The dungeon crawler genre has recently seen a revival with many titles like Demon Gaze, Persona Q and Class of Heroes. Following the success of Demon Gaze, the developer Experience has returned with another dungeon crawler title in the wake of DRPGs making a resurgence on handheld devices like the PSP, Vita and 3DS. Adopting simpler game mechanics with a darker tone, Operation Abyss combines the survival horror and sci-fi elements to craft an interesting game that takes place in post-modern Tokyo.
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. You awaken in a dungeon on the verge of death before you are rescued by the captain of the Xth Squad and recruited to find answers and expose the truth behind these incidents. Among the rumors are portals that lead to the Abyss that have spread throughout the city. Regrettably, the ordinary student life you had is now in jeopardy as you evade traps, face deadly monsters and test the loyalty of your teammates while facing resistance and opposition 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. As a result, 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 severly 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 character 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. For the most part, labyrinths in dungeon crawler games are not known for their aesthetics as they are often dull, bland and outright boring. It is no different here but where the game shines is in its use of vibrant, bright colors in the characters’ outfits, weapons and various armor pieces. There is an “anime flair” in the user interface, dialogue and game events that livens up the game’s atmosphere where otherwise, the game would feel drab and empty in its absence. Those who enjoy the title on the Vita are in a treat as the graphics are very pleasing to the eye on the handheld’s OLED screen. Even when viewed on the Playstation TV, the visual artwork is top notch.
Operation Abyss is a fun sci-fi dungeon crawler RPG title for those new to the genre. With stylish visuals, an intriguing plot and strategic gameplay, the game is an enjoyable Vita title that can be enjoyed steadily or sporadic moments. 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 other dungeon crawlers, Operation Abyss is an enjoyable game that is akin to a breath of fresh air in the gaming market.
PROS – Tactical Combat, Stylish Visuals, Intriguing Plot
CONS – Dungeons feel repetitive, Sudden Death and “Game Over” Moments
SCORE – 82%
This review is based on a digital copy of Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy provided by NIS America. The game was reviewed using the Playstation TV system.