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Take a journey with me as we discuss a side scrolling, platforming, action adventure game called Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition. This is the definitive version of a game of the same name that was released a year ago for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. The version that we will discuss today introduces competitive multiplayer, a few new enemy types, and a harder difficulty mode called “nightmare”. The game has RPG elements so you will level up, acquire skills, and collect equipment throughout your adventure. While it does have some interesting and fun gameplay elements there are some areas that this “definitive” edition simply defines what it means to come up short.
Picture it, darkness falls across the mythical land of Santiago, Chile due to an ornery Warlock that dwells deep below who is literally dreaming up monstrous manifestations that are terrorizing everyone and everything in their path. You are a young beautiful warrior by the name of Katrien who is actually a dream manifestation herself that unlike her evil counterparts has a sense of justice. So Katrien and several allies take to arms; descend through several levels deep into the Abyss underneath Santiago with the goal of slaying her “dream daddy” to stop the onslaught of monsters that are attacking humanity. The story does not go much deeper than that, but there are additional tidbits that you will learn from talking with NPCs as well as reading notes you find throughout the Abyss that actually are meaningful and very interesting. Setting and story go hand and hand and even though the graphics are not exactly draw dropping the environments do mesh well with the fantasy themes within the game. The music itself also plays a big part in setting the stage for the adventure. The score is wonderful delivering drum enthused beats when action is heavy while playing melodious medieval tunes during the calm sections of the game.
Freedom in a game is a big thing for gamers these days and Abyss Odyssey gives you what you desire with the freedom to decide which path to take during your decent through the Abyss. There are 3 emerge holes that have opened up in different parts of Santiago and each one will take you down a different path. Each path has a certain number of stages, with some having more than others and each stage has a set level of difficulty that ranges from Easy, Moderate, or Hard which is always color coded for you on the map so that you can choose your direction wisely.Different paths may also lead to treasure, mini bosses, or short cuts that lead to your ultimate goal – the bottom of the Abyss. This is a great aspect of the game that allows you to be strategic as you may want to take a path that is easy at first until you build up your weaponry and skills before trying to take on a harder stage. However, there are some instances where you don’t have a choice and will take a path that leads you directly to a difficult area or mini boss in which case it is basically put up or shut up, or in this case put up or just die trying.
Any good hero needs help to take on such a daunting task, luckily there is a shop keeper in many of the stages that has powerful weapons, charms, potions, and other much needed items. You will also encounter several NPCs along the way; some offer nothing more than advice with a little XP, others will give you some useful goodies, while some will actually take up arms and fight with you – I like that kind. You’ll find that taking what you can get and applying it appropriately will mean the difference between success and death.
I had some of the best of times and some of the worst of times when it came to the fighting sequences and platforming. First let me say there are many different enemy types and some are just horrible I tell you, just horrible. There is one enemy that stuck out that is basically a demented version of Mufasa from the Lion King with wings and multiple eyes in places that eyes should not go. Oh Warlock, what troubles you so much that you dream such monstrosities? The fun part is that as you defeat various enemy types they become available for purchase and on certain occasions once defeated you can pick up their essence and actually use them as a playable character! What this brings to the table is some welcome variety to the combat as each character has their own move sets and special abilities.
Each enemy type presents a clear and present danger and has the capabilities to block, parry, dodge and pull off some relentless combos on you that can quickly kill you if you are not careful. So the combat does require skill and can be challenging as it is not a hack and slash by any means. It forces you to strategize by blocking with your shield, striking at the right times with your weapon, as well as utilizing your special magic abilities. If you get a rhythm going you can pull off some sweet and damaging combos of your own. I loved this aspect of the game as it was always rewarding and never felt like I was just going through the motions.
The problem I had was that I found the combat mechanics to be quite stiff. It almost feels like you have to force the motions during combat and it is far from fluid. There were many times where my character would be facing the wrong way, these clumsy mechanics literally cost me in the end, as in I got stabbed in the buttock! Poor platforming elements were another problem I ran into on my adventure. Traversing the environment proved to be a real pain at times as there were a number of occurrences where I had a real hard time getting my character to grab on to a ledge or jump high enough to reach a seemingly low platform even with the use of the “double jump” ability. This wasn’t anything game breaking, but being that so much of the world requires you to jump from ledge to ledge while avoiding obstacles or “strategically” running away from monsters the stiffness of the movements can cause you to misstep and ultimately die.
Dying in Abyss Odyssey is really something you want to avoid. For if you die you have to start from the beginning, yes the beginning. Not only that you will lose any weapons or characters obtained while keeping any currency you found. But don’t be dismayed; when you die you take control of a soldier right there on the spot before having to start at the beginning whose job is to find an altar that are located at random locations to revive your main character. You also have an opportunity to purchase check point tokens from the shop keeper that you can place at these alters, so see it’s not so bad. This is just a classic element of the game that takes us back to how games used to be. Being put in this type of situation time and time again not only changed things up but brought a sense of urgency to the game that helped keep me engaged and on my toes.
If you are having too much difficulty alone or find yourself getting lonely you can play with a friend or join a random player’s game. Now don’t go thinking it will be a cake walk as the game adjusts by adding more enemies, rare enemies only seen in multiplayer, and by default you will play with friendly fire on. Coop actually becomes more trouble than it’s worth due to the issues with the combat mechanics. You end up getting in each others way and fighting against each other rather than together. You can always turn off friendly fire which does help, but the game penalizes you by not allowing your progress to be added to the leaderboards or the stats of the community.
Everything changes when death is upon us, which means that Abyss Odyssey has procedurally generated levels so the levels and everything in it changes after you die. This would be quite the selling point however, while there is variety in the environments in each stage there is little change to the hazards and structure of each stage. If there was more variety in level design or significant changes in the levels every time you played this would have definitely helped in the re-playability department. There are a couple of factors that may entice you to come back for more after completing the game such as the Competitive Multiplayer and the Meta-Game aspect of Abyss Odyssey. The PVP is a 1 to 4 player battle royal that is set up in a fighting game style of play that is surprisingly really enjoyable. The Meta-Game aspect tracks your contributions from the main game and adds how many times you have beaten the Warlock to the overall community stats. Each time the community defeats the Warlock he gets more powerful and earns more abilities so the next time you fight him he has something different to bring to the table. Your achievements are also added to the leaderboards in the way of how many times you have actually defeated the Warlock. This is something that I found very interesting and gave me the desire to want to jump back in and work my way down to fight the Warlock again. It offers a unique challenge and it is a commendable aspect of the game.
Abyss Odyssey ultimately is an action adventure game with challenging combat and a decent level of re-playability. The issues with the combat and platforming do hurt the overall experience and it would have been nice to see a little more fine tuning in this area. However, despite the poor execution there, I did enjoy myself during my time with Abyss Odyssey and I look forward to playing it again to take down that sleepy ornery Warlock at least one more time. He’s such a bastard.