Review: Abyss Odyssey (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): July 15, 2014
- Release Date (EU): July 16, 2014
- Publisher: ATLUS
- Developer: ACE Team
- Genres: Platformer, Fighter, RPG
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
- Also For: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Abyss Odyssey - A side-scrolling, 2.5D platforming fighter rogue-lite
Abyss Odyssey, the latest game released by ACE Team and published by ATLUS, offers an immersive experience with beautiful graphical and audial themes that draw heavily from Chilean folklore. The game is played on a 2 dimensional plane with enemies coming towards the player from both the left and right side of the screen. Attacks can be done one at a time or chained together for ultimate control over your enemies, though with multiple foes on the screen this can quickly become a challenge. Abyss Odyssey is first and foremost a rogue-lite, so you will be progressing deeper and deeper into the Abyss in an effort to reach and defeat the Warlock, whos dreams have been wreaking havoc upon the overworld. There are three paths to choose from during your descent into the Abyss, the first being easier but longer, and the third being harder but shorter. You can also move between the three paths at various points in the fifteen level dungeon, opting to take an easier (or harder) path should you desire, or add in a few extra levels to find an altar to revive your character should you be killed. There are a few different types of rooms for you to pick from with varying difficulties while others also contain special events, treasure, and an optional boss, and there are a few different environments for each room to generate as. On top of this, each room is procedurally generated meaning with the exception of the treasure room, event rooms, and the final boss chamber, every descent into the Abyss will be randomly created giving you a fresh experience every time. The game supports both single and online multi-player modes, so there is plenty of fun to be had by yourself or with friends.
The story will unfold shortly.
In addition to online multi-player, the game also features leaderboards so you can compete with others around the world to get a top ranking governed by who has killed the Warlock the most. ACE Team has also left community objectives where pieces of the Warlock’s mask will deteriorate as the playerbase meets certain goals. Each piece that falls off will grant the Warlock new abilities affecting future playthroughs for everyone. However, it's still not 100% clear how these goals will be reached or what the new abilities will entail, so the best way to find out is by continuing to play!
Abyss Odyssey can be played with a mouse and keyboard or any Xinput enabled controller, though the game is certainly designed to be played with the latter. On Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the game will of course be played with the platform's respective controller. The developer has also stated in a Steam discussion that they do plan to release the game for Mac OS after launch, though initially the PC version will be Windows only.
As explained, the game is played on a 2D plane - you move side to side and can jump in the air and jump down through certain platforms. One small issue I did run into is that ledges seem to be difficult to grab on to at times, with your character prefering to grab the side of the wall and slowly slide down instead. Many of the controls have redundancy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it offers different ways to play. Dodging, for example, can be accomplished by either hitting the L/R bumpers (L1/R1) or blocking (LT/RT or L2/R2) to a direction on the left thumbstick, while certain attacks can be performed by using either the right thumbstick or hitting X/square and a direction on the left thumbstick. You are able to block, dodge, and attack in either direction, and there are multiple different attacks for each of the three characters to unlock. Attacks can be chained together, though larger chains require challenging and creative use of the ability to cancel your attack to start a different one. Each character has its own level progression and unlocked skills are also on a per-character basis, so while you may be comfortable with a play style on one character you may be even better with a different skill set on another character.
One of the intro fights, an event, your first boss, and your skill-select screen.
One cheap tactic I did discover during my playthrough is stun-locking enemies by grabbing them repeatedly. Throwing them doesn't do a lot of damage, thus this tactic is only really effective in single-target situations such as bosses, but you can grab an enemy with B/circle and throw them, and as soon as they begin to stand up, do it again, ad infinitum, until they are defeated. The only potential snag you can encounter is if the enemy rolls out of the way while standing back up, but on slower enemies you can usually turn around and catch them again before they are able to attack again or get further away.
Single-player was overall a fantastic experience for me. I completed my descent into the Abyss and defeated the Warlock in roughly five hours, which albeit short, the game does offer a fair bit of replayability due to the aformentioned leaderboards, the ability to level up your characters and unlock and master new abilities, and also the ability to capture enemy monsters to unlock and use in the Training Room feature of the game. Past this however, if you weren't looking to replay the game multiple times you may not get as much enjoyment out of it. One complaint I did have with single-player though is that the game doesn't save your currently held items or your location, and every time you quit you reset back to the overworld with only your skills, level, and gold. You can use this to your advantage though as you can keep delving into the Abyss, farming gold and experience, and after long enough make your descent again, while this time loading up on stronger weapons, potions, camp tokens, and assist characters.
Very interesting character artwork, an altar, what happens when you die, and an Abyss map.
The enemies proved to be fairly difficult when multiple ones ganged up on you but otherwise playing solo was fairly manageable. The only consistently difficult part I encountered was the final boss, where he casts a stream of fish that hits numerous times over the course of about four seconds, effectively stunlocking you, though the same tactic to grab enemies repeatedly does work here as well, so worst case scenario it can quickly become a game of seeing who can shoot first.
