Title: Abyss of the Sacrifice
Release Date: December 17, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Ontological mysteries are a favorite subgenre of mine. They’re a justifiable set up to use a minimal cast and create heavy plot-based narratives reliant on characters forced to work together. So when I see a title called Abyss of the Sacrifice, which is a kickass name and happens to be an ontological mystery with multiple protagonists, I’m sold already. Originally released on the PSP by Intense back in 2010, Abyss of the Sacrifice has been brought to the west by D3 Publisher for a dual release on PC and Nintendo Switch. I knew nothing about this title before playing, so let’s dive in and see how it went.
Abyss of the Sacrifice follows the tale of five girls who seem to be the only remaining people left in “Foundation.” This place is an absolutely enormous living complex built deep underground that held all of society, but the events that lead to its creation, the why, when, and how, have all faded into obscurity. It simply is. However, literally, everyone but our main five has disappeared, leaving them to figure out what’s going on as earthquakes and collapsing architecture beset the Foundation. At the same time, the food and water supply begin to dwindle. Can our heroes survive the oncoming chaos?
To find out, you’ll… need to play the game? You begin, thrust into a prologue with your first girl, who is trapped under some falling debris. From there, you are brought to a stage select screen that displays your playable heroines on the left and their own stages on the right. Each stage contains some traditionally formatted visual novel segments, which slap text on the screen before they’re interrupted by your point-and-click sequences. You’ll quickly find out, though, that this title is more of a puzzle game than it is a story, and there’s little integration.
So traveling along, the girls are trying to figure out their next objective, and then bam, something happens. The floor caves in, separating them, or the ceiling caves in separating them, or the wall caves in separating them. These events don’t further the story in any way and end up just feeling like filler. There was a huge missed opportunity here where they could have at least put in some character dialogue and have the girls interact with each other as you solve these puzzles, giving them something of a cohesive relationship.
Sometimes you’ll get a flashback sequence, which will start to flesh out a character’s backstory, only for them to be interrupted with a needlessly in-depth puzzle that didn’t need to exist. One example of this is a stage that involves making tea, but also the ingredients are in locked boxes you need to find the codes for. Puzzles occur largely for the sake of them and interrupt any attempts this game makes at telling a well-paced narrative. Additionally, since the game likes to keep development and story-beats heroine-viewpoint specific, it means characters feel like cardboard when you aren’t playing as them and negates the purpose of the multi-protagonist story.
It makes this all feel very messy, and the presentation does not help that. The novel mode text is black with a white outline, and since there are no filters to make it stand out, the text can be difficult to read. There is a lack of options to improve or customize this outside of basic sound options and text speed, which means you’re out of luck. It looks the same in your point-and-click puzzle segments too. You’ll know when you start these because “Search” comes up in a cool font, and the puzzle theme plays.
Puzzle areas are often made up of multiple screens and contain additional panels for special objects, with alterations constantly made for objects being added, removed, or changed. There’s a lot of detail within them, and the puzzles can be quite fun. However, the flowchart styled stage select doesn’t allow you to replay stages either once it’s done; it’s done. Additionally, the main puzzle track ends up being used for puzzles that are extremely tense or relaxed, with only a few exceptions leading to a weird, not very fun tonal dissonance that adds to the element of story interruption. This is weird because there are a ton of outstanding tracks in this game.
Abyss of the Sacrifice is a strange game because it’s got so many elements I absolutely adore. It’s a story-heavy experience with multiple protagonists and a unique setting but manages to constantly interrupt progression and not take advantage of its own systems. The puzzles are fun, but they were integrated only to hinder the overall pacing. You’ll probably have more fun if you want cute girls starring in a puzzle game instead of thinking about its other elements.
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