Short Version: I tried my best to like it, since it seemed right up my alley, but I didn’t. It’s probably one of the blandest and generic RPGs I’ve played in a while. Nothing I see in it is interesting and the plot is boring as hell. The UI is awful and the gameplay feels cheap and antiquated. Even for hardcore RPG fans, I would recommend other games that do the same thing better.
Long Version: Every single time I saw Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy through screenshots, it looked like the coolest game in the world. However, every time I saw it on video, it felt like a super rough RPG held back by old ideas. Unfortunately, the latter is what I ended up being reassured of, with the coolness I perceived from it very quickly vanishing. This is mostly due to large amount of small annoyances that accumulated over time to something I didn’t want to involve myself with anymore.
Operation Abyss is a first person dungeon crawling RPG that takes place in a modern day setting. In this setting, we find an incredibly generic story about a silent, amnesiac protagonist (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). This person of course gets roped into a secret high school organization of monster hunters who claim that he/she is important than what it initially seems. None of it really matters though, since the game gives you a bunch of pre set characters with no story behind them, who then are talked to as a single entity. Who you are doesn’t really matter, because you can create your own teammates and still not make any difference in the boring and uninteresting story.
There are a couple of generic looking characters with forgettable art direction that show up in the beginning hinting at some sort of story, but all of them are so bland that you forget about them almost immediately after they leave the screen. It doesn’t help that both the Japanese and English voices sound like bored people that are trying their best not to fall asleep in the middle of a recording. Everyone sounds so monotone that I lost interest in listening to anything the characters had to say.
Whenever you’re not going through dialogue scenes, you’re preparing for some dungeon crawling, which can be a much bigger chore than it sounds. This is mostly due to the horrendous UI and how this game loves to overcomplicate simple things. Instead of naming things in a simple way, they would much rather re-skin it in unnecessary jargon and confusing ways to find everything; mostly for the sake of having it sound cool or more complex than it actually is. Instead of just having an option like “Exp Boost” or “Class Change,” you instead hear terms like “Growth surgery” or “Therapy.” Every time you go back to one of the many confusing facilities with even more confusing menus, you have to read the names and try to remember what all of these labels mean. No matter what, you will always be cluttered with too much stuff on the screen with weird names and no easy explanation as to what any of it does, making the whole experience frustrating.
Speaking of frustrating, the dungeon crawling is not fun at all either. From the beginning, you are met with random encounters with still images of crappy looking monsters you need to fight. The battle menus look incredibly cheap and are presented in a way that’s always difficult to tell what you’re actually selecting. Since this game is very much rooted on the old style of RPGs, then it relies on concepts like not being to select individual enemies, having to use up a strange assortment of points for magic spells or not being able to level up until you return to a medical facility, rather than just automatically.
The fighting itself is also not stimulating or flashy enough to catch your attention. Most of it simply looks like a rough RPG Maker game with pre-made visual and sound effects. The pacing of the battles and excess of text describing every single tiny little thing in the battle makes every fight a complete slog to go through. Early on, you’ll probably spend most of your time fast forwarding through the fights, since you won’t be able to do much outside of regular attacks anyway. In a world where Persona 5 exists, this game just feels like a something that might’ve been decent 15 years ago.
You can have six characters to fight at a time and use a variety of different classes to serve different needs. Here’s where I find more issues where I’m too overwhelmed with choices that I don’t know what to go for or what anything does. You can choose a personality, sex and age that are never reflected on your character in any meaningful way. After that, you can choose a Blood Code, which is like a spirit guardian that gives you specific abilities. Then, you can assign stats that change a bunch of other stats that clutter up more of the screen. It’s just numbers everywhere that won’t matter much to you unless you are a hardcore fan that is specifically looking for them.
When you get all of that out of the way, you can traverse through the dungeon, which is filled with irritating traps, way too much backtracking and infuriating limitations that bring your progress to a complete stop. One example was one time where I came across a locked door and the game pointed out that I needed an “Academic” to hack the door and unlock it (which wasn’t guaranteed to work anyway). I had no idea what an Academic was or how I were to get one, so the game told me that I needed to walk all the way back to my base, get an Academic in my team (somehow. I have still yet to figure that out) and luck my way into opening the door. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that I could just grab anyone on my team and keep attempting to unlock the door until it eventually just opens. The whole process is just unpleasant, not fun and such an annoying chore to go through. I think doing actual real-life chores are more fun than playing this.
Overall, I really don’t like this game at all, which is sad because I went into this fully convinced that I was going to love it. The screenshots looked so cool, but everything else is so terribly boring, unnecessarily complicated and uninspired. I get angry when I think about this game, because this could easily be great. But instead, it relies on incredibly old formulas and fake ways to make things sound cooler than they are. If the game actually bothered to get its head out of its ass, simplified everything and made characters we can care about, maybe they’d have a chance. I recommend whoever made this look at stuff like Etrian Odyssey, Persona Q and Legend of Grimrock. Take some hardcore notes about why people love those games so much, then look back at Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy and see how it compares.
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