While I quite enjoyed single-player, multi-player on the other hand left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Firstly, the game offers two multiplayer modes: co-op, in both local and online; and versus, which is local-only. Versus actually played quite nicely, and it reminded me a little bit of Super Smash Bros. You are able to choose from any character in the game, including bosses, and can then choose a support character from a separate pool. Up to four players can drop in on the local machine and the players are pitted against one another in a small arena with a few platforms and occasionally a map hazard that you must avoid unless you want to take environmental damage from it - alternatively, make it your goal to throw your foes into the hazards to deal damage and keep them airborne so you can chain more attacks off of them. The ony two downsides I could really see with the versus mode was that it was a little slow paced, possibly due to the fact that I was only playing with one other person, and the character choices are very imbalanced. Pitting the Warlock with an Ice Golem as a secondary character is an unbelieveably strong combination against virtually any other character combination, for example.
Beware! The floor is now lava!
However, co-op was an entirely different story and I had a hard time enjoying it, especially when playing online, which had more than its fair share of performance and gameplay issues. Over local and online co-op, the biggest complaint TankErdin and I had is that you are fighting together to reach the bottom of the Abyss, but you also have the ability to attack one another, which further complicates gameplay and makes it absolutely chaotic, and not in a good way. With stronger enemies or bosses that now have an extra enemy tagging along, one wrong grab or poor swing with an ice or poison weapon can easily turn the tides against you for something virtually unavoidable. The only way to really prevent this is to have each player draw an enemy to their side of the screen, which doesn't always work, or to have one player sit out at the side of the screen while the other takes all of the heat, which isn't fair to either player. On top of this, player two has no incentive to join a host other than getting achievements, adding to their Warlock kill count if they get there, and otherwise just screwing around. In our playtime, TankErdin and I found that the person joining an online game neither gains or loses any experience, levels, or gold after they quit. And beyond this, online play suffered from many synchronization and performance issues, with characters stuttering across the map, being stuck in a jumping animation and being able to fall through the floor, and the camera not being able to decide which player to focus on and letting other players run entirely off screen, when ideally it would follow each player separately. Playing local co-op solved all of the synchronization issues, but the camera issue still remains.
I don't know if I'm making it back to camp after this one...
UPDATE: ACE Team has just released a pre-launch patch that will be automatically included with all PC downloads, hopefully Xbox 360 and PS3 as well, that appears to have fixed the issue with experience and gold earned in multi-player not carrying back over to your single-player profile. I can't make any promises however in the short time I tested it it does appear to be resolved. It's unclear what else the patch fixes or changes at this time, though movement and synchronization issues persist.
Other Notes & Conclusion
I do wish that the Abyss went deeper than it does. For a game that bases its progression off of being a rogue-lite, a fifteen level dungeon feels unusually short. I'd like to see, maybe in a future patch, the ability to customize the Abyss - make it deeper, force specific difficulties, and maybe spawn more or less events. The game does support both fullscreen and windowed modes, yet no borderless windowed (fullscreen windowed). The third party programs that I use with some other games to force a borderless windowed mode do not currently work on this game. Also, alt-tabbing out of the game has a chance of crashing the game, notably after playing for a long time. This will either fully crash the program or lock it up to the point where you can not interact with anything on that screen, thus requiring a reboot.
A vendor's wares, the Warlock's journal, and the ever-watching violinist... maybe not as friendly as he says.
I enjoyed single-player on this, I really did enjoy it quite a bit. It's a short yet refreshing game that offers a decent amount of replayability and its shortness just adds to that - you don't have to settle in for an hours-long gaming session to beat this. Once you've got a few levels and some gold under a character's belt, your descent into the Abyss may only take about an hour from start to finish. What really bothers me though is the broken co-op functionality and lack of online versus. It would be an immense added value if they worked properly or existed at all, respectively, however at this point in time, online co-op is frustrating at best and utterly broken at worst. I do hope that in future patches the issues with it will be resolved, and online versus could be added once ACE Team develops a solid infrastructure as the basis of the co-op game mode.
+ Single-player is very entertaining
+ Local versus is a blast
+ Short but not disappointingly so
+ Very nice graphics and soundtrack
+ Randomized level generation
- Buggy online co-op; co-op half-baked even on local
- No online versus
- Some intermittent stability issues on PC
- No custom Abyss generator/editor
Abyss Odyssey has an absolutely gorgeous theme supported heavily by Chilean folklore and mythology in both the visual and audio departments. 2.5D world was the right choice for this game, and multiple different environments ensure the experience is always fresh.
Though single-player is fantastic, ACE Team missed the mark on multi-player. A buggy online co-op and local-only versus modes may leave you feeling frustrated if you enjoy playing with other people. However, if you see yourself preferring single-player, you may enjoy this game very much.
Procedurally generated maps ensure that your Abyss changes from session to session, but would be much better supported by a properly functioning multi-player mode. Local versus is definitely a fun party mode if you have multiple people over and multiple controllers to hand out. The ability to make longer dungeons would have been very nice.
out of 10
(not an average)
A fun platforming, fighting, dungeon crawling side-scroller of an experience, Abyss Odyssey is a fun game that is easy to pick up and a challenge to master. Beautiful artwork and music immerse you into the game world as you descend into the Abyss to find and defeat the Warlock. Beware though that at present time, multi-player may not be all it's chalked up to be. Regardless, the game is certainly worth a shot in single player and if nothing else online co-op can at least give a laugh or two as you attack your friend when he least expects it.