Feb 02 2018

Late Abyss Odyssey Review

A game that only takes a few hours to complete, running through procedurally generated, repetitive dungeons, going further into the abyss to find the Warlock, who’s nightmares plague the inhabitants above. In other words, a really boring experience and a waste of time.

Starting a new local game, disabling online co-operative gameplay for the time being, you start off as some female pirate character that I can’t recall the name of, who is a conjuring of the Warlock’s dream of his former life. You traverse a 2D world in a left to right motion as you talk to soldiers on the way to a pit that has opened up in the middle of a town. The art style at this stage is gorgeous, with the European town backdrop and pixelated hand-drawn humans, but once you go underground, it does change-up to suit the demonic hell that is the Warlock’s nightmare.

The initial hero’s interactions with the soldiers is actually humorous, reading between the lines of dialogue, these guy’s are drooling and being stoic for this woman, who is actually a figment of another guy’s imagination. Now that’s a trap if there ever was one.

Dropping down into the abyss, you essentially come straight into contact with monsters, which a quick look at the controls from the pause screen, tells you all you need to know in tapping in basic attacks. Most monsters you go up against are humanoid in someway, each with their own fighting style and magic attacks, but otherwise combat against them is the same, in that you can either block/evade attacks or just mash the fuck out of the buttons and do as much damage as possible.

For what is essentially a fighting game, combat is extremely sluggish and infuriating. You find that you’re wrestling more with the controller than against the monster opponents. Now the controls are very simple, hitting square whilst pushing in a direction will do a regular attack, hitting triangle whilst pushing in a direction will use a set special attack. Now you can try to chain these up but I never managed to achieve a combo of more than 4 continuous hits. Enemies tend to manage to be just out of hitting distance or will evade your attack and end up behind you, in which trying to change the direction you’re facing not only takes ages for absolutely no reason, but sometimes it won’t even respond at all to your input, meaning that you will flick the analogue stick to try to face the other direction, already be mashing the hit button but still be facing your original direction, meaning you’re now stuck in an attack sequence whilst the enemy is open to hit you from behind. When you are facing the enemy and decide that you want to put an end to their continuous blows on you, you can try for all you want in using the block button, but whether it actually blocks the attack in time or whether at that exact moment the monster stops attacking, which means you now try to go back onto the offensive, only for the monster to start attacking again, as you don’t have any tells to go on and the monster ends up taking more health then if you had not even bothered. The best defense is a strong offence.

When hitting monsters, you will acquire mana which can also be acquired by picking up mana orbs that are found in chests or by drinking potions. When your mana gauge is full, you can unleash a spell on nearby monsters you’re facing, which will damage them slightly but also give you the opportunity to capture their form. This means that when you go to pick up their essence, you can now change into their form, giving you an additional health bar and alternative moves to utilise. You can essentially take the form of any monster in the game by either capturing them or buying their forms from the trader. If their health does reach zero though, you will revert back to your original form and lose the ability to transform, having to now capture another monster before being able to change again. The additional health bar does come in handy when running through the harder stages of the abyss.

If your main character does die, then all is not lost. Your character, being a part of the Warlock’s dream, isn’t actually capable of dying. You are given a last chance by taking control of a weak soldier, who will try to advance through the labyrinth to find an altar that the hero can respawn at. If you don’t manage though to find an altar before the soldier is easily defeated, then your current playthrough is over and you will have to start from the beginning again. And by beginning, that entails the entire abyss now procedurally regenerating itself, so that each of your playthroughs don’t play too similiar to one another.

Upon respawning, your character is taken to a phantom area from where they can either teleport to one of the 3 starting locations, or you can change to a different character if you’ve unlocked the other two heroes from your travels in the abyss. When dying though, you will lose all equipment and items that you were carrying, only being allowed to keep your coins and experience. So essentially don’t ever buy weapons or equipment from the traders as not only are you likely to lose them, but you will probably find some decent gear on your travels anyhow. So I recommend to use your money for either purchasing potions or donating it to a fountain to unlock one of the heroes that you can play as, which is located in the gold room on the map.

