Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy: Classic crawling

June 25, 2015

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

Dungeon-crawlers have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, led by the PC indie game scene and the Etrian Odyssey series. As a result, more and more niche titles have been getting a chance here, particularly on systems like the Vita. Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is the newest entry in the genre from Experience Inc. (the studio behind Demon Gaze), but it’s not necessarily a step forward for the company.

In Operation Abyss, you begin the game by waking up next to a dead body in the sewers. You’ve been kidnapped and left there to be killed by vicious monsters called variants that have been popping up throughout Tokyo in spontaneously appearing “abysses,” or dungeons. You’re quickly rescued by some other students at your school who happen to have the ability to fight them when even the military cannot. During your rescue, however, it’s discovered that you also have the ability to fight. So with that, you are summarily enlisted in the Xth Squad to try to uncover the mystery behind these monsters.

Operation Abyss is, for the most part, a straightforward, check-all-the-boxes type of dungeon-crawler. Like many dungeon-crawlers, most of the game will be spent traversing giant, labyrinthine mazes on a variety of missions. It can be easy to get lost in them, especially if you forget to look at your map often. Thankfully, the enemies feel much more forgiving than is usual for the genre, at least at first.

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

It seems the developers tried to give a much more gradual difficulty curve for the first few hours of the game, realizing that it would still be difficult as you learned the intricacies of the many systems in place. For instance, mages can only cast a certain number of spells, and I only realized this fact after I’d wasted them all on some of the first monsters I ran into. This made me tense for the rest of the dungeon, and in most other games, would have spelled game over for me, even in the first mission. Unfortunately, you’ll learn almost every aspect of the game through this tense trial-and-error method, as the tutorials are severely lacking.

One questionable and frustrating aspect of Operation Abyss is that you can’t actually level up when you’re in an abyss. In order to level up, once you have enough experience, you have to go to your HQ and rest in the medical center, which costs money. Additionally, to prevent grinding, until you pass a certain plot point in the story, you’re capped at level 15, no matter how much experience you gain. I can’t tell you how annoying it was to be running around and around in a dungeon trying to find someone who was lost and not be able to level up or use more than a few spells while the enemies around me whittled down my health. Since you don’t get to choose which enemy you attack during a fight, sometimes it can turn into a battle of luck, hoping your party will attack the most dangerous enemy so you don’t lose a member for the rest of the mission.

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

Unlike most dungeon crawlers, Operation Abyss does have a semblance of a story to proceed through. It’s very much a strange fantasy style story dressed in a modern-day setting, full of completely nonsensical characters and plot points, but that’s still more than you would expect from many of these games. While it isn’t anything to write home about, it does touch on some interesting themes later on, and the pace picks up in the second half.

The customization is really where Operation Abyss stands out. You can customize every single aspect of every party member, from their classes and stats to their personality traits and appearance. Equipment is fully customizable too, and from what I can tell, the variety is nearly endless. There is, once again, a steep learning curve before you’ll master it, though.

The soundtrack fits the themes very well, though it can get grating eventually in the longer dungeons. The voice acting and sound effects, unfortunately, don’t measure up to the rest of the sound design. Meanwhile, the visuals are also uneven. While many of the portraits and story scenes are nice and crisp, I found the enemies and dungeons to be less detailed and somewhat bland and repetitive.

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

What you’re going to get out of Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is going to depend entirely on what you expect. If you’re looking for a good story, interesting mechanics or a new take on the genre, you’ll be very disappointed. But if you’re looking for a solid, old-style dungeon crawler with more customization than any game needs, then you’ve come to the right place.

Pros: Incredible amount of customization, good soundtrack, lots of complexity and depth
Cons: Lackluster story, barebones tutorial, some frustrating design decisions

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.