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Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:00

Review - Abyss Odyssey [PC]

“To sleep, perchance to dream,” in Abyss Odyssey therein is the rub. Out now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC Abyss Odyssey presents a very interesting story wrapped in a brawler, a platformer, and a rouge-like game.

Drop into the darkness.
The story is set in the 17th century Chilean capitol of Santiago. Evil creatures are coming up through a hole in the center of town and threatening to overtake the city. You start out as Katrien, a swordswoman who specializes in short swords. As she arrives at the edge of the mysterious hole, the soldiers guarding it tell her to leave, that this is no place for a lady. She tells them they have no idea what they are facing. That they are fighting creatures that are the result of a Warlock sleeping at the bottom of the abyss. Those creatures are being created from the nightmare he is having. With those bold declarations, she drops into the abyss to begin her journey to the bottom in order to confront the Warlock.

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Along the way you will die. Several times in fact. Such is the nature of Abyss Odyssey. The first time Katrien dies she reveals that she too is a part of the Warlock’s nightmare, that she died a long time ago. The dying part isn't as bad as it first seems. When Katrien falls she is replaced by a soldier who promises to revive her at a shrine, provided he makes it. The soldier is less powerful, but not entirely helpless. If he does fall in battle, then you are revived on the surface and have to fight your way through again. There are no save points in the game, but you can have temporary checkpoints. At special shrines you can change it into a checkpoint, provided you have the key for it. A note of caution, these checkpoints have a limited number of times you can be revived. Once used up you start at the surface again. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. As Katrien observes, the abyss, like a dream or nightmare, is never the same. Which means that every time you enter the abyss it is randomly generated, making it something new and different every time. It is a nice touch that provides for a lot of replayability.

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While you start out as Katrien you won't play as her all the time. Besides the soldier you will be able to eventually unlock two other characters, the Ghost Monk and Pincoya. Both, like Katrien, have their basic attacks, but also special attacks and weapons. If that's not enough variety of characters for you, there's a way to acquire more. You can capture souls of enemies you defeat. Once captured, you can turn into them and use their powers and abilities.
Choose your weapon wisely.

The characters have some role playing game characteristics in that you can level them up and tailor their fighting styles. You may be slow and sluggish at the start, but carefully choosing how to level up your characters will result in a lean mean demon killing machine. Weapons can be found in the abyss or bought from merchants. A small problem for me was that you couldn’t sell your old weapon. This necessitates spending your money cautiously and wisely. Found weapons can only be picked up if they match your current character's weapon style. So if you are playing as Katrien, you can't pick up pole arms, only small swords.

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Pretty as a picture.
Graphically Abyss Odyssey is stunning. It looks like someone crossed a storybook with art nouveau prints; it's colorful and beautiful. One of the touches I really liked was when you use the block move to stop a hit, a halo appears around them. The halo's design takes on the look that's almost a trademark of art nouveau prints. This art style is present in everything, from the backgrounds to all the enemies. I would love to see an art book created from this game.

Final word.
Abyss Odyssey is a downright stunning game. The art, music, story, and gameplay come together in a beautiful arrangement. Even when you finally get to the end and finish the story the randomly generated abyss makes the game different every time. On top of that the developers, ACE, have stated that at current count there are about 37 enemies are to be captured and used. ACE has hinted at more enemies and bosses to be added to the game in the future. The game also really challenges you with that rougelike system. Can you make it to the end with no saves and limited checkpoints? It's a game that I really think is a contender for my top 10 of the year. I like it that much. If this sounds like your cup of tea, pick it up now.

Published in PC
Thursday, 18 September 2014 00:00

BlazBlue ClonePhantasma Review [3DS]

BlazBlue is a 2D fighting series known for it’s ridiculously overdrawn combos and chaotic twitchy gameplay, much in the vein of Arc System Works’ previous work in the Guilty Gear series. Interestingly enough, it’s also received plenty of praise for its story, a rarity for the genre. Because of this, it’s only logical that their latest 3DS release, BlazBlue: Clone Phantasma, would continue to appeal to its hardcore constituency by building on those solid principles, right? Wrong.

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Clone Phantasma upends everything fans love about BlazBlue by reducing the gameplay to an insipid doppleganger of Dynasty Warriors and its ilk. Yes, instead of stringing together blows in a dramatic one on one battle, you’ll be mashing the same buttons over and over again in order to defeat the same generic enemies in droves. And the way you defeat them is limited to two means: knocking them off the edge of the platform you’re situated on, and using your super move which automatically knocks off whoever is around you. Last long enough to build up your power meter to level 3 (which you can do in your sleep), and your super move will clear the screen. The only downside at that point is that sometimes you character will end up dizzy, leaving them open to be knocked off themselves. At the end of a handful waves you’ll reach a boss battle (usually another cast member from the series) that is only a tad more difficult because you have to knock them off three times instead of one, wow.

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The story meanwhile is almost non-existent, mostly consisting of inside jokes I didn’t get as I hadn’t really delved into the story of the original games before. There may be something for the fans here, but as completing each character’s run through the story mode only takes about 15 minutes or so, there’s not exactly a lot of content in the end.

Visually, the game is lacking as well. All the characters and enemies are in super deformed form, with oversized heads generally making everyone look alike. The environments are spartan and only differ in texturing, background, and layout of the platform. Even worse, turning up the 3D effect only causes the overlay to pop out. Everything else stays flat. Clearly not a lot of effort was expended in this department, and the same goes for the sound, which falls victim to the issue that plagues every beat ‘em up, meaning everything descends into a cacophony of grunts and shrieking making it hard to notice anything else going on.

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It’s extremely difficult to recommend this game to anyone unless you just have to have everything BlazBlue, no matter how bad it is, or you just love button mashing brawlers (might I suggest Senran Kagura then, which at least has fan service going for it?). This is a game that belongs in free to play format on mobile phones as its a waste on a real handheld like the 3DS. At least they’re only charging $6 for this, so you’re not out too much if you disregard my opinion.

Score: 4/10

Published in 3DS/2DS