Also On: PSN, XBLA
Developer: ACE Team
ACE Team, the developer responsible for the oddly unique Zeno Clash series, brings us another unique title with the release of Abyss Odyssey for various platforms. Essentially a 2.5D action-adventure, Abyss Odyssey attempts to distance itself from other titles in the genre in a variety of ways. Not all of which work, sadly, but it’s hard to deny that Abyss Odyssey is unlike anything you’ve played before.
Abyss Odyssey features a randomized dungeon, comprised of a series of descending floors to explore. You’ll have access to a single character at the start, but you’ll quickly unlock, capture, or be able to purchase more with in-game currency. As you descend through the dungeon, stages will vary in difficulty — Easy, Moderate, and Hard — featuring a variety of enemies to fight and secrets to uncover. Hidden walls, light platforming, and environmental hazards await, as you attempt to reach the sleeping sorcerer at the bottom that’s brought all of this madness into existence.
One of the most unique features in Abyss Odyssey is the combat system, which emulates popular fighting titles. It’s not really a fighter per se, but familiar terms like cancels and combos are used to describe various mechanics. You can block and dodge enemy attacks, recover from a downed state, and chain together attacks with directional buttons in order to perform different moves. That said, the combat doesn’t flow very well, it often feels too punishing for missed attacks, and the enemy A.I. feels out of sync with your character. Because of this, combat often feels awkward, and I didn’t find it particularly fun to engage in.
Which is a shame, because the platforming and exploration found in Abyss Odyssey’s randomly-generated dungeon isn’t noteworthy either. Outside of some tricky environmental hazards, you’ll rarely be concerned with missed jumps or bad timing. Character movement is a little sluggish, and your character has a bad tendency to stick to walls when you really don’t want them to, providing unnecessary frustration for what should be a simple task of hopping over an obstacle. There are a handful of secret passages to uncover, but more often than not they just lead to breakables or the occasional chest, and weapon upgrades are often so slight that they feel meaningless. Putting effort into uncovering hidden sections rarely feels worthwhile.
On the plus side, there’s some solid challenge to be found in the later sections of Abyss Odyssey. While death doesn’t completely erase progress, you will lose access to any equipment found previously. Gold and experience/levels earned carry over, so over time you can outpower a lot of low-level minions. But there are some significant boss-like encounters scattered throughout the dungeon that seem to put up a good fight regardless of how powerful you are. Again, combat isn’t particularly fun, but at least the challenge makes it feel like a meaningful experience here.
Another positive comes from the solid visual and audio design of Abyss Odyssey. Music feels appropriately haunting, and the story is vague and mysterious enough to keep you interested in reading the occasional text or dialogue that pops up. Characters animate well, and despite the repetitive nature of materials comprising the randomized dungeon, the game has a very distinct and interesting look. Enemy variety is a little sparse, but there’s some randomized moments and effects that pop up from one playthrough to the next, which keeps the overall experience fresh.
I don’t necessarily think Abyss Odyssey is a great game, but I do think it warrants a look. It’s a unique mish-mash of ideas that haven’t really been tackled all at once in the genre, and I think with a bit more refinement it could be quite good. If you’re interested in platform, the biggest difference I’m aware of between the console and PC is the addition of a versus mode on the PC side, which is what I played. That said, since combat wasn’t all that exciting, I don’t think the versus mode is a great draw here. The PC version does feature gamepad support, with standard Xbox 360 controller layouts. I also didn’t experience any major technical hiccups on my modestly built i5/750ti rig, outside of screen-tearing.
All in all, I think Abyss Odyssey could be a better game, but I’m not completely disappointed in the time I spent with it. The co-op feature is nice, and the randomized elements keep things interesting. I wish the overall package was a bit more enjoyable, but I appreciate the uniqueness of it all. So check it out if you get the chance, considering the absolute drought of July releases, I think it’s odd enough to a warrant a playthrough.