Shadow Tower: Abyss

Moby ID: 60349

Description

Legends say that there was once a prosperous kingdom ruled by a mighty monarch, his powers bestowed upon him by a magical spear. Years have passed and the kingdom was completely destroyed, save for a mysterious citadel in the midst of a dangerous forest. A young explorer travels there and discovers the entrance. However, once inside the citadel, a strange old man seals the doors, trapping the explorer and compelling him to climb to the top of the gigantic structure in order to escape.

Shadow Tower: Abyss is a sequel to Shadow Tower. Like its predecessor, it is a first-person action role-playing game with a heavy emphasis on dungeon crawling and a setting that mixes medieval fantasy with horror. Most of the elements distinguishing the previous game have been carried over, including survival-oriented mechanics with features such as weapons gradually deteriorating when used in battles. As opposed to the first game, the player character can wield guns such as pistols, sniper rifles, etc., though ammunition is comparatively scarce. It is also possible to switch between firearms and melee weapons during combat, as well as target specific body parts of the enemies.

The protagonist collects souls while exploring areas and defeating monsters. These souls gradually increase his strength, allowing him to inflict more damage. Most other parameters, however, are upgraded by finding, consuming, or equipping various items. Weapons proficiency is divided into break, pierce and slash categories. Compared to the predecessor, the sequel has a larger variety of areas, its citadel hosting entire cavern systems and even underground forests.

Spellings

  • シャドウタワー アビス - Japanese spelling

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Average score: 4.7 out of 5 (based on 2 ratings with 1 reviews)

From-style RPG heaven with guns!

The Good
Shadow Tower: Abyss is one of the least known RPGs made by the genre's most underrated developer, FromSoftware. This masterpiece was lingering in obscurity for a long time, and only recently began to gain some attention thanks to the popularity of Dark Souls and a fan patch that fully translates this Japan-only game into English. It is FromSoftware's last RPG of King's Field's first-person ilk, a concluding title that is at the same time a transition to their later, more popular products.

Its predecessor was Shadow Tower, a controversial game that was disliked even by some ardent fans of King's Field. The ultra-high difficulty level coupled with nerve-wrecking features such as weapon degradation made that game even tougher to crack and less user-friendly than other FromSoftware RPGs. I loved that game, but I admit it didn't always affect my health positively. Shadow Tower: Abyss retains the basic philosophy and structure of the first title, but smooths over its most aggravating issues, rectifying the balance and lowering the difficulty level to a certain degree.

Shadow Tower: Abyss is as "hardcore" as other FromSoftware RPGs in terms of overall challenge and steep learning curve. However, it doesn't quite intimidate the player the same way its predecessor did. Enemies are less deadly, and there aren't as many ways to die a quick and painful death from a sudden status ailment inflicted by some maniacal barking plant. There are still plenty of pull-your-hair-out moments, but in general you feel somewhat safer, more secure and less restricted. Rather than descending into absolute paranoia, like in the first game, you simply feel threatened and challenged in a more mundane way. Those who couldn't stand the first Shadow Tower because of its difficulty may still want to give the sequel a try if they liked the general premise.

The stand-out feature of Shadow Tower: Abyss is the usage of guns. Yes, that's right, guns. Unlike other FromSoftware RPGs, it is set in our time, though the actual environments are all within the mythical Shadow Tower, where nothing betrays modern days and certain areas even tend towards sci-fi. All those unfortunate explorers who have failed to decipher the mystery were probably packing some firearms, and the enigmatic constructors of the automatized vendors saw it fit to enrich their inventory with nifty magnum revolvers and shotguns. The addition of guns adds even more variety and pure fun to the gameplay. Imagine blasting giant demons with assault rifle fire or carefully aiming at a flying gargoyle with a sniper scope. New possibilities open up to you, and suddenly the gameplay doesn't feel as depressing as it sometimes was in the first game.

