Abyss Odyssey initially came out about one year ago on PS3 and its biggest hook was the amount (and type) of genres it used to create its own identity — we’re talking a mix of brawler, metroidvania, RPG, puzzle- platformer and roguelike. As little as fifteen years ago, game genres were pretty much set in stone, but a handful of titles broke ranks and merged two or more separate genres into a new whole, with highly positive results that others were quick to jump on regardless if it was a good idea or not (yes you Jak II).
Fast forward to the present day and it’s a highly common occurrence for games to pick and choose parts from different genres. Most significantly the leveling-up systems that arose from the RPG genre and open worlds, allowing for titles to cherry pick from racers, shooters, beat em ups and beyond. These examples make up the majority of current day genre mash-ups and are often cited as a defining factor in the supposed lack of truly inventive and different titles around. Abyss Odyssey creates a different blend altogether, but does that equate to a game with its own personality and style that is also worth playing? Well, yes and no. Well, mostly no.
Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition PS4
Kicking things off, the story of Abyss Odyssey has a pretty smart setup, one that quickly reveals an interesting twist as to your character’s being and objectives. You are a figment of a sleeping wizard’s mind and his dreamstate is polluting the realm with monstrosities of his creation, and it’s your job to stop the wizard’s increasing influence over the realm. This is probably the most original part of the game and while it’s no arthouse masterpiece, it is a good hook to hang the game on and provides the best reason to make progress.
Visually-speaking, Abyss Odyssey’s 2D art-style heavily leans on both the classic and rebooted Prince of Persia games, but the European building design, and certain other areas, also recalls Trine in places — keep in mind this is made by a South American studio. Consequently, it’s all very easy on the eyes, if not particularly dazzling. The musical score is unfortunately rather forgettable though; essentially a mish-mash of other, more iconic, soundtracks.
So you may have noticed the overarching theme of this review is how Abyss Odyssey is –generally speaking– a grab-bag of other people’s ideas. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you create something meaningful with those ideas. In fact, as recently as last year, Monolith was able to perk up a drab hotchpotch of Assassin’s Creed, Arkham City and Lord of the Rings with the inventive "Nemesis System" to make Shadow of Mordor a surprise hit. While Abyss Odyssey should be credited for merging several genres together competently and seamlessly, as a package it soon becomes a tedious chore that regrettably turns into something to endure instead of enjoy thanks to some shoddy mechanics.
First up, the platforming feels too light and loose, which is fair enough most of the time as you won’t be in any danger of slipping to your doom from it – it’s just that without any weight behind it the game ends up demeaning its looks with a jump animation that looks so retro that Clive Sinclair still has a full head of hair, no title and a pipedream of an affordable rubber-keyed home computer for the masses scribbled in his homework book.
The combat doesn’t fare much better either, feeling stilted and almost robotic at times, and again going against the grain of the artstyle by making it appear like a sped-up stop motion project. Perhaps that was the aim, if so, that’s a terrible aim. If not, it’s just terribly done. Even the online component is affected by this misdemeanour. The Smash Bros-esque four player brawls may put another feather in Abyss’ cap, but the feather might as well be off a manky pigeon for all the good it does.
The roguelike aspect of Abyss is truly where the game suffers as a result of the previous issues. It’s a true roguelike, meaning when you die you start from the beginning all over again. Thanks to those gameplay issues I mentioned, the motivation to persevere relies heavily on your interest in the game’s story, and I’m not all that sure that is enough to go on. The mechanics may be flawed, but that would be workable if the game wasn’t so horrendously uneventful. So, the desire to try again becomes smaller and smaller with each passing attempt.
One full playthrough may take a few hours with the idea being that the game has replay value, but even a few hours seems intolerable. I wonder if the stars have to align when you play Abyss in order to catch that spark to get you enjoying it, because I really can’t see any point to this port, even at a reasonably cheap price point. Were people really clamouring for this to appear on PS4 when the game wasn’t anything particularly special to begin with? It has some great ideas and a nice enough artstyle, sure, but this new edition does nothing to rectify the mistakes of the original, making the futility of this re-release even greater. Perhaps next time out the focus should be on how the game plays rather than how many genres you can fit in your stuttering clown car.