The dungeon crawler genre has seen a revival in recent years with games like Demon Gaze, Persona Q and Class of Heroes to name a few titles. The developer Experience originally released Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy for the PlayStation Vita in June 2015 that received mixed reviews by critics. Adopting simple game mechanics with a darker tone for its plot, Operation Abyss is now available on Steam for the PC gaming community.
Tokyo is under siege with numerous reports of kidnappings and mutilated victims that have shaken the city to its core. Variants, genetically engineering monsters have emerged and threatened the peaceful stability and lives of the residents. With the number of cases on the rise, the government establishes the Code Physics Agency in secrecy to investigate the paranormal phenomena. Among the many publicized rumors are portals that lead to the Abyss that have spread throughout the city. You awaken in a dungeon as an unwilling captive before you are saved by Alice Mifune, Captain of the Xth Squad and recruited to find answers and expose the truth. Taken to the location of the secret headquarters, you meet Kenichi Kanzaki, the Dean of Hinowa Academy and Director of the Xth Squad. The ordinary student life you once had is gone as you evade traps, encounter deadly monsters and test the loyalty of your teammates while facing resistance from a powerful enemy.
Battles are turn-based and move at a very fast pace from the start of the dungeon. Variants are weak against different attacks and elements and move in row formations of up to 4 enemies at once. As you attack your foes, it is not always possible to attack a single enemy if they are part of row or a large horde of monsters clumped together. A lot of trial and error is necessary as the game limits your options in battle with more than a fair share of “game over” screens when the battles favor the enemy out of sheer bad luck. Weapons have limited attack range and after each battle, the next battle gets progressively harder with the tradeoff of better spoils and rewards. The risk and reward factor keeps battles engaging as your party grows stronger with the looming threat of annihilation prevalent at any given time. The medical lab at headquarters is an absolute necessity as rushing into missions with severely wounded members leads to a quick and painful defeat. As you acquire more experience, your Blood Code will level up and strengthen along with other character stats.
You lead a default starting squad: Knight, Warrior, Samurai, Physician, Academic and Wizard. Characters can be customized by their appearance, personality traits, voice and Blood Code to your personal preferences. Classic mode is the alternative for players who wish to customize their characters from scratch to adjust hairstyle, eye color, mouth, facial shape and more. After tailoring your party members, they join on difference missions ranging from the G7 Summit to the eliminating a Colossal Variant. Each squad member possesses unique skills and with strategic attacks, you can combine their powers to unleash Unity skills in the heat of battle. The three Unity skills are Brave, Magic and Academy and are paramount to your party surviving the tougher boss battles and fights in the latter half of the game. The Encounter Gauge signals the risk and danger your team is exposed to as you tread deeper into the Abyss. To break it down, the Abyss is a labyrinth in the city that lies in another dimension and your job is to uncover its secrets to complete your missions and save Tokyo. Helping others in need is a piece of cake with the option of leaving dungeon memos inside the Abyss to assist any friends struggling with certain missions.
Exploring the labyrinths is done in a first person perspective with your team members at the ready for every enemy encounter. Rarely does the game give you a moment to pause or catch your breath as monsters lurk around almost every corner. Dialogue is a bit heavy in the first few hours of the game but is very light and hardly noticeable after you escape the Abyss in one piece. Trial and error is necessary not only for battles but also during missions where your objectives are not clear and require guesswork on your part. Alongside the Encounter Gauge and rising difficulty, this keeps the game interactive and engaging as you seldom have the luxury of letting your guard down for long.
Visually, the game is polished with stylish character designs, special effects and bestiary with the PC graphics being a vast improvement running at 1080p over the original Vita version. For the most part, labyrinths in dungeon crawler games are not known for their aesthetics as they are often dull and boring. Where the game shines is in its use of vibrant, bright colors in the characters’ outfits, weapons and various armor pieces. There is certainly an anime flair and influence in the user interface, dialogue and game events that livens up the game’s atmosphere where otherwise, the game may have felt drab and empty without it. The inclusion of Japanese voices is a welcome addition with the font size and awkward spacing of the dialogue as a minor setback.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is an enjoyable and fun sci-fi dungeon crawler. With stylish visuals, an intriguing plot and strategic gameplay, the game can be enjoyed steadily or in sporadic moments to suit your preferred style of gameplay. Veteran DRPG fans will be pleasantly surprised by the presentation and tactical combat the game offers that shows a lot of polish and promise. In a market filled with many bland dungeon crawlers, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is a breath of fresh air and more as fans eagerly await the future release of Operation Babel.
PROS (+): Tactical Combat, Stylish Visuals, Engaging Plot
CONS (-): Repetitive Dungeons
SCORE – 8.0/10
This review is based on a digital copy of Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy on Steam provided by NIS America.