There's a big, procedurally generated dungeon in Abyss Odyssey, and your goal is to reach the bottom and kick a monster in the face.
Each time you go into the Abyss, the dungeon is different than the last time. There are different exits that lead to easier or harder areas. Harder areas offer better loot and rewards. Your goal is to reach and beat the boss at the end of the dungeon, but that isn't the end of the game. The boss wears a mask, and every time he is defeated, the mask breaks. With enough defeats, the mask breaks and is replaced by a new mask, which alters the final boss and effectively replaces him with a new enemy. We're told that the development team intends to keep updating the masks, so each time the community wins, there will be something new in store.
The game is set on a 2-D plane. You can attack, jump, grab and perform a special move. The exact attack and special move depend on the direction you're pressing when you hit the respective button. You also can block and dodge attacks, and you can even use defensive moves to cancel attack animations for more fluid, fast-paced combat. It's very easy to pick up and play the game, but mastering the moves is a lengthier process.
You embark on your quest with two playable characters, though you unlock a third character later on. Each character has a different weapon and ability selection. The male character has a big sword to charge and lunge, and he also has a bouncing fireball move. The female character exchanges power for speed and magic. We didn't see the last character, but we were informed that she uses a spear and has better long-range capabilities.
Abyss Odyssey borrows a lot from the old Dungeons and Dragons arcade games. Instead of permanent equipment, you have temporary pick-ups — armor, rings and weapons — that can be taken from enemies. These items are upgrades but are limited in use and are lost upon death. As such, you must take care to conserve them. There are also consumable items that can be bound to the d-pad and used at any time. We didn't see any of these in action but were promised they can be significant in power.
Enemies in Abyss Odyssey are surprisingly lethal and have a variety of moves and abilities to make your life difficult. In an average game, you might assume that a skeleton or orc-like monster is easy fodder. In Abyss Odyssey, even a low-level enemy in the easiest dungeon area can be nasty if left unchecked. Part of this is due to the smart and aggressive enemy AI. Another reason is that enemies function as additional playable characters. Our demo did not show an example of it, but we were informed that the bulk of the enemy characters in the game can be taken over and used as a playable character in place of the three existing characters.
Death in Abyss Odyssey isn't the end of the story. You have one extra life in the form of the officer, who's the last default playable character. He's sort of a punishment character because he's weaker and less varied than the other characters. He has a pistol and a saber and can use both reasonably effectively, but if you can survive long enough as the officer, you get chance to respawn with a better and more effective character. In co-op, both characters can be "officered" at once, which can have a severely negative impact on your chances of survival. Dying as an officer means the game is over.
One thing to note about Abyss Odyssey is that friendly fire is on, and when asked, I was told that it would remain on. This makes co-op combat potentially very dangerous if you're not careful. A mistimed fireball or sword slash can thwack your partner right in the face. Swinging wildly and without caution can be more dangerous to your party than your enemies. Dying in a co-op game still converts you into an officer, and dying as an officer ends the co-op game.
Abyss Odyssey is due out soon for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
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