System(s): PC, (Also available for PS3, Xbox 360)
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (ACE Team)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Violence and Partial Nudity
When you stare into an abyss, you are most likely to find the soulless, emotionless darkness that is pure nothingness. Atlus would like to show a rare side of the abyss that only a journey, nay an odyssey, would be needed to fully understand. Let’s all go on an Abyss Odyssey.
A being known as the Warlock lurks beneath the earth in a deep slumber. Instead of blissfully sleeping, the Warlock is having hellish nightmares that are coming to life in the Chilean capital of Santiago. With the city on the brink of succumbing to these evil figments of imagination, it’s up to Katrien, also a figment of the Warlock’s dreams, to awaken the troubled mind to save the city.
Although Abyss Odyssey‘s story seems interesting, players will need to find pages to the Warlock’s journal to get the whole picture. I am never a fan of telling a story through notes or pages in order to understand the tale past the introductory scenes. Especially here, as the pages drop randomly so multiple playthroughs are required to fill in all the gaps.
Fighting through the abyss.
Abyss Odyssey is an odd mix of genres, with 2D platforming, role-playing, rogue-likes and fighting elements all put together, and this would seem like an unplayable disaster. Adding procedurally generated areas wouldn’t seem to help this mix either. Surprisingly, ACE Team pulled off the mix amazingly well. Though I’d recommend looking at how to play section in Options before starting the game and checking out the Training option to play around with the controls in a safe environment. The lack of a decent tutorial at the start of Abyss Odyssey is disheartening to say the least.
Once you figure out the control scheme, you’re ready to make your plunge into the pit. The controls are very responsive and give the player enough maneuverability to tackle any situation. Dodge rolls on the ground will help avoiding hits while doing these in the air will help reach seemingly out of reach areas. I never found myself blaming the controls for any misstep I made which made for the least amount of frustration and maximized fun.
To aid in your battles against the demon nightmares, you have 6 skills at your disposal with 3 being the max you can have active at one time. Katrien has skills such as a fireball, a slide tackle and a continuous sword stab that dares anyone to come near. All of these skills can be upgraded to provide more damage, more mana or a temporary shield. Adding to these skills is a combat system that is all about combos. With a special cancel that interrupts the current combo you’re pulling off, you can essentially turn what would have been a 3 hit combo into something much, much more. There are 2 other characters you can unlock that have their own unique skills and have different attacks. Once the Ghost Monk and Pincoya are unlocked, you can figure out which one suits your play style the best. If 3 characters to play around with are a little too minuscule, you can also unlock enemies to transform into with your ultimate ability that can be used when your mana bar is full. Essentially, you have a mulligan if you are ever about to die by activating the transformation.
All is not lost when death’s sweet embrace wraps its arms around you. Upon death, a soldier will spawn, essentially giving you a second life. With this second life, you must make it to a checkpoint altar to revive the heroine so she may continue her adventure. You could just take the soldier all the way to the next area if you feel bold enough though. If you die as the soldier, however, it’s game over and you will have to begin your adventure all over, unless you saved at a checkpoint by purchasing a camp token. Since these tokens are pricey, you might forgo buying them in favor of a new weapon or health potion.
Drop it like it’s hot
Inviting friends to join in your adventures is a great way to divvy up the challenges and survive that much longer in Abyss Odyssey. The online multiplayer is virtually unplayable with drop connections and falling through the environment. No matter how many times I tried or ports I opened on my router, not a single online game was playable. There is a local option if you have a buddy over at the time of booting the game up, though most of us have friends living abroad that we would love to partner up with.
While the still images that popped up when talking to other NPCs looked great, the main character models in-game looked a little unrefined. The colors seemed a little drab in some of the areas but it seems to fit the vibe ACE Team was going for. Monster design is fantastic and a little frighting at times which all are inspired by Chilean folklore. From bulls, centaurs, huge tree-like creatures to undead soldiers with guns, there are some interesting monsters to look at for sure. The environment is nothing to scoff at either, with beautiful plant overgrowth in one area to the pulsating red hot lava waiting to melt all your troubles, and your life, away. The music seems to enhance the lush environments with its transitions from heart-pounding swells of powerful notes to the serene tones of safety at checkpoint alters. You cannot help but want to continuously push forward with these sights and sounds.
Abyss Odyssey takes genres that shouldn’t mix well and turns them into a enjoyable experience with music that inspires you to keep pushing to the goal while enjoying the various set pieces in each area as well. Aside from a few missteps with how the story is fed to the player, some less that satisfactory character designs, completely broken multiplayer and a lack of a clear understanding of the mechanics from the start, I can’t wait to take another trip into the abyss.