Of course, the shooter gameplay is less prominent than in, say, RPG-shooter hybrid such as Deus Ex. However, the scarcity of ammo and the alternation between firearms and melee, coupled with weapon degradation, strongly reminded me of System Shock 2. Uniting first-person shooting and role-playing in one game is a precious and rare combination, and Shadow Tower: Abyss should have been instantly recognized as an important game even if it didn't have any other interesting features. In reality, however, it is not just a hybrid: it is a very well-made hybrid with deep gameplay that carries over everything we loved in FromSoftware's previous titles, adding to that the excitement of gunplay.

I don't like playing shooters on a console, but Shadow Tower: Abyss valiantly tries to alleviate the pain of clumsily aiming with analog sticks. Both movement and combat are much more fluid here than in the first game. Unlike King's Field 4, you can finally look up and down with the analog controls. Also gone is the now-ridiculous slow turning: you can move and turn swiftly as much as you like. There are three control schemes, of which the third is the closest possible approximation of the simple-yet-unattainable mouse-keyboard combo play. In short, FromSoftware has certainly learned from their mistakes and delivered the smoothest console interface ever created for their first-person games.

Fortunately, there is no "auto-targeting" nonsense that turned many console shooters into shallow arcade-like twitch reflex games. You'll have to aim, and there is meaning to the aiming too. The game introduces an excellent targeting system, calculating damage and other effects depending on which part of the enemy's body you hit. Disable the monster's long arms, and you can sigh in relief, watching how the beast runs around without being able to hit you. Score a headshot and you'll see the fiercest foes go down and expire in convulsions caused by irreparable brain damage. This system refines the gameplay even more, making Shadow Tower: Abyss one of the most elaborately detailed RPGs around.

You can also manually control the handling of your melee weapons. Depending on the buttons you press, you can pierce enemies, strike them up front, or slash from side to side, all with the same weapon. Naturally, the weapons also abide by the rules of damage categories, which further deepens the system as you try to figure out the best combinations for your arsenal. And in terms of sheer quantity, Shadow Tower: Abyss exceeds everything FromSoftware had created before. The amount of weapons, armor, and various items is staggering. There are more things to discover and find than ever before. You'll spend plenty of time doing these discoveries, because, just like its predecessor and other FromSoftware RPGs, Shadow Tower: Abyss is wonderfully open and offers overwhelming exploration possibilities. The generously designed areas are vast, complex, and so rich in content that you'll want to spend hours simply going around and exploring every nook and cranny.

One of the main complaints against the first Shadow Tower were its mediocre graphics. Shadow Tower: Abyss triumphantly brings shine and gloss back. It is a beautiful game with eerie, unearthly atmosphere. Environments are much more detailed and aesthetically appealing than the drab rooms of the predecessor. There are plenty of colorful and exotic locations, and the setting clearly departs from the strict dark medieval fantasy of the previous game. There is more variety in level design, and generally much more visual stimulation, contributing to our desire to explore the game's world and find out how the next area will look like.

The Bad
Shadow Tower: Abyss is still a FromSoftware RPG through and through, and even the lower difficulty level cannot alleviate much of the ensuing frustration. I wish there were more save points, but I wish that all the time anyway. Perhaps the only real downside here is the complete reliance on the previous game's system. It wasn't everybody's cup of tea, and particularly the weapon degradation was a somewhat questionable design choice. The sequel pretty much copies the core gameplay ideas, and the new features it adds do not amount to anything truly original.

It may sound like a weird complaint, but the colorful areas of Shadow Tower: Abyss, though looking much more attractive than the bleak rooms of its predecessor, seemed less atmospheric to me. There is something intrinsically cozy in medieval horror, and I missed that sort of dreary comfort while being constantly exposed to psychedelic organic dungeons with occasional weird monsters.

The Bottom Line
It's Shadow Tower with more forgiving gameplay, better graphics, smoother controls, and guns! If this doesn't spell "get it now" for you, then perhaps FromSoftware RPGs aren't your thing in general. For a faithful admirer of this company's oeuvre, however, Shadow Tower: Abyss is a star that shines brightly in their constellation of deep and fascinating games.

PlayStation 2 · by Unicorn Lynx (181771) · 2016

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Game added by Unicorn Lynx.

Additional contributors: MAT.

Game added April 17, 2013. Last modified May 16, 2024.