Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy (PS Vita) Review
Not so much?
Abyss Company – by day, a bunch of normal high school kids. But when duty calls, they skip class and become part of the Xth Squad, a fighting team with just the kinds of special skills needed to delve into the Abyss – mysterious warped realities hidden within Tokyo. Can Abyss Company successfully develop the […]
Abyss Company – by day, a bunch of normal high school kids. But when duty calls, they skip class and become part of the Xth Squad, a fighting team with just the kinds of special skills needed to delve into the Abyss – mysterious warped realities hidden within Tokyo. Can Abyss Company successfully develop the skills needed to fight the hordes of monsters inside the Abyss, and bring everyone home alive?
Having enjoyed Demon Gaze last year, I was greatly looking forward to more of the same in the form of Operation Abyss, another dungeon crawler from the same developers. Unfortunately, where Demon Gaze brought a bright, attractive spin on what can often be a repetitive genre, Operation Abyss does the opposite, creating something dark and impenetrable.
In fact, Operation Abyss isn’t really a new game at all – it’s a remake of the dungeon crawler series Generation Xth, which never made it out of Japan. This explains the distinctly old school feel of the game, but whilst this on its own would be no bad thing, Operation Abyss really suffers from some poor choices when it comes to the user interface.
On the surface of it, Operation Abyss plays a lot like Demon Gaze. Your party is sent on missions to explore dungeons, mapping them out as you try to find either a missing person or a monster that needs defeating. Dungeons are littered with enemies to fight, hidden doors, rifts in space and entrances that need unlocking – in other words, all the sorts of things that make exploration lengthy, involved, and yes, even tedious at times.
Somehow, however, it’s all the things that are different in Operation Abyss that make it a less enjoyable experience. For example, instead of painstakingly saving up and recruiting your team members one by one, you get given your party at the start – either ready-made, or customisable by you. Sounds great, but the fact that I was just handed a party of six generic characters meant that I didn’t really have any handle of what their classes and abilities were – except that I had one guy who was so good at disarming traps that they were more of a slight nuisance than a proper challenge.
Then there’s the highly involved menu system – one so complicated that even changing a character’s equipment requires navigating through several menus. None of the obvious options felt easy to find, and when I was first let loose in the game, I felt overwhelmed by all the options available. Want better weapons? Then you’ll have to bring back unidentified bits and pieces you find in the dungeons, combine them to make weapons and armour, and hope you have a character of the right level to equip it. Want to attack a particular enemy? Well, you can’t – you can only blindly target entire rows of enemies. Even levelling up isn’t automatic – you have to gain EXP in the field, and then apply it by resting back at base, and there’s even a level cap until you get far enough in the story. Overall, it just felt convoluted and overcomplicated, where Demon Gaze had been straightforward and easy to understand.
One feature that returns from Demon Gaze, but which seems to be far more utilised, is the ability for other players to upload notes about hidden doors and items, which you can then download when you enter a dungeon. Although these notes do clutter up the dungeon a bit and arguably take some of the fun out of discovering things for yourself, they can be helpful when you’re wandering around a dungeon trying to figure out how to get to where you need to go.
Story-wise, Operation Abyss is quite dark, with its plotlines usually involving missing people at best and severed corpses at worst. Since your playable party is just a group of generic people, they don’t have any personality to speak of, although there a number of eccentric supporting characters that you’ll encounter throughout the story.
Visually, you can opt for old style or new style character designs, with the latter being more anime style and akin to those in Demon Gaze. The overall aesthetic of the game is very old school sci-fi, with quite sterile “near future” locations. Many of the assets are the same as those used in Demon Gaze, from sound effects to monsters.
If you’re willing to put the effort in to find your way around both the lengthy dungeons and the menu system, Operation Abyss is a solid effort at an old school dungeon crawler. There isn’t a massive amount of replay value, but a single playthrough does provide a decent amount of hours in its own right. That being said, with the superior sister game Demon Gaze and older ports like the Persona games easily obtainable for the Vita, there isn’t really a gap for a game this average to even fill.