Saturday, June 20, 2015

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is a dungeon crawling RPG in the vein of Wizardry.  Or Class of Heroes, which is the same as Wizardry.  While those aren't my cup of tea, I spent some time with the game, but also allowed my wife, a huge fan of the old Wizardys, to take a spin with the game.  Spoiler alert: I still don't have my Vita back.

As any competent Wizardry clone, you assemble your team from some pre-built party members of various classes, or make your own.  Always one for customization, both my wife and I quickly went to work to fill our team with our own creations.  At the start, the game offers you basic, where you just select a pre-made protrait, or classic, where you assemble your person by choosing all of the parts (hair, eyes, etc.) yourself.  Again, we went with classic.  After looking at the portraits you can select, and seeing how silly your party looks with component equipment attached... we probably should have went with basic.

Still, the game gives you a full party of six, so I spent over an hour to make my new (real) party, unequip the pre-mades and equip my team.  While most of that was cycling through the options to make my people look less silly, I have to mention the menus for the game.  They're bad.  Simple functions are hidden behind other menus.  It takes way too long to figure out how to do mundane things like unequip a weapon.  It doesn't help that a lot of the menu functions are renamed to cutsey things.  Want to buy something?  That's under "issue".  Want to sell?  That's "deliver".  The menus would at least be better if they were named standard things, so they are easy to find.  Other than that, they need to reorganize where certain functions are for better usability.  I eventually learned where things were, but I shouldn't have had to put that much effort into it.

Well, let's get on to the gameplay.  Operation Abyss is a dungeon crawler with turn based battles.  You select your actions for the turn, then all of them play out in the order of everyone's speed.  Magic uses a number of casts system instead of an MP system.  Each cast of a spell takes one use, and each level has a certain number of uses.  Of course, they are refilled if you pay the fee at the medical facility.  There is also a unity gauge that allows you some extra attacks, like hitting the whole front row, bracing your defenses, or reliably running away.  The enemies have some pretty unique designs, but there are a few that were clearly taken from Demon Gaze.  There's even some crazy ones, like the Statue of Liberty looking one.

The dungeons themselves are on a grid, and you move similarly.  You can either move forward, turn, or strafe to the side.  There are many hidden walls, doors and passageways that you can discover through several means.  One of the blood codes (classes, basically) has an ability that makes it much easier to find them, but it isn't the only way.  To make things more annoy-- I mean interesting, there are several types of gimmick panels.  They can be dark panels, so you can't see the screen, turn panels that mess with your sense of direction, or other similar things that are there to bother you.  So far, they aren't near as prevalent as Wizardry itself, or even last year's Demon Gaze.  You still need to contend with them, but each dungeon isn't build around them, nor do them seem as numerous as similar titles.

However, they do like to re-use the dungeons.  Several dungeons are accessible through other dungeons instead of directly.  It's a small annoyance, but definitely an annoyance.  Although, it is not as big a problem as the lack of help you get if you are stuck.  The instructions to continue the quests or story can vague on the side of useless.  I'm not saying I want the game to hold my hand, but if you don't know where to go, a quest marker or at least something more helpful than "go and investigate" would be nice.  Also, my wife encountered a glitch where she couldn't advance because a scene wouldn't trigger.  I had no problems with that part, so it just was bugged for her.  Once the game was reset, it functioned normally, but of course we didn't know what the problem was at the time.  If the game was less vague or had a marker, we would have known something was up sooner and she wouldn't have wasted over an hour tearing her hair out.

One thing I very much liked in Operation Abyss over similar games that I've played is the difficulty.  It is a much more balanced game.  Yes, it does get difficult (mostly thanks to the level cap), and it isn't necessarily easy, but it feels balanced.  Enemies die relatively quickly, and don't do much damage early on.  However, you have to keep your levels and equipment up, otherwise you will die.  Death is still pretty serious.  You have to pay a fee at the base to resurrect, or go into the dungeon to rescue the party if they are all defeated.  The only way to save in a dungeon is by using an expensive item, so a party wipe will result in either training a secondary team or loading your last save, either of which will set you back a bit.  Ugh.

Operation Abyss is a dungeon crawling RPG in the vein of Wizardry.  If you like those games, or last year's Demon Gaze, or other similar ones, you are sure to like Operation Abyss, too.  My wife really likes the game, despite its shortcomings, and I had some fun for the time I played it.  The idea of basically equipping what your class is instead of being it is neat.  The game offers little help in where to go or even what you can do.  I played for a few hours before figuring out there was a second page of quests, for example.  Fans of Wizardry are sure to enjoy it, and it's balanced enough to ease new players in.

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