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Ages ago, an evil being was sealed in an abyssal dungeon by the monarchy of Rubenhaut, and now the seal holding shut the gate to this entity’s prison is weakening. As a result, monsters and demons have begun to overrun the land, overpowering the nation’s guard and forcing the Queen of Rubenhaut to hire mercenaries to help with the problem. The player is one such mercenary, charged with exploring the various dungeons of the abyss and defeating the evil beings within. It is this rather thin premise that serves as the plot for the action/RPG From the Abyss, which is rather fitting really, since From the Abyss is, on the whole, a rather thin game.
From the very first moment, it’s apparent that this 2008 release, developed by Sonic Powered and published by Aksys Games, is a pretty bare-bones affair. Players start off by choosing one of four rather generic characters to play as. Then it’s off to explore Rubenhaut -- sort of. There’s not actually a town to walk through or anything. Instead, using point-and-click icons, the player can talk with the queen, go to the shop to buy new equipment or items, save or use storage facilities at the inn, or go to the town square to speak with the whopping six non-player characters (NPCs) there. There is limited interaction with any of these NPCs, and nothing changes until one of the eight abyss levels have been completed. Then the townspeople have new things to say, the queen offers a reward for the accomplishments, and the shopkeeper gets new wares in for sale.
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Gameplay and character customization are the two big highlights of From the Abyss. While there are no official classes, players can use a variety of different weapons and armor options to outfit their characters as a swordsman, an axe-wielding fighter, a lance-using soldier or a wizard equipped with staffs and robes. This is further enhanced by using the soul capture system to acquire and equip enemy spells and abilities, as well as using the ability points earned during level-ups to raise one of six different statistical categories.
So how does one acquire these skills and earn these bonuses? By exploring and slaying monsters, of course. Once the player hits the dungeon, that’s when the game truly hits its stride. The first thing that players will notice is that they can choose to go it alone or team up and tackle the abyss with a second player. Each of the eight abyss layers are four levels long, with the first three being standard, randomly-generated levels and the fourth showcasing a boss fight. The A button is for the standard, equipped weapon attack, while different magic spells and special moves can be mapped to the B, X, and Y buttons. The real-time combat is fun, although somewhat on the easy side, especially if gamers take the time to explore and gain levels.
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Visually the game looks more or less like a 16-bit RPG, which should be passable for most fans of the genre, while the music and sound effects are eminently forgettable. Perhaps the best way to sum things up is to say that From the Abyss is essentially like Children of Mana but with less depth. Anyone who enjoys dungeon crawlers should have fun playing this game, although some may find the level design slightly repetitive and the combat potentially tedious. In the end, From the Abyss is a game worth trying out, although due to its flaws and its short length (it will take most gamers 10 hours or less to complete the game), renting it is the best bet.
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From the Abyss (Nintendo DS)
- ESBR Rating: E for Everyone
- Publisher: Aksys Games
- Official Website: http://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/jAbzW_C8nv3ncfsefmLr0qaXVdkftZ9m
- Rating: Worth a Rental (55/100)