Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition (PS4) Review

Developer: ACE Team | Publisher: ATLUS || Overall: 6.5

Ever date someone? Yeah… me neither, but let’s play pretend. Let’s say they’re nearly perfect for you. The type of person that not only tolerates, but even shares your hobbies with a pleasant personality; no shortage of devotion and enough physical beauty to put the Greek’s description of most gods and goddesses to shame. In short: the perfect fantasy. Now, let’s say with all their apparent assets there is still one thing about them that gets on your nerves; a single stain among the canvas of perfection that is your potential lover.  You try to ignore it but it pops up in every conversation, and when you try to accept it, the very thought of encountering it again causes a sharp chill to run up your spine. Despite all their positive qualities, you can’t help but notice their one glaring flaw and have it mar the relationship entirely until you’re forced to break up with them. Don’t you think that sort of thing is a tragedy?

Laura
It’s not you, Laura. It’s the way you chew your food.

Taking a stab at the Roguelike subgenre, the developers at ACE Team have teamed up with the good people at ATLUS to give you Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition. A 2D side-scroller and an updated edition to the Steam and Xbox versions for the PS4, Abyss Odyssey is a game about swords and sorcery that takes place in Chile. Yeah, that’s right, I just said Chile. *Add wink and boastful head nod here.*

Chile
One of the few countries that actually looks like what it’s
named after. If you twist your head and blink.

A huge departure from most games in general, Abyss Odyssey takes place in a fantasy version of 19th century Chile. The backdrop serves as the ambiance to a rather mystical and dark setting for the tale. It borrows heavily from Chilean lore to infuse the game with monsters ranging from the macabre to the downright menacing, even as the setting may change drastically from floor to floor. The further you go into the dungeon, the more apparent it becomes that the developer, ACE Team, is very familiar with Chilean lore — it is probably a happy side-effect of basing a game in the country where their headquarters is located. The playable characters do not fall far from that aesthetic either, and feel like they were plucked right out of some dark fantasy painting hanging in the corner of some alternative art house. This all comes together to make it feel like you are traversing through some sinister nightmare… because that’s exactly what you are doing.

The story in Abyss Odyssey is a simple one but it does small and effective things to bring it to life. Though the tale of a nightmare becoming reality is a common one, this is the first time I’ve become so enthralled with the concept.  Most of the story doesn’t take place in grand cut-scenes but is instead hinted at through character dialogue and the various documents enemies drop. Once you get the whole story, it brings new meaning to previous interactions and sometimes provides motivations for the main characters. Furthermore, Abyss Odyssey does an excellent job of integrating the game’s mechanics into the story. Wonder how the main characters keep coming back to life? Well, it’s because they are also part of the nightmare and, like any dream, they can be reimagined. Is it odd that the dungeon changes with every play through? Not so much if you consider it a part of a person’s nightmare, ever-changing and malleable to the dreamer’s will. These traits in the story already warrant high praise but that isn’t even the best part.

Every character has a story. From the main characters to even the lowly NPCs, Abyss Odyssey takes the time and effort to give them a reason for existing outside of the gameplay mechanics that they are there to represent. One of my favorite examples of this can be seen in the dying soldiers that can be randomly encountered throughout the dungeon. They are there as a fast and easy way to give the player a chance at more loot but each comes with a story all their own. Sometimes the story is courageous, other times it’s heart-breaking, and can even be downright embarrassing, but each story helps make the world of Abyss Odyssey feel real. Those dying soldiers weren’t there solely for the player’s benefit, they had dreams and aspirations all their own.

screen2
Protip: When you die, you really don’t. Before even reviving at the beginning
of the dungeon the game gives you control of a random mook. Make it to an
altar and you’ll be instantly revived from death.

The music does a fine job of complimenting the nightmare aesthetic. Each theme is a haunting melody of classical beats that wouldn’t seem out of place in your nightmares… only if you were more cultured and/or educated… you swine! Though, the way the game interacts with its music deserves some credit. Often times it can be used as an audio cue of what is nearby, and other times it can ratchet up the intensity of specific encounters. There is a certain enemy whose theme overtakes the current music whenever you find him. This sudden musical clash makes his appearance all the more terrifying during the fight. These sorts of “reactionary” musical queues make the music feel almost as alive as the setting.

So, by now you are probably wondering why, despite all of accolades I gave this game, it has a big fat 6.5 under its review score? You’re probably also wondering why I would start a video game review talking about dating? Well, that’s because I have a good reason for each. First, the combat sucks. Second, allusion is a pretty awesome writing device.  To put it plainly, at its worst, the combat is a clunky and unresponsive mess and, at its best, it is a poor man’s version of Smash Bros. The shielding, dodge-rolling and fighting mechanics seem mostly there, but what isn’t there is the polish the titular party game has gone through over the years. So while the game may have the know-how coded into the game, it doesn’t possess the necessary grace to pull it off properly. The rigid animations and unresponsive controls lead the player to fight against the stage and controls instead of the monsters in front of them. So much so, that I began to dread every encounter because either my attacks would whiff past enemies or my controls would randomly not function the way they were intended. This also applies to the game’s competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes, both suffering from the same bad combat mechanics. It’s really quite the horrible stain on what could have been a great game.

screen8
Okay guys, as usual. No items. That weird-eye-lion-thing only.
FINAL DESTINATION!!!

