“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
We’ve all heard this stanza, and I’m willing to bet that all of us have proven it correct at one point or another. No matter how fool-proof our idea is, or how perfect our plan seems to be, sometimes it just doesn’t work. The guys at ACE Team should have had a winner on their hands with Abyss Odyssey, and I should have loved it since it mixes some of my favourite genres together. However, although I have to applaud them for opening this door, it’s just a shame they couldn’t walk through it all the way.
Abyss Odyssey takes you back to 19th century Chile where a powerful warlock has fallen asleep deep in the abyss. As he dreams, his nightmares have started to come to life, invading the world above. You’re tasked with venturing deep into the abyss to defeat said warlock, bringing peace to the world above you.
In doing so, you’ll be able to play as three different characters. While they each wield different types of weapons (a long sword, a two-handed sword, and a pole arm, respectively) and possess unique special moves, they play largely the same way. The special moves are done by hitting up, forward or down while hitting the Y button and each one can be upgraded to increase its damage, how much mana it earns and to provide a brief period of invincibility against either projectiles or physical attacks.
As you hit your special attacks, you’ll slowly charge your mana bar. Once it’s full, you’ll then be able to unleash a powerful attack that not only does massive damage, but causes enemies hit by it to drop their souls. This is possibly the coolest mechanic in play for Abyss Odyssey. By picking up an enemy’s soul, you can press down on the D-pad to instantly transform into them and use their abilities to help your cause. While the basic combat mechanics don’t change, it’s fantastic to have another full health bar at your disposal as well as being able to use some of the more powerful enemy types to get through difficult spots.
The other interesting twist on the rogue-like formula in Abyss Odyssey is that death isn’t necessarily the end. When your main character falls in battle, you’ll take up arms as one of the many soldiers guarding the abyss, and you’ll have a chance to keep pushing through the underworld. Should you come across an altar, you’ll be able to revive your character with full health to continue the journey. They’re not as quick or as powerful as your main heroes, so it’s not something you want to rely on, but it’s nice having just a bit of a safety net.
Going forward, this game also offers a bit of community play. As more and more players defeat the final boss, his mask will break apart before revealing his next phase. At this point, new enemies and bosses will flood the abyss, offering players a new challenge. It’s too early to see how much life this will add to the title, but it’s a great mechanic that I wish more developers would take advantage of.
Abyss Odyssey isn’t the most impressive title we’ve ever laid eyes on, but its aesthetics are definitely pleasing. The small details in play really set it apart from the rest of the crowd. Collected keys will dangle from your belt (or your horn should you transform into a strange bull creature), each enemy has a distinctive look, and the levels are mostly unique in style. Sure, the game borders on silly when fish fly through the air and fade to mist so they can travel through obstacles, but it all seems very fitting considering the game’s narrative.
Sadly, as much as I would love to rave about how good of an idea Abyss Odyssey is, it’s simply not a very fun game. The platforming is passable, but it is a long way away from being “good.” Often, I would find myself trying to jump up to a higher platform, only to realize that my character failed to turn around during the jump, causing me to wall-slide instead. This is a minor issue, but it came up far too often.
Another issue I had is that movement and combat all feel like they’re in slow motion. The closest comparison I can come up to is the original Virtua Fighter, where everything felt delayed and there was very little flow from one motion to another. With this in mind, combat eventually broke down into trying to corner an enemy and spamming attacks to the tune of three-to-four hit combos before starting the process over again. It’s hard to put into writing just how disappointed I was to find that this choppy combat would haunt me throughout my entire time with Abyss Odyssey.
The last major complaint I have pertains to the online multiplayer. As of the time of writing, it is simply broken. Ignoring the fact that having slow and sloppy combat between two players with friendly fire being on isn’t all that much fun to begin with, the game simply wasn’t equipped to handle multiplayer. On my screen, my buddy’s character had apparently started a seizure, shaking violently in place while creating a loud and repeated “thud” sound. On his screen, he was falling through the floor only to be teleported up to his original spot every five seconds or so. We managed to put up with this for about 20 minutes, hoping that it would fix itself, before deciding to walk away. I imagine the problem will be patched, but it was enough to instantly turn us off.
Abyss Odyssey is a failure of a game, and that’s a crime considering how massive a success this title could have been. A fighting/platforming/rogue-like game should instantly appeal to almost everything I love about video games, but when the fighting and platforming simply aren’t fun there’s little to rejoice about. I keep thinking that the problem must have been on my end or that I did something wrong, but every time I pick up the controller to give it just one more try I’m met with the same crushing disappointment.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I just feel like I should talk to Abyss Odyssey about the rabbits as I hit the uninstall button.
This review is based on a PC version of the game, given to us for review purposes.
Abyss Odyssey set out to redefine a genre and create something that we'd never seen before. It's just a shame that it forgot what makes the genre so enjoyable in the first place.