Phantom Abyss: Early Access Preview
As my parents will tell you, growing up as a young kid I always wanted a bullwhip and I damn well made sure it was always the first item on my Christmas wish list! I had no intentions of taming wild beasts though, oh no, my whole mindset was to lasso the nearest tree branch and swing from platform to platform all whilst humming the Indiana Jones theme out loud … in hindsight, maybe it was a good thing I never got that whip, I can’t envision that ending well. Enter our fearless Editor at Player2 asking who wanted to preview an early access game called Phantom Abyss, I took one look at the trailer, and I said, “don’t call me Junior!” … turns out that Indy quote did not quite fit the question and I followed it up with “I’m in!”
Now if that opening paragraph was too vague for you, let me be blunt here. Phantom Abyss is an Indiana Jones simulator (but it totally is not because copyright is a thing!) Your goal is simplistically straightforward. Grab your whip and head off to navigate the temple, avoiding its deadly traps, obstacles, and angered Gods. Journey down multiple layers and retrieve the golden idol. Yes, this sounds simple, but succeeding in this endeavour is quite the challenge.
You have three hearts, and you can lose them all fairly quickly. Whether it be spikes in the floor, poison gas or deadly drops, you can go from having a great run to ‘all hope is lost’ in the blink of an eye. Naturally, games of this nature can often be frustrating to the point where the player will give up purely because it stops being fun, but Phantom Abyss seems to avoid them, lets articulate why that is. Death in most circumstances seemed fair. Either I wasn’t paying attention enough, or I was getting too complacent with my environment or, most commonly, I was being impatient, and I thought sliding down into a spike pit was a great idea because of all the time I was saving … this is not a timed game by the way.
A lost heart or death because of these mistakes didn’t make me throw my mouse and keyboard but instead go “you know what, that’s on me”. Out of the many runs I had, there was only a handful of cases where I felt slightly cheated. This was either using my whip to launch me on top of a platform only to find out it was a spike trap or having an angered God “randomly” appear and lob gas bombs at me, in a spot that made it impossible to escape. Believe me when I say, these cases weren’t at all common and the vast majority of the time the blame rested squarely on this reviewer’s shoulders.
Although there are echoes of being a rogue-like game, after all the temples paths, traps and obstacles are random in nature, you’re never really unlocking new items or abilities. Technically there is, but we’ll touch on that later. During each level, if you take the time to explore a little, you’ll find some chests to open which give you coins. You can either spend these on shortcuts to skip some of the levels or use them to unlock a ‘blessing’ at the end of one. Blessings are random boosts that come in the form of a new ability or replenishing some of your lost heart containers. You’ll get a choice of two and what you choose is completely comes down to which one you think you’ll benefit from most.
If you ever managed to finish a run and retrieve an Idol, you’ll be rewarded with a new whip. It’ll function like your previous one, but it’ll also have a special ability combined with a nerf of some sort. Not a bad encouragement to keep on playing but that seems to be where the games end game was heading. Being an early access game, we weren’t expecting a lot of content, and more assessing where the potential is and as it stands, the game needs more content. It’s nice that you can see other players do failed runs during your run and it can help you find hidden treasure or get past certain areas, but apart from that you’re here for the challenge and if you manage to overcome that challenge, you’ll need more reasons to keep coming back. A new whip and random temple might be it, but it also might not be. We’ll be keeping an eye on this to see where they continue to take it.