Abomi Nation Review: Gotta save ’em All… Or at least as many as you can!
Chances are, if you’re even remotely familiar with the Pokémon games at this point, you probably know what Nuzlockes are (and if you don’t, you should probably do a little bit of research before reading the rest of this review). While not an officially endorsed mechanic by any stretch, the Nuzlocke has long since a touted tradition among Pokémon fans looking to play old games in new ways due to the strict—and oftentimes terrifying—rules set in place by those who feel they’re up to the task. Nuzlockes are great, and a lot of people love them—but I don’t ever think I’ve ever seen anything appreciate the concept of a Nuzlocke as much as Abomi Nation does.
Abomi Nation is, quite literally, “Nuzelocke: The Video Game.” While it does go out of its way just enough to feel like its own game, it’s overwhelmingly obvious that this was created purely because someone at Orange Pylon liked difficult Pokémon games so much that they basically just threw their arms up one day and said, “fine, if GameFreak won’t do it, then I’ll do it.” But, unlike the thousands of other people who have almost definitely said the very same thing, they actually made it happen. And, on top of that, they did a great job to boot!
Time and Time Again
Abomi Nation takes place on (surprise, surprise!) the mysterious and secluded island of Abomi Nation. Its residents—creatures known as Abomis—live peaceful and civilized lives and, despite each harnessing powerful abilities, rarely turn to violence. Every 100 years, however, the balance between light and darkness, led by the Abomis Ioti and Furcifume respectively, clash in a struggle for power—and it just so happens that you’re the first Abomi chosen by Ioti this time around!
Abomi Nation‘s story—and I don’t mean this disrespectfully—isn’t super-important. It’s your run-of-the-mill good-versus-evil narrative that’s been around for a long, long time. And that’s totally fine because this isn’t a story-driven game. I’d still say it’s important, though. While Abomi Nation‘s story isn’t explicitly important in terms of driving the story along, it does help to finally cement in the fact that you’re playing a Nuzlocke game. With normal Nuzlockes, it’s up to the player to make sure that they don’t use a Pokémon once they “die,” because death isn’t really a thing in those games. Abomi Nation, however, death is very real. You see it, you hear about it, and, if you’re not careful, you can (and almost definitely will) experience it. It may not be the most important part of the game to focus on, but I still think that Abomi Nation‘s story did a great job of personifying Nuzlockes as a whole (while still keeping things fairly family-friendly).
Lookin’ for some Nation Salvation
I know that I’ve likened Abomi Nation to a Nuzlocke in Pokémon about a dozen times at this point, but I should probably extrapolate a bit. After all, it’s not like everything‘s the same. Abomi Nation is a procedurally generated, rogue-like, monster-collecting (er, monster-recruiting?) RPG. The goal of each run is simple: travel throughout the entire island, defeat each of Furcifume’s goons, collect the artifacts they’re guarding, and then take down Mr. Big Bad himself at the very end.
At this point, you might be expecting me to say something like, “well, it’s not quite that simple,” but it really is. It’s not easy, but easy and simple aren’t necessarily the same thing. Abomi Nation is incredibly straightforward—the explorable areas are all very small, branching paths are few and far between, and, should you get turned around, the handy dandy map lets you fast-travel to any previously visited town (which I wouldn’t consider unfair in a game like this). Along the way, you’ll be able to recruit new, randomly rolled Abomis, collect items, fight Furcifume-possessed Abomis to the death, and even have some friendly, non-lethal sparring matches with other wandering Abomis. It’s a simple formula, but it’s effective.
As effective as Abomi Nation‘s simplistic world design is, it’s not entirely without its faults. Part of the allure of rogue-likes, and any procedurally generated game in general, is the excitement that comes with not knowing what you’ll be getting. With many games, this comes in the forms of different items, levels, and events being thrown at the player—Abomi Nation doesn’t have any of that, though. Sure, it’s exciting running through the game with a different team, and the friends and foes you meet throughout your journey will be mixed up quite nicely, but Abomi Nation‘s randomly generated runs don’t feel wildly different from each other. To be fair, things do start to get a little spicy once you begin buying things in the temporal shop, but it still isn’t enough to offset the same-y-ness that can be felt permeating through certain parts of each run.
I Choose You (to Help Save the World)
Being a game heavily inspired by Pokémon, you would probably expect Abomi Nation‘s many battles to play out like Pokémon battles would. And that’s good, because they absolutely do. They’re so similar, in fact, that I’m not even totally sure what to say in this section. There are a few differences here and there—the most notable being the fact that, while all battles are 1v1, each team will have two benched Abomis sitting out on the field, which can be affected by certain moves—but there really isn’t a whole lot that I can say that isn’t accurately summed up by the phrase “it plays almost exactly like a Pokémon battle.” Stats, Natures, Moves, Abilities, Evolution, Formes—it’s all there, and it’s all executed with a very high degree of accuracy. In most games, mimicking the source material this closely would absolutely be a no-go, but we all know the types of people that are being drawn toward Abomi Nation. So, in this case, I think that it’s perfectly acceptable.
I’d also like to take a minute to talk about the Abomi designs themselves—namely the fact that they’re great. Creating a roster of collectible creatures is never an easy thing, and it’s probably even more difficult when you’re trying to make a Pokémon-inspired game but can’t actually use any of the Pokémon themselves. Sure, you can technically make anything you’d like to fill the void that’s been created, but there’s a certain nuance to creating anything Pokémon or Pokémon-adjacent. Clearly, however, said nuance isn’t anything that Orange Pylon needs to worry about, because they’ve most definitely got the formula down. Every creature within Abomi Nation feels like a genuine amount of creative effort was put into creating them—with most Abomi motifs revolving around some kind of fun or clever pun or reference (sound familiar?)—and, just like with any new Pokémon game, I couldn’t wait to see what new Abomis I would run into next. Also, this game has a lot of weird Type combinations. That was pretty neat, too.
A Nation of Greatness
Abomi Nation knows exactly what it wants to be, and exactly the type of person that it wants to appeal to. And, best of all, it accomplishes everything that it sets out to do. While it might oversimplify its approach to exploration a bit too much, there’s no getting around the fact that Abomi Nation is a phenomenal Nuzlocke experience that Pokémon fans will not only love but immediately feel comfortable with once they begin playing.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment; Developer: Orange Pylon Games; Players: 1; Released: July 29, 2021; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Abomi Nation given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.