Every now and then there is a game that sounds great on paper. Borderlands for example, can be described as a “First person shooter Diablo”, which sounds awesome and it is. Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition can be described as a “2D side-scrolling platforming brawler rogue-like” which sounds awesome, and if it were a mix of Spelunky and Dragon’s Crown, it would be. Alas, Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition does not come close to fulfilling the potential of its premise.
Ace Team, the developer behind Abyss Odyssey also did Zeno Clash and Rock of Ages, so the dreamlike aesthetic they appeal to the tale of a sleeping warlock deep beneath the Chile capital of Santiago should not be a surprise. Your job is to descend into the depths of the abyss that makes up the Warlock’s dream and then kill him before his dream overtakes all of reality. Along the way, you encounter treants, shadowy demons, a violin-playing devil, a powerhouse barbarian king and many other demons that truly do look like the denizens of a fever dream. Complementing the exquisite dream-like aesthetic is unfortunately, where the good news about Abyss Odyssey: EDE ends, because actually playing the game is a nightmare.
The tutorial before you enter the abyss covers the basics of the fighting system but what it fails to prepare you for is the erratic frame rate and persistent input lag that makes combat more of a chore then a pleasure. Despite each of the three main characters having a different style and rhythm to their attacks, the most common method of death-dealing will be trapping enemies against a wall and wailing on them until they die. Juggle combos? Special moves that range from a fireball to a parry/counter slash? No need. Just trap the enemy and hit forward+square.
Navigating the abyss is made easy through the mini-map and also the lack of imaginative level design, which is slightly understandable as the abyss is randomized each time you start the game. Alas, the end result always ended up reminding me of the video game levels I’d design on poster board when I was 5: flat terrain with a few areas to jump across spikey pits and then for variety, a wall that has to be double-jumped over which leads to more flat terrain. Between the surprisingly boring combat and the drab level design, Abyss Odyessy: EDE becomes a chore to play in record time.
Thankfully, the adventure can be tackled with a friend in either online or local co-op. While I could never find someone to play the online co-op with or even the online versus mode, I was able to play with a friend in local co-op. We left friendly fire on, since that is the default mode and turning it off disables leaderboards, and quickly encountered an incredibly powerful enemy that threatened to stop our progress only two levels in: the camera. Inside of the camera locking onto player one or whomever was the furthest into the abyss, the camera tried to keep both players in view which resulted in an odd no-man’s land view of the level in which we could see my character’s head and my friend’s feet.
As my friend pointed out to me, Abyss Odyssey: EDE does do a few more things right, in particular the music. The soundtrack brought back memories of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which is a great soundtrack to emulate. The other positive is a twist on the rogue-like gameplay in which when you die, your character’s replaced by a generic Chilean soldier with his own special moves and combos. If you manage to reach a demon altar with the Chilean soldier, you revive your main character and can keep going into the abyss. A continue system involving the placement of coins at the demon altar also makes the abyss a bit more forgiving to navigate.
At the end of the day, Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition has some great ideas and an interesting concept that just never truly gels into a compelling experience. Shallow combat, poor controls and boring level design sabotage the soundtrack and aesthetic.