ACE Team’s latest, Abyss Odyssey, is a 2D platforming brawler with rogue-like and RPG elements. It’s an interesting mix up of ideas and one that works very well in a single-player session. On the co-op side, it’s more of a mixed bag.
Towards the end of the 19th century, a powerful warlock has fallen asleep beneath the surface of a village in Chile. His dreams have become infected with dark thoughts and suddenly his nightmares are invading the waking world. You control one of the dreams that has come to life, the good ones, and it’s your mission to dive into the depths of the abyss to wake the warlock. The abyss is ever-changing and shifting, so the layout of the levels and the order in which you encounter them is randomized each time you descend. If you do manage to defeat the final boss and wake the warlock, you’re far from being done. You’ll do this same task over and over again. Each time you do, you break off a piece of the mask he wears and more items and features of the abyss become available.
The real heart of Abyss Odyssey lies in its combat system, which is simple to grasp and understand, yet there are some complex subtleties beneath the surface. Loosely based around the concept of a 2D fighter, any character you control has a basic attack, as well as a ground attack, air attack, grab, block, and dodge. You also have three special attacks that are activated by pushing in one of three directions (up, forward, and down) and your special attack button. There’s even the ability to cancel out of basic attacks into your special attacks, or from one special attack into another, or even from an attack into a dodge. It is some what reminiscent of the combat found in the Smash Bros. series of games.
Finally, you have a super attack that is charged by collecting mana “drops” from chests, or gaining mana through the use of special attacks. This super attack will not only hit multiple foes for a fair amount of damage, enemies struck by it will leave their essence behind after death. If you pick up this essence, you can then transform into the enemy and use all of their abilities. This is particularly useful as a kind of meat shield. If you lose all your health while transformed, you go back to being your character and whatever health they were at when you switched.
While you can make a fair amount of progress through button-mashing, the underlying mechanics of the game are more focused on chaining these abilities together to finish off foes. Long chain combos going into the teens or 20s are possible, but that kind of combo maneuvering takes times. It is a very deliberate combat system. Turning around isn’t instantaneous and attacks will leave you open to counters, so you have to be mindful of where you are, what you’re doing, and just how to use those special cancels. If you happen to fall in combat, your dive into the abyss doesn’t stop right then and there. Your character will change to a human soldier who isn’t as strong as the three main characters, but is still capable in their own right. Best of all, if they manage to reach one of the altars that are scattered across all of the levels, then your main character is revived and you can continue on your journey. The soldier will also show up randomly in any battles you fight for the next couple of levels after that, so you’ll have a little help to keep you from falling again right away.
Defeating foes within the abyss earns you experience that allows your character to level up. Every three levels, you’ll earn a skill point that can be assigned to one of the special attacks, up to three per special, or to one of the special cancel slots, up to a max of three. Each skill point spent on a special attack will either increase its attack, the mana it generates (which helps to charge up a super attack), or into defense which helps to shield some portion of the attack animation so you’re less vulnerable.
Each of the three unlockable characters - Katrien, Ghost Monk, and Pincoya - initially only have one special attack and one special cancel, and therefore just five slots (three in the special and two for the additional special cancels) where points can be placed. Additional attacks are gathered from a variety of places, such as hitting a certain level, finding them in the starting towns, from special mini-bosses, or from a certain fiddling horned character. Each character will have to unlock these special attacks individually, so expect to do some grinding with them to fully unlock each one of their potentials. These characters also have their own weapons - rapier, broadsword, and halberd - to use and new weapons can either be found randomly or purchased from merchants.