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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Game Review: From the Abyss

The perfect substitute for your sleeping pills.



The Good:
The weapons, skills, and items * Co-op play

The Bad:
Incredibly repetitive * Different layouts of grids of rooms for every play session more of a gimmick * Recycled enemy designs towards the midway * Very poor A.I. * Unimpressive visuals * Average artwork and sounds

Describing this game isn’t going to be hard. From the Abyss is essentially Dynasty Warriors, but with dragons, witches, bats and other mythical creatures as enemies instead of ancient Chinese warriors. Having said that, this game certainly isn’t going to appeal to everyone. The run-of-the-mill dungeon crawling adventure offered here would unequivocally convince action RPG fans to participate in yet another hack-and-slash experience until the next big game arrives, but non-fans are advised to move on.

To be fair, From the Abyss is a decently-crafted adventure. There are a total of 8 worlds to explore, each with a different theme. Each world has been separated into a manageable 4 stages and each stage is further broken down into several grids of rooms. Some of the grids have branching pathways that could either lead you to a loot, which may also be dropped by some of the fallen enemies, or the exit of a particular stage. The fact that the game automatically plots the map for you as you progress through the grids of rooms is greatly appreciated as this makes returning to the game after a save more convenient.

One feature included here is that whenever you return to your game after you have exited it, the layout of the grids of rooms will change. What this translates into is a different experience every time, as well as for everyone. While intended to impress, this feature doesn’t. From the Abyss varies the layout of the grids of rooms for every play session via random rotation of fixed grid templates. A particular grid template may have steps to the right, a passageway to the next grid on the left, and a specific type of enemy located on a fixed position on the grid, while the other grid template may have cliffs to the right, steps to the left, and a pair of enemies located at the entrance of the grid. Therein lays the problem. From the Abyss contains such a limited variety of grid templates that after a while, I found myself seeing the same layout of world elements and enemy positions on a grid every few rooms. If weren’t for the map, I’d have been lost. And thanks to this gimmick, this game grows incredibly repetitive after less than an hour.

The repetitiveness could have been reduced were the enemy designs more varied and the A.I. more intelligent. Instead, what you have here are recycled enemy designs towards the midway of the game and A.I. that’s as retarded as a blindfolded chimpanzee shooting a rifle backwards. The question of why I am fighting the same enemy constantly pops up throughout the entire game and this is definitely a sign that this game DOES need more creativity. The A.I. is so bad that I dare say that this game doesn’t offer any challenge – at all. Enemies don’t even attack until you are very close to them and the bosses here are laughable. This flaw is made more palpable once your reach higher skill levels, where your attack points and defense points are significantly increased – and when you do reach higher skill levels, do observe your ability to take down a boss within 30 seconds. If there’s anything closer to the intelligence of the A.I. in Dynasty Warriors, it’s the A.I. in From the Abyss.

YES, this game is ridiculously repetitive (and easy), and no one could have blamed you if you have fallen asleep while playing this. The different weapons, skills and items do keep you awake, though – but only a little. There are 3 slots that you can allocate to different skills you have obtained like fire magical spells, more powerful javelin attacks, and hammer throws, but that isn’t saying much, is it? At least there’s a decent number of subjects to inject some fun (IF there’s any fun at all) into the game.

From the Abyss offers players the option to engage in co-op play with a friend who also owns a copy of the game, but why Wi-Fi play isn’t included is beyond me. I haven’t attempted co-op play since there isn’t anyone I could play game with, but why do I need a partner when this game’s already SO easy?

Presentation-wise, this game is acceptable for the masses, and terrible for the more discerning. The 2D graphics scream old-school, but I believe this game could have done with more impressive visuals to give more polish to an already boring package. There’s a store and town center where you can purchase weapons, armor, skills and items and talk to villagers respectively, but all characters are presented in still-art form. The art is merely average and characters only have 1 or 2 lines. Each world has a different tune to accompany it, but there’s really nothing to write home about the sound here – just appropriate fare that isn’t exciting in any way.

Final Comments
This game is the perfect substitute for your sleeping pills – it wouldn’t be much of a wonder if you fell asleep playing it. From the Abyss attempted some features not indigenous to the action RPG genre like different grid layouts and co-op play, but nothing goes down all too well. The enemy designs are embarrassingly recycled over and over AND OVER again, and the A.I.’s just too bad that’s this game is as easy as learning ABC. The 2D graphics, average artwork and non-too-exciting sounds do nothing to relieve this game’s bore factor. The saving grace? The different weapons, skills and items. If you’re an action RPG fan, by all means, give this game a try. But for all others, skip this.


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