Gonz’ Take: It’s interesting to see how PCs have been slowly garnering console-centric experiences. This influx stems mostly from indie developers who seek to recreate and even improve classic joypad gaming, though lately even Japanese developers/publishers with little to no prior interest in PCs seem to be joining this new movement. Examples include Square-Enix porting Final Fantasy III and or Nihon Falcom’s western release of Ys on computers.
Abyss Odyssey is the newest case, created by ACE Team of Zeno Clash fame and published by Atlus who until a few years ago focused solely on consoles. Inspired by the likes of Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Abyss spices up the formula by placing greater emphasis on combat and Rogue-like death which forces you to restart the game should your character perish.
While this description may be a case of déjà-vu for those who read our Ascendant review, both titles seem to have as many differences as they do similarities. Combat in Abyss is fast-paced but unlike most games of its genre, it requires forethought, as attacking and turning is not instant and requires the animation to play out. At first I mistook it for a gameplay flaw however I soon realized this is an intentional design limitation by the developers which promotes skill and planning over button mashing.
This becomes especially apparent in co-op as friendly fire cannot be turned off, thus forcing both players to work as a team. Luckily, any damaged incurred by a friend is a mere fraction of what the enemies cause. It should also be noted that while there is no PvP mode, the creators have gone on record to state this will be added in a future patch.
Dispatching foes grants experience points and exploring the abyss yields gold which can be spent towards purchasing new equipment. Leveling up allows players to challenge greater mobs, learn new abilities or improve existing ones. Should the character die however, you keep the experience earned, but you are forced to restart the game with every dungeon level randomized. Fortunately, players are not automatically introduced to the grim reaper upon losing all health. If killed, your character is replaced by a human soldier who drags our hero to a resurrection shrine but suffers from poor combat skills. Should this last ditch effort fail, players keep their items and experience but are forced to explore the abyss from the very beginning.
As you progress through the game, two new characters and dungeon entrances are unlocked. Each hero plays radically different from the last. Further enhancing the battle mechanics is the ability to capture and play as an enemy. These aren’t simple palette swaps either as they feature specific animations and combat systems to learn.
For all the wonderful gameplay and features I’m sadly disappointed by Abyss’ controls as it assumes players own an Xbox 360 controller. In-game tutorials and options menus display button prompts from Microsoft’s joypad. While you can indeed play with a keyboard, I could never seem to find a comfortable control scheme. Needless to say, a controller is highly recommended.
The in-game character dialogue features a professionally recorded voicework and generally does a good job at explaining the story. These are complemented with collectable diary pages scattered around the abyss which delve further into the plot.
Abyss Odyssey was played on the PC and PlayStation 3 with review codes provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Atlus Inc.
Release date: July 15th, 2014
Price: $14.99 via Steam, $9.99 current sale price/$14.99 via PSN, $10.49 current sale price, $14.99 XGS