ACE Team is a developer known for creating interesting games which don’t always deliver a well-polished product. Their latest game, Abyss Odyssey, in some ways is a continuation of their creative ambitions outstretching their real-world reach, but in other ways it fails to be as striking as the studio’s previous efforts. Abyss Odyssey is the safest game ACE Team has made, relying on old-school concepts which are easily conveyed to players. In some ways this strengthens Abyss Odyssey, meaning that the game will strike a chord with a larger audience, but it also means the game’s tropes quickly exhaust Abyss Odyssey of content to keep you invested in the game’s paper-thin premise.
Abyss Odyssey takes place in a city which is infested with the evil apparitions of a warlock’s nightmare. No really, a warlock is asleep and the haunting terrors of his slumber have transitioned into the real world. In addition to the monsters, from the warlock’s dreams come three heroes who seek to defeat the warlock and vanquish his evil creatures. The first of these characters is the sword-wielding Katrien. While soldiers attempt to battle against the evil monsters, few are as effective as Katrien and her unlockable friends, who descend deeper and deeper down a randomly generated map toward a final confrontation with the warlock.
Abyss Odyssey is a game made with replay value in mind. Each time you start your descent toward the warlock, you will find a new layout of areas available to you. The game randomly generates a mix of easy, moderate, and hard areas, allowing three different paths to choose from. Each path has varied difficulty and starting points, the closer the starting point is to the warlock, the harder the mix of areas will be.
If Katrien or another player character dies during the descent, players can continue on as one of the foot soldiers. These foot soldiers aren’t quite as beefy as your character will be, but once they reach an alter – there’s usually one in each area – your character will be resurrected. If the foot soldier dies, you will start at the beginning of the game again, losing all of your gear, but keeping your experience and money.
Losing your gear and starting from the beginning can be punishing, but getting to the warlock and defeating him isn’t all that difficult. You might start out a little underpowered at first, but after some time spent learning the controls and grinding out a handful of levels, you will find your character becomes quite a force to be reckoned with. The learning curve with Abyss Odyssey isn’t huge, and once you get the hang of it, the combat can be good fun. Sometimes encounters will be small one-on-one skirmishes, but other times, the level will box you into an area and throw 3-5 enemies at your at once. Deeper into the game, you will have to deal with other elements aside from enemies, like floating fish which will freeze you or vines which snap out and hit you. However, even with these additional complications, it took me a only a couple hours to reach the warlock and defeat him.
While the game is not hard, it does have its frustrating moments. I wish I could say this was due to a smart level design which evolves as you inch closer to the warlock, but it feels rather random. Some enemies stand there while you pummel away at them, but other will dance around the screen, dodging your attacks and unleashing brutal combos to devastate your health. I don’t mean to say the different enemies have varying degrees of difficulty, the exact same enemies can wildly fluctuate between combat dummies and punishing opponents. This wacky balance makes the game feel unrefined and haphazardly designed, as if the developers weren’t sure how create an experience that increases in difficulty, so they just had certain enemies randomly “hulk-out”.
After you battle these pesky foes and defeat the warlock, Abyss Odyssey keeps pushing players to jump back down its ladder of combat time and time again, but offering different challenges, alternate characters, and other things to spice up the game. It doesn’t really deliver the replay value ACE Team might have been hoping for, but it’s likely you’ll take a few more trips through Abyss Odyssey even after you have beaten the game. The alternate characters do play differently and it makes it fun to try them out. Also, the higher your level grows and the more money you have available, the easier the trips to the warlock become. That being said, while there are new objectives and new things to sample with Abyss Odyssey, none of it really stands out. Ideally you could milk as much time out of Abyss Odyssey as you wanted, but after 6 hours, I was pretty weary of the game. Trips to face the warlock become particularly grind-y and no new abilities or enemies could really spice it up.
There are interesting mechanics in Abyss Odyssey. The game itself feels more like a fighting game than a beat ‘em up or brawler. Attempting to launch enemies into combos and finding good use of the block can be more important than simply mashing buttons. Learning the specifics of an enemy’s moves and finding the best counter options available make up the meat of the game’s strategy. After adventuring deep into the depths of the map, players can save up their mana and unleash an attack which traps the soul of an enemy, allowing players to play as the vanquished foe. Playing with different enemies can be as much fun as playing with the characters themselves as they each have their own specific set of moves. The game also throws boss fights at you unexpectedly and finds other ways to keep you on your toes. Mechanically it is interesting, but it doesn’t offer enough to really give the game long legs.
The world of Abyss Odyssey is drenched in gothic art, showing a similar, if not as finely tuned – or sexualized – effort as last year’s Atlus title, Dragon’s Crown. Enemies have a hand-drawn aesthetic, and while the different areas might feel cliched, they are artistically engaging. The whole look is a little washed-out, enhancing the feeling of delving deeper and deeper underground. Abyss Odyssey isn’t going to turn any heads with its art, but it is by no means an ugly game. Though its release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, make it feel a bit dated.
Abyss Odyssey is a solid title, but not a very deep one. There are plenty of attempts to keep things feeling unique and fresh, but they keep you engaged for a matter of minutes, rather than a matter of hours. The game makes a good first impression and really becomes a joy as you begin to level up your characters and grasp the games controls. However, Abyss Odyssey’s fun doesn’t run much deeper than its skin as it fails to really deliver the replay experience it seeks.