Indie Quickie: Abyss Odyssey

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A Chilean folklore themed side-scrolling action-RPG platformer with light roguelike elements.

Who made it and where can you get it? ACE Team, the studio behind other weirdo titles Rock of Ages and the Zeno Clash series, has once again teamed up with Atlus to put this game on PC (via Steam or the Humble Store), PS3 and Xbox 360. The game sells for $14.99 at full price, but for a limited time the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions have been discounted by 30% and 33%, respectively. Hit up the official site’s buying options page to choose your platform.

How much did we play? I survived three trips through the abyss as the swordswoman witch named Katrien–one of three main playable characters–and gained enough experience points to reach level 40. Each run took around an hour. I have not yet used either of the other two characters or tried co-op play or the local PvP multiplayer mode.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? The game could definitely use some control tweaks in addition to those that have already been addressed in the first post-release update, but I haven’t come across any serious performance issues.

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Why should you play it?

    Abyss Odyssey is one of those weird games that somehow manages to feel unique and very familiar at the same time. It is basically a dungeon crawler with some basic roguelike tendencies–you kill things, level up, loot treasure chests and broken pots, buy new weapons and accessories–only it’s presented like a 2D platformer and it has a combat system heavily inspired by classic fighting games. Zeno Clash meets Spelunky with a touch of Trine, in a nutshell.

    The game takes place in 1890 Santiago, Chile, where a Warlock is terrorizing the living world with evil creatures conjured from his endless nightmares. As one of three main playable characters, the goal here is to jump into a giant hole in the ground leading into the abyss from one of the game’s town hubs and descend through the randomly generated ladder of dungeon floors until you reach the Warlock and defeat him. And then you start all over again and attempt to take alternate, more challenging routes while further leveling up and acquiring new abilities. Of course, it will likely take a few practice runs to adjust to the learning curve of the combat system until you’re able to come close to reaching the Warlock, especially since progress through the abyss is a one-shot deal. Dying anywhere along the way wipes your inventory and takes you back to the very beginning–though in a neat touch, when you die a generic soldier guy takes the place of the main character to grant one last chance to respawn if you are able to survive long enough to reach an altar. Checkpoints can be set if you’ve found or purchased a camp token (shopkeepers with random goods populate the abyss), but these aren’t easy to come by and they only restore progress from death. Your character’s gold, experience, level progression and skills are persistent across runs, however even though you might see the little auto-save icon flash when descending to a new map or have a camp token placed, should you quit out of the game you will begin from the first floor of the abyss upon return. No savesies allowed.

    What ultimately sets Abyss Odyssey apart from other games of this ilk, for better and for worse to some extent, is its combat system. Attack commands don’t get as complicated as launching Hadoukens in Street Fighter, but the fighting engine clearly takes its cues from 2D fighters, promoting a little more patience and strategy than the usual hack-and-slash button mashing. You can do three different standard attacks and up to three interchangeable special attacks, each linked to a button press combined with pushing either up, down or left/right. Additionally, you can grab/throw, block (into counters/deflections with proper timing), dodge, perform recoveries when knocked to the ground, and even pull off a cancel technique which cancels out one action and seamlessly transitions into another attack. Even the way juggle combos can be chained together by launching enemies into the air, hitting them while airborne and then sneaking in one last low/sweep attack just as they land and bounce off the ground, feels right out of a traditional one-on-one fighter. Another distinguishing mechanic is the ability to use a magic spell (once it has been charged up) to capture the souls of enemies, in turn unlocking them in the bestiary and granting the power to transform into different creatures (only one soul can be equipped at a time). Again like a fighting game, each creature has unique weapons, traits and attack styles which add variety and force you to alter your approach in battle. The capture ability also adds another layer of addiction to the abyss-diving grind. Gotta catch ’em all!

Parting Thoughts: Abyss Odyssey doesn’t have much of a story and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the endgame is supposed to be. Supposedly there is a metagame of sorts running behind the scenes which will unlock new content as the community continuously defeats the Warlock, but I haven’t noticed any changes as of yet. As mentioned earlier, the controls could use further balancing as character movement and turning (particularly while jumping) don’t feel as responsive as I would prefer. Enemies can too easily (and cheaply) gang up and keep you pinned to the ground without affording enough time to react and dodge out of the way before getting knocked back down, which can be absolutely infuriating. I also think the developers could have done a better job explaining the more advanced moves, because the opening prologue tutorial only covers the basics and the fighting game-style training mode merely allows you to practice with the different character/creature movesets without actually teaching how to do anything. These quibbles aside, there is something deeply compelling about Abyss Odyssey‘s dungeon crawl mentality and strangely beautiful world of Chilean mythology that keeps me itching to come back for more. Clearly this game should appeal to anyone who enjoys the roguelike action-RPG reward loop of constantly replaying to feed that insatiable drive to level up, master the combat mechanics, unlock content and uncover new dynamics or events that might not have occurred on the previous try.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Abyss Odyssey was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!