From The Abyss
Itís a worthless way to live. Everyone will tell you otherwise, of course. Theyíll say that youíre valiantly defending your homeland. That youíre saving countless innocents for your daily sacrifices. They promise to pay you handsomely for your efforts. But itís all a sham, a pathetic ploy that appeals to only those foolish enough to believe theyíre 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. Itís 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.
Thereís nothing special about you, either; youíre just another adventurer trying to earn fortune and fame by conquering the Abyss. Thereís 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 donít even have your own personality; despite the fact that game asks you a handful of moral questions before creating the character, thereís very little in terms of variation. The only significant choices youíll make involve the gender and the color palette of your otherwise generic warrior. Itís kind of sad that the guardian of the Abyssís 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 youíll wander around an area for the sake of finding the occasional treasure chest, but youíll find that many of the areas just lead to dead ends or unused space. Of course, youíll 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. Itís dungeon crawling at its most basic and bland.
The problem is that the game doesnít do much to make the combat seem entertaining. Yes, youíll get to wield a sword, an axe, or a bow and arrow, but theyíre 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, youíll 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, itís much more convenient to abuse the gameís design flaws; once youíve 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 youíve 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. Itís got your characterís 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 youíll 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 canít pause your game while youíre tinkering with your stuff; if youíre in the middle of a tough battle with the wrong equipment, itíll 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, youíre going to be in for quite a few accidental game overs if youíre not careful.
Itís not like youíll be missing much, anyway. The enemies youíll encounter usually show up in small, sporadic crowds in each room. Aside from the sheer amount of damage they can dish out, thereís nothing interesting about them. Theyíre the essential stock monsters youíd 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 youíve likely seen before. The dungeons themselves are equally generic; youíll 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, itís 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. Thatís a shame, considering how lackluster it looks compared to so many other games on the DS.
Itís not that From the Abyss is a bad game. Itís just that it doesnít do anything interesting or innovative. Itís 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, youíre going to get through this pretty quickly. The fighting comes off as a tedious chore; even if you spend time nabbing different spells, youíll 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 doesnít bother utilizing the DSís 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.
Five out of ten
- The ability to steal enemies' powers makes the combat less tedious.
- The touch screen features are well-organized.
- The story is simplistic and shallow.
- It's grinding and dungeon crawling at its most bland.
- Using the touch screen menus can be awkward to handle in real-time combat.
- With only 8 dungeons, the game goes by far too fast.
- The graphics are dated enough to pass for a SNES game.