I’m getting to this review out a bit later than I’d hoped – but that’s a point in favor of Valdis Story Abyssal City for the PC. I’m not even sure how much of the game I’ve explored, but my plan to quickly run through what I could to get a review put together fell apart pretty quickly. I checked out some videos and art from the game before I took this on, and I was immediately drawn in by the art and animation, both in quality and style. Having put several hours into it now, I still find myself in love with those, but there’s much more to it than my quick glimpse led me to believe.
Valdis Story Abyssal City is an action RPG, in the style of classics such as the Metroid or Castlevania series; you earn experience, level up, collect equipment, and so forth. The game drops you pretty much right into action, without much story exposition beyond a brief cutscene. You take on the role of one of two heroes; I chose the default character, the melee-focused Wyatt, over the more magically-inclined Reina, since I wanted the “normal” game experience. Moving through the world is a pretty constant combat situation, fighting your way through hordes of demons and angels, who are locked in an ancient war for human souls, as well as the more-mysterious ferals who threaten the land. The story unfolds in bits and pieces as you, a mercenary from the surface world, make your way through the sunken ruins of Sitheil, a sizeable realm long since lost to those above, mostly relayed through dialogue with the Elders of each town and others.
Combat is one of the game’s stronger suits, I think; even in some of the more difficult boss battles, the controls are fairly responsive and it’s easy to keep a handle on. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it’s smoother and more precise than I would expect from an indie outing. Movement is a bit less so, and I did find myself frustrated more than once with missed jumps or failure to grab ledges, especially in timed sequences where every second has to be spot on to keep moving. In addition to physical combat – including an option to fight without a weapon – our heroes have a bevy of both Light and Dark magics to start the game, with more becoming available later after certain bosses are dispatched, including Ice and Fire. Each of these varieties offers four different spells, each suitable for different situations and some being required to reach certain areas and continue your quest.
One of the weaker points, unfortunately, is the equipment; I didn’t get much variety to play around with, and the items I did get had pretty basic bonuses. That said, they do add a dimension to the game that can help you in various different areas; much like the spells, some of these are more suited to combat against either angel or demon enemies, though the difference is more pronounced with magic. I’ve found several pieces of equipment in need of repair, as well, though have yet to find anywhere to actually get any of them fixed up for use, despite encountering a few NPCs who seem to be just for that.
The bosses require a mix of skill, strategy, and sometimes luck. Most of them can’t be approached with simple brute force and a few spells; one of the ones I encountered vexed me so much that I turned to the internet for guidance, only to find that the battle was entirely optional. Eventually, I accepted that I simply wasn’t powerful enough to make the attempt, and fell back to follow the story. Following along what needs to be done can get a bit difficult, as well, though; directions can be hard to come by, and knowing what they mean can be even more difficult. In the early stages, it’s pretty linear, and some NPCs provide more direct guidance than you’ll find later. Additionally, tram stations running between the towns open up, making travel both easier and more open — which can mean getting lost is easier, as well.
The game’s writing is easily the weakest point. The dialogue is often cliched, and riddled with annoying grammatical errors and poor punctuation. The story isn’t particularly bad, but in many places I wouldn’t say it’s especially good; I found myself wanting to skip through some of the dialogue scenes and just get back into the action where the game’s strengths show through. At the end of the day, Valdis Story Abyssal City is a well-done game that could benefit from some behind-the-scenes polish but has more positives than negatives, and is ultimately worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of the side-scrolling action genre.
[+Great art and animation] [+Smooth, responsive controls] [+Variety of skills and magic] [-Some frustrating jumping/timing puzzles] [-Somewhat flat story] [-Error-riddled writing]