a chest or enemy may be, etc. The inhabitants of this nightmarish world are all lively, well animated and very creative in design, my favorite being a Monk that consists of the souls of fallen soldiers who dawns a brown cloak that shrouds his corporeal figure.
In support of the great character design is the absolute top-notch voice work. Not one character sounds out of place or cheesy, and the interaction between characters is deepened by the delivery of dialogue. The score that accompanies your journey is also epic and well-constructed, and it fits the pacing of the exploration and combat perfectly.
Deep below the surface of our world rests a supremely powerful warlock, who has fallen into a slumber so deep and twisted that his very nightmares are manifesting themselves into our world, bringing terror and death to all his mind can engulf. Fortunately for us, a set of heroes are also manifested from his nightmares, but they wish for balance and peace, stopping at nothing to put a cease to the horrors from the deep.
After playing a short introductory chapter, the game lets you start exploring the depths. Each stage consists of short engagements with small groups of enemies, death traps, treasure and journal pages to collect that add depth to the story.
The game is pretty much a thinking player’s hack n’ slash, with light rogue elements such as equipment loss upon death and having to restart at the beginning of a level. Even still, it’s a very forgiving entry to the genre; if you happen to bite the dust you will spawn as a Soldier at the place of your death.
At this point you must finish off the enemies that killed your hero, grab his weapon and haul ass to the nearest camp in order to resurrect the fallen. The most roguelike part of the game is probably playing as that damn Soldier, because his move set completely pales in comparison to the three playable main characters.
Multiplayer is solid, offering a Versus mode with several selectable characters and a co-pp mode, but it’s an experience best played solo in my opinion. It is a very easy roguelike as well, taking about two hours until your first victory. After that, you just start over. There’s not really any equipment to yearn after, and skills can only be upgraded three times by three different modifiers, so just once through you’ll see just about as much as there is to offer here.
Damn if Abyss Odyssey isn’t a cool concept for a game; a psychotically powerful warlock having bad dreams and ruining all of our days with it. It could just use a bit more content to entice players into spending more time with it.