Abyss Odyssey Review: Gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you
If I’m one of a thousand people using Friedrich Nietzsche quotes in their Abyss Odyssey review, I apologize in advance. In one of Nietzsche’s more famous quote from Beyond Good and Evil, so states, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” The longer you play Abyss Odyssey, the more this becomes true.
Right off the bat, there is no hand-holding. Sure, there's a training area and a few slides explaining how to do your most basic moves, but that’s it. All you know is that you are someone named Katrien, and you need to go visit a warlock living in the depths of the abyss. All the soldiers want you to kill the warlock, but are just there to try to chat this whole misunderstanding out. I mean, if things have to turn violent, your hands are tied. After all, Katrien isn’t real but a dream of said warlock.
Right from the start, you have some metaphysical themes. The art style is beyond gorgeous, especially for the dark tones. The game calls itself a fighting game, roguelike, and a platformer adventure, and after playing it for just a bit, you learn that this is all very accurate. The fighting aspect comes from the controls and move sets. Regardless of what character you are, you can have up to three special moves, which you find and can swap through at special shrines. These skills are what make your gameplay experience unique. Learning how to use, master, and combo these abilities are the only thing that will help your further descent into the abyss.
The greatest learning curve in this game comes from the combat itself. There are a lot of factors going on here. Since it’s a roguelike, every time you die you lose everything but your experience and gold. So that really awesome charm rapier you found? Gone forever. Since you keep your levels, you’ll eventually just power through it. I first beat the game with Katrien at level 19.
The fighting aspects of the game really do make you feel like you’re in that genre. When a battle starts, black fog barriers appear, making an arena for you to fight it out in. At first, combat is going to come off as really hard. The factors here are a lack of player experience, low character level, only having one skill, and not having access to better combos. The game starts clicking once you have three specials and you get more variety in play style.
Descending into the abyss is always a new ride. The floors are completely randomized: different enemies, different items, different locations of shines, etc. There is no memorization of lay outs or paths, just murder and survival. Each time you make it just a bit further, enables your next try to start out at a higher level and with more gold. Is THIS the round you spend a bunch of money at the start? You slay me Roguelikes. My personal decent into the abyss each time was where Nietzsche’s quote really reached me. He wasn’t talking about Katrien, he was talking about you, the player.
Since you never know what you’re really getting yourself into every time you have Katrien jump into the abyss, a big part of the experience is exporation; that one key or chest may be the difference in you having a bad a@# sword or not. Since you have to get to the very bottom of the abyss on one run, towards the middle and end, you have to start making serious decisions on just how much exploration you want to do. The enemies are rough. Yeah, you might run into a shop or possibly a healing pot, but at what cost?
I realize I keep name dropping Katrien like she’s the only character in this rodeo; it’s not the case at all. There are two other unlockable characters for you to drag along in the abyss with you. When you get them they start at level 1 with only their initial skill. Yup! That means you have to start the crawl all over again. Each character also uses a unique weapon. So when you’re playing as Katrien and you see that sexy poison pole arm just resting on the floor, that’s for someone else and you just have to walk past it. The torture is real. Then of course, when you’re not Katrien, there are rapiers everywhere.
Speaking of other characters, there are a whole slew of ones you can play in the multiplayer. How does a 4-player free for all sound? Pick your main and subs and get down and dirty against other human players. You think the mobs are tough on hard floors, you haven't seen nothing yet. I have yet to spend a lot of time in this mode, it's available for those that like that sort of thing. It’s good diversity after getting frustrated in the abyss. Why not take a local pal or online random into the abyss with you? The game’s co-op multiplayer allows just this. Never go it alone. Exploiring the abyss worked for Artorias, didn't it? Wait...
So in a nutshell, if you’re looking for a fighting, roguelike, adventure game with both coop and deathmatches, look no further. If you want to stare at the abyss and start questioning the monster you’ve become, I’ve found your game. Abyss Odyssey is all of this. Since it’s all pretty random and there are three different characters, there is a ton of replayability. With local and online multiplayer you never really have to go it alone. The combat is challenging and has a steep learning curve. Once you get tired of NPC and roomies, beat the crap out of other players online. Prove Nietzsche right and win at all costs.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