From The Abyss
It’s a worthless way to live. Everyone will tell you otherwise, of course. They’ll say that you’re valiantly defending your homeland. That you’re saving countless innocents for your daily sacrifices. They promise to pay you handsomely for your efforts. But it’s all a sham, a pathetic ploy that appeals to only those foolish enough to believe they’re actually heroes. These warriors put their lives on the line, all in the name of the country of Rubenhaut. But in the end, none of their brave efforts mean anything; the monsters still continue to pour out of the Abyss, terrorizing anything that gets in their way. There are too many of them to handle now, though. It’s only a matter of time before the demons overrun and raze the entire kingdom. All you can do is pack up your gear, head out to the portal, and face the inevitable doom that awaits you.
Such is the life of a Rubenhaut defender.
There’s nothing special about you, either; you’re just another adventurer trying to earn fortune and fame by conquering the Abyss. There’s no real plot or background other than the fact that the queen has given you the task of killing monsters. The game never bothers to go any deeper for any of its characters, let alone develop a meaningful storyline. You don’t even have your own personality; despite the fact that game asks you a handful of moral questions before creating the character, there’s very little in terms of variation. The only significant choices you’ll make involve the gender and the color palette of your otherwise generic warrior. It’s kind of sad that the guardian of the Abyss’s gate has more character than the rest of the cast combined. With the basics of an extremely thin plot briefly explained, the game lets you focus on the task at hand: dungeon crawling galore.
The Abyss itself is a portal to multiple dimensions/dungeons, each of which has its own monsters. The goal of the mission is simple: explore a dungeon until you come across its boss, defeat it, and return to the real world to tell the queen and unlock the next area. The need for exploration is practically non-existent; despite the fact that the dungeons are randomly generated, their simplistic designs allow you to breeze through some areas. Perhaps you’ll wander around an area for the sake of finding the occasional treasure chest, but you’ll find that many of the areas just lead to dead ends or unused space. Of course, you’ll probably spend more time hacking and slashing your way through all of the little gangs of monsters that inhabit every room. Doing so nets you experience points, rare item drops, etc. Thus navigating an area involves little more than entering a given room, looking for the nearest exit so you can get to the next level faster, and occasionally slaughtering whatever gets in your way. It’s dungeon crawling at its most basic and bland.
The problem is that the game doesn’t do much to make the combat seem entertaining. Yes, you’ll get to wield a sword, an axe, or a bow and arrow, but they’re not particularly fun to use in real-time combat. The fighting essentially boils down to get close enough to an enemy without risking getting counterattacked, then mashing the attack button to let loose a slow-paced combo. The game tries to make things interesting by giving you the ability to steal powers from your foes. A little button mashing can grant you access to projectile spells, and temporary stat boosts, and other techniques. Since you can map up to three of them onto your buttons, you’ll be able to mix and match to turn your warrior into an efficient killing machine. Using these powers is the only thing that saves From the Abyss from being a horrendously tedious grindfest. Rather than fighting your way through every room, it’s much more convenient to abuse the game’s design flaws; once you’ve cleared a level of a given dungeon, you can choose to return to it when you enter the dimension again. Utilizing a commonly found item ensures that you can warp to the last area of a dungeon, fight enemies to level up, and then warp out to replenish your health and magic points. Rinse and repeat until you’ve gotten bored, take down the bosses, and return to Rubenhaut with yet another unsatisfactory victory to report.
As boring as this game is, it does use one thing decently: the touch screen. It’s got your character’s status, the map of the dungeon, your inventory, and your spell lists accessible with the mere click of a shoulder button. A little stylus tapping is all you’ll need to disperse any gained experience points amongst your various stats. The map, while nothing more than a display of white boxes, shows the general direction of the nearest exits. Equipping a weapon or spell involves little more than clicking on the given item and dragging it into a corresponding box. The problem is that you can’t pause your game while you’re tinkering with your stuff; if you’re in the middle of a tough battle with the wrong equipment, it’ll be awkward trying to look away from the top screen, let go of the buttons to get the stylus, and desperately search through the menus for whatever you need. Even if the touch screen is well utilized, you’re going to be in for quite a few accidental game overs if you’re not careful.
It’s not like you’ll be missing much, anyway. The enemies you’ll encounter usually show up in small, sporadic crowds in each room. Aside from the sheer amount of damage they can dish out, there’s nothing interesting about them. They’re the essential stock monsters you’d find in any given dungeon crawler; the first few areas have you take on stuff like green goo monsters, axe-wielding werewolves, bats, ghosts, imps, and all those other generic monsters that you’ve likely seen before. The dungeons themselves are equally generic; you’ll hack and slash your way through grassy woodlands, dank caves, haunted castles, and a handful of other unoriginal locales. Considering how your warrior is little more than a jumble of colored pixels and a couple of animation frames, it’s little wonder that From the Abyss gives off an old-school RPG vibe. The game comes off more as some kind of forgotten Super Nintendo title as opposed to something of the current generation. That’s a shame, considering how lackluster it looks compared to so many other games on the DS.
It’s not that From the Abyss is a bad game. It’s just that it doesn’t do anything interesting or innovative. It’s nothing more than a generic, barebones dungeon crawler for a system that has far more impressive RPGs available on it. The story is simplistic and shallow. The combat boils down to nothing but grinding for a little while, taking down the boss, and moving on. Since there are only eight dungeons to complete, you’re going to get through this pretty quickly. The fighting comes off as a tedious chore; even if you spend time nabbing different spells, you’ll likely end up looking for the quickest way out. The touch screen, while surprisingly organized, can be awkward to use in the middle of combat. The game doesn’t bother utilizing the DS’s other capabilities as well; everything looks and feels outdated. While it may not be as abysmal as its title suggests, it is mediocre at best.