Taking our first steps into the abyss in Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy
We at HeyPoorPlayer were lucky enough to recently get our hands on a preview build of NIS America’s upcoming dungeon-delving JRPG Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy, the latest release from Demon Gaze developer Experience. After sinking nearly six hours into the game, spelunking the depths of New Tokyo’s mysterious and deadly labyrinths, we’ve finally returned to back to H.Q. to deliver a proper debriefing on our first few hours with this dark and challenging adventure.
A first-person dungeon crawler similar to the likes of ATLUS’ Strange Journey, Soul Hackers, and the venerated Etrian Odyssey saga, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy tosses players into near-future metropolis that’s been overrun by the threat of Variants, strange monsters that have stalked the dark and deserted recesses of the city in mysterious labyrinths known as The Abyss, preying on the innocents. Players take on the role of a victim-turned-hunter as they join the Xth Squad, a group tasked with investigating the Abyss phenomenon and putting an end to the bloody Variant murders.
Upon booting up Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy you’ll be prompted to choose between either Basic or Classic game modes. Basic is the recommended option, allowing players to pick their portrait and built their character. Classic Mode is a bit more advanced, granting players the ability to choose different parts to customize your party’s avatars.
From here you’re tossed into the thick of it as your protagonist awakens upon a heap of rotting corpses. Trapped in a dank sewer, we’re promptly introduced to the the lair’s denizens when a horde of zombie-like ghouls known as Variants surround our hapless hero. Before we’re destined to join the other sad clumps of soggy meat on the sewer floor, a mysterious figure emerges from the shadows. With little time for introductions, we’re rushed out the door only to hear a barrage of gunfire as the door slams shut behind us.
Things go from bad to worse as we encounter a massive dragon with electrodes jutting from its flesh further up the corridor. Thankfully, we’re joined by another mysterious character, Alice Mifune, fearless captain of the Xth Squad, a unit of the secretive Code Physics Agency that’s been assigned to discreetly tackle the threat of these Variants, genetically engineered creatures who’ve been responsible for a rash of disappearances and brutal murders in the Tokyo area. After Alice knocks the snot out of the super-charged lizard, the team quickly retreats back to Hinowa Academy, their covert base of operations.
After arriving at Hinowa Academy, Alice and our protagonist hop aboard a hidden elevator that takes us deep beneath the school’s seemingly normal campus and into a clandestine facility that houses the Code Physics Agency. It’s here that we’re introduced to The Headmaster of the academy, Kenichi Kanzaki, who informs us we’ve been selected as candidates to join the ranks of the Xth Squad, a unit of the CPA that’s been enhanced with Code Technology, giving its members incredible abilities. The unit works alongside the XPD to identify and investigate Abyss phenomena, mysterious labyrinths that tear the very fabric of the dimension itself, and appear in abandoned and derelict locales, and play host to the Variant threat.
Before players can complete their training and customize their own squad a distress beacon blares, and Alice decides to send you in for some trial-by-fire education on how to handle the Variants. It’s from here that player’s are finally free to explore the shadowy streets and boroughs of Tokyo, gathering information by talking to citizens as you jump from district to district, working your way to the Tokyo Mid-Hills district and your ultimate destination, Morimoto High-Rise.
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy’s core dungeon crawling gameplay is very similar to Experience Inc.’s previous release, Demon Gaze. Players navigate the game’s labyrinthine corridors from a first person perspective as they work their way through the maze-like environments. Of course, numerous traps inhibit your progression through the dungeons, such as warp panels, shock traps, and even segments of the dungeon where your map goes wild, disorienting the player. Players will need to keep a keen sense of awareness and maintain a well-rounded party to survive. Choosing party members with a high intellect who can detect hidden doors is a necessity, and keeping academic characters in your ranks will ensure the ability to crack into trapped treasure chests without putting your party at risk. After having my party wiped out by a box that was chock-full of plague particles, I can’t help but stress the importance of a good academic in your merry band of dungeon-divers.
Though tricks and traps can certainly spell trouble for the members of the Xth Squad, the Variants are the real threat when exploring the game’s dangerous urban deathtraps. While the foes are certainly tough, the mechanics themselves are tried and true. Combat unfolds in typical turn-based fare, with players choosing the actions for the six members of their party then confirming the action to watch the sparks fly. Formation is important, however, as your unit is arranged in two rows of three. Keeping your heartier melee fighters in the front row is a sound strategy, while allowing your squishier magic and ranged weapon users to pelt away at your foes from a safe distance.
Of course, simple melee and ranged weapons aren’t all that the Xth Squad have at their disposal. Each member of your Variant-busting group has been given a Blood Code, which imbues the user with the traits of historical hero, granting the user special abilities. These Blood Codes can be chosen when creating your character, and form the basis for your recruits spells and abilities, which range from your typical elemental attacks to support and healing magic. Combing these skills with powerful Unity Attacks, which combine the abilities of your party for a devastating simultaneous attack, is often the key to toppling the game’s more challenging adversaries.
Interestingly enough, magic is relegated to a limited number of uses, rather than a stored reserve of MP. This necessitates the need to use your more potent healing and attack magic sparingly, as you’ll never know when you could encounter a particularly nasty Wanted Variant that will require the full offensive and defensive capabilities of your squad.
Oh yeah, did I mention there’s permadeath? That’s right. Lose a squad and fail to rescue them with a support team and it’s all over for that unit. Needless to say, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy isn’t above hurting your feelings in favor of crafting an engaging gameplay experience for genre veterans.
When all is said and done, Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy made a strong case for itself in the five hours we spent with it. Developer Experience’s slick blend of exploration, clever writing and challenging dungeon-crawling gameplay left a lasting impression on us. If the rest of the game fares as well, it’s safe to say that NIS and Experience could have another cult classic on their hands when Operation Abyss releases on June 9. Stay tuned for more details as the game’s release date draws near.
Available on: Vita; Publisher: NIS America ; Developer: Experience Inc. ; Players: 1 ; Release date: June 9, 2015; Genre: Role Playing Game; MSRP: $39.99
Note: This preview was based on a preview vita card provided by the game’s publisher, NIS America.