Roguelike games are pretty far out of my gameplay norm – particularly action roguelikes. I tend more toward turn-based strategy or hack & slash games. And yet, I always seem to find roguelikes hard to put down! Whenever I start one, I wonder if I’m just getting lucky, and starting Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition was no exception to that rule. Now that I’m done with it, I think I got lucky yet again, because I’m writing the review and still thinking about going back for one more game.
Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition is the 2015 PS4 port of 2014’s Abyss Odyssey. In it, you play as one of three characters delving down into an underground dungeon to reach a sleeping warlock whose dreams have created the dungeon, the monsters that inhabit it, and even the player characters. But whether your mission is to kill him or just wake him up is a question that’s up for debate when you head down. There’s not a lot to the story, but the warlock’s history is fleshed out nicely by his journal pages, which enemies occasionally drop.
The three playable characters are balanced well enough that they all have advantages over each other, but the last of them you unlock is likely the best overall, because her weapon has a long reach and does the most damage at the beginning of the game. As you play with each character, they level up and learn special attacks that they retain from game to game. You can find or purchase weapons and accessories that improve their damage output, add effects like freezing or poison, or help protect you from enemy attacks, but these accessories are lost when you die.
Well… I say “you,” but Abyss Odyssey features an interesting mechanic related to player death. It turns out that you’re not the only one exploring the dungeon! The government has also sent soldiers down to try their luck at reaching the warlock. They occasionally appear when you encounter enemies, and when you die as one of the main characters, a soldier steps in to rescue them. From that point, you play as that soldier, who is weaker than the main characters, but not defenseless. If you die as the soldier, it’s game over, but if you can reach one of the shrines scattered throughout the game before that happens, the shrine revives your original character and you can go back to kicking tail. When I started out, I did not do especially well in combat, but that second chance kept me coming back for more.
Unfortunately, I never got to the point where I was good enough at combat to not need that second chance. I’m willing to take some of the blame for that, but part of it is due to the controls, which feel consistently imprecise. The game thinks of itself as having controls like a fighting game, where you can cancel out of your normal attacks into a special attack by pressing the button at the right time, and pointing the analog stick in different directions while pressing the buttons causes you to execute different attacks. But I mostly found myself flailing about and mashing buttons, because I couldn’t time things well enough to do anything more sophisticated than that. I never got the hang of dodging and blocking, either. That said, I have to give the game credit for the way it uses the Vita in remote play. The middle of the touch screen acts like the controller’s touchpad, the top corners of the screen are L2 and R2, the bottom corners are L3 and R3, and the back touchpad goes completely unused. I play a lot of Diablo 3 using my Vita, which uses the back touchpad for L/R 2 and 3, and I feel like Abyss Odyssey’s system works much better than that does.
The one area where Abyss Odyssey truly stands out is in its visuals. This is an extremely artistic game, with beautiful, Art Nouveau-style characters and detailed enemies and backgrounds. The exact layout of the dungeon changes each time you play, but the “rooms” are made of a relatively limited set of types. More variety is always nice, but this is truly a case of quality over quantity, because although there aren’t a huge number of room types, the ones that exist are gorgeous.
This Extended Dream Edition port of Abyss Odyssey offers a new “Nightmare” difficulty and competitive multiplayer, which makes a lot of sense based on the way it thinks of its controls, but unless you really get into that scene, you will likely be finished playing it in a very short period of time. For me, it only took a few days of casual play during my free time. Still, it’s only $14.99 as of this writing, so if you like roguelikes with quick combat or truly appreciate games with great art, those few hours may be worth the purchase price to you.