I could have forgiven Abyss Odyssey for anything other than the combat. This tragedy could have been avoided if the music was lackluster, if the story was bland or if the graphics were 8-bit. Instead, the game falters on its most important aspect, the combat; it drags everything else down with it. Instead of enjoying the world this game takes place in, I’m forced to drop it like an annoying girlfriend. This game could have easily gotten a 9.0 or 9.5, instead it’ll have to do with the 6.5 I gave it. It just wasn’t meant to be.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

seeree

seeree – n. a classification of plot devices used in writing which the fiction (time travel/alternate dimensions) or things that do not actually exist within the fictional universe at hand (dreams/books) are used to lazily write-off any discontinuity or to retcon what you don’t like.

Ex.  I’m not sure X-Men: Days of Future Past would have been as enjoyable if not for the seeree that was used to excise X-Men 3.  None of that shit matters anymore!

 

Dream #23037: The Chip Dream

I wrote this in 2002.

I remember in a dream I had, that I was stuck somewhere listening to some guy who was talking about chips, and something about “maximum dipping power.”

He was explaining the measurements and junk about the chips and there was this other person saying “come on come on let’s go” to me, but I didn’t because I was interested.

Next I knew I was driving a car in a parking lot looking for a parking space.

Then I woke up.

 

Dream #23036: The Baseball Dream

I wrote this in 2002.

I had a dream that I was the best pitcher on a baseball team, but I knew I wasn’t any good.

So this big championship game or something was there, but I didn’t get dressed, because when I put on my shoes, they caught on fire, then I put the fire out by blowing on it, but it relit, so I put it under the sink and it went out.

But it relit again and I just let it burn.

So the scene changed to the baseball game, and when I wasn’t there, they had a 2 foot tall 10 year old pitch for them instead.

They were losing pretty badly, when the assistant coach finally found me at home, and he said “we’re losing, you have to get dressed and play!” But I said, “no, I don’t want to get dressed!”

Then I woke up.

 

Dream #23034: The Moon Blew Up

I wrote this in 2002.

I had a dream that I was out in the desert or something. The sand was red and there weren’t any trees, but big rocks every so often. There were a lot of people there, and there were a lot of houses. I wasn’t too far from my house. I looked up at the moon (which was very close). It was really hot, and the moon turned around pretty fast, and it looked the same except it had its own “red eye storm” like Jupiter. It’s kind of hard to describe. Anyway I pointed it out to my mom, and she said “that’s normal, they throw all our trash up there, you know?”

I thought “hmm, all that plastic up there is burning making it hot down here…” It seemed like it was raining fire from the moon. All of a sudden, it blew up. Everyone started screaming and went back inside their homes. After the moon rocks fell, I went over to my friends house, and there was my Grandma. She said his family wasn’t there because my friend was at the hospital. She pointed out the window shutters on the window, and said something about how cheap they were because a rock fell through. Then she disappeared.

Then it rained rocks again.  Afterwards, I was crying and I turned on the TV. To get my mind off everything, I turned on the TV and watched cartoons, while there was another TV with the news on. It had a bunch of people talking about the moon blowing up, and how it was more horrible than September 11. The rocks fell again all of a sudden for the last time. I went outside to see what happened, and there were a lot of people on hospital beds, screaming because trash and rock shot into their body.

I woke up then. What a weird dream. I could barely describe it all. You should’ve dreamed it yourself…to truly understand.

 

#22656: sunny_girl -> davepoobond

sunny_girl: hey how are you? i love Donnie Darko! every time i hear that song from the movie i can’t help but sing along and think of frank!!!

davepoobond: yeah the song instantly reminds me of that movie too. i’ve probably seen it about 10 or 15 times all together. did you read much into the conclusion of the story that much? which interpretation did you prescribe to?

sunny_girl: there are all kinds of things…telling the future, he’s posesed, its a dream, they go back in time, its a relfection of the past, he has schizophrenia…there are so many things. i get something new each time i watch it

davepoobond: well, i know that, i was just wondering which one you believed it was

sunny_girl: lol i think its a dream which do you think

davepoobond: i think it had more to do with the universe needing to explain to itself where the airplane jet engine came from, so it created the alternate path to show what would happen had donnie lived. i thought it was the more believable explanation rather than the religious one or just it being a dream, which I suppose is the less complex explanation.

sunny_girl: That is pretty complex.

 

Quote #16437

“I had a dream with both of you in it. 2 different dreams. …”

::blah blah blah::

“… I was over at Robert’s house and we were all hangin’ out…”

::blah for 2 seconds talking to someone else::

“… I had a dream with you in it, there was a storm and I was afraid to go to the bathroom…”

::she trails off and then stops talking::

– from somewhere around davepoobond’s high school

 

Dream #9064

I had this dream today in the morning:

I was in a white room with a table, and like 5 other people were my “friends.” and we were like talking/waiting for something. there were windows, but it was just bright light. and the table was right next to a door, and some old ass lady comes out and introduces herself. she looks like a gym class teacher, but really old and haggy. and she like shakes our hands. i was sitting on the table, and i see the friend that was sitting down next to me go to shake her hand with the wrong hand and end up just petting her hand instead. and then i laugh at him for being a retard, but then he just looks at me like “why did you do that, i did that for a reason” and then i notice there’s like two huge rings on the old lady’s hand. and the old lady just keeps smiling.

I guess the only thing that could have been happening was that the 5 of us were there to infiltrate somethin and get somethin and we were just acting a part