The layout of the abyss is that there are 3 veins going down that eventually meet up at the Warlock’s lair, where of course the final boss fight happens. Each stage of the abyss is a linear corridor going through a themed biome from either a foresty setup, ice, lava or catacombs. If a stage splits into two directions, then usually one leads to a dead-end with treasure whilst the other will take you further down. There are some hurtful obstacles to avoid in the form of moving saws, spikes along the floor, falling icicles and shooting plants. You can double jump to reach higher platforms and break walls to find secret areas. It does tend to get very repetitive very quickly, considering the number of stages you can play in a single playthrough, even though this game takes multiple playthroughs to complete. Some stages that you jump into are sort of bonus rounds, in which you can either just face off against 4 monsters in a phantom world, which then restores the health of your character and their current monster form aswell as potentially awarding you a form you can change to, or you might jump into the gold room as mentioned above. What you might find at the bottom of some rooms are mini boss areas, which are just single strong enemies that you’ll want to beat as quickly as possible to stop them from taking your health, otherwise if they don’t drop a weapon, then they are just a pain in the ass.

Frame rate throughout the game is extremely choppy. Whilst the 3D backdrops look nice, I think they cause the slow downs and from what I’ve read online, even the PS4 suffers with such frame drops.

There isn’t much of an in-depth story to the game. You can read most of the backstory by picking up dropped manuscripts from monsters, which details the Warlock’s life, otherwise it’s just some interaction with your hero between soldiers or the Warlock at the end of the game. Defeating him once and you’ve essentially uncovered the entire story, in which a full playthrough will only take you about 3 hours if that. It took me 4 attempts going down to finally manage to defeat the Warlock at lv23, with my 2nd attempt getting him to half health before dying. You are rewarded by seeing the word congratulations on the screen and being teleported back to the start, with all of your equipment stricken away from you. Thanks for that. Any further attempts against the Warlock just unlocks the smallest amount of additional dialogue which isn’t worthwhile whatsoever. Apparently there was supposed to be some community based objective in the game at the time of launch, in which if everyone defeated the Warlock enough times, Ace would provide a second phase to the boss battle, but I think that only ever came to be on PC edition, PS3 seems to have missed out on that.

After a culmination of 4 hours of playtime, I was able to unlock 80% of the PSN trophies and decide I’d had enough of the game. In some way it’s addictive, but it’s just due to being quite easy to stroll through the mind-numbing levels. The remaining 20% of trophies would require about 20 hours of additional boring gameplay. Not worth it for some bronze trophies.

There is nightmare mode to tackle if by all means you want a challenge, but I found the sluggish controls were challenging enough. Now this game can most certainly be played cooperatively, either local or online… well more local than online, seeing as I couldn’t match up with anyone when I did try to play online, so that appears to be dead on PS3. I can see multiplayer making the game an absolute piece of piss, as even when playing with AI partners, with the two of you constantly swinging, it’s difficult for enemies to dodge the attacks with nowhere to go, making mincemeat of them.

There is a leaderboard, in which you rise through the ranks depending on the number of times you’ve defeated the Warlock. That is, there are people who have done over 100 runs of this game. I’m honestly amazed. I don’t know how anyone has been able to hang onto life, crawling through one of the most boring/repetitive game over and over again.

Overall, I found the game to have been a letdown considering I was hoping for quite a bit from Atlus. I think at some point they got abit too ambitious with the game, which lead to some of its key features being spread too thin to try and satisfy as many people as possible. If it had only been a bit more engaging with the story, had actually provided much more rewarding material in regards to multiple playthroughs and had a working combat system that had some basic essentials such as combo attacks rather than a library of forms you can take over, which don’t actually bring anything to the game, I’m sure the game would have been much better to play, and received higher reviews upon its initial release, as 3 years on, the previous verdicts still stand.


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