Phantom Abyss is a first-person roguelike game created by Team WIBY and published by Devolver Digital. The player is an adventurer/explorer who has died and is now in The Abyss. Trapped with you is a being who can only escape once it has enough sacred relics. Coincidentally its escape is also your only escape. This is our Phantom Abyss review.
To find these relics, you venture out into procedurally generated temples filled with traps. Some of these randomized layouts have been attempted before by other players. If other players have made attempts and failed, they leave behind a phantom. These phantoms can help players navigate a temple and also show where a given player met their demise, allowing you to hopefully not make the same mistake.
The developers make great use of vertical space on the procedurally generated maps. Players need to keep an eye out for hidden spaces, above and below, as these tend to hide chests with precious coins. In many situations, a player can also go over challenges/traps.
The various traps in the game are well used, but the timing for some feel a bit off. Not sure if it is the trap timing or just the responsiveness of the player controls.
Movement and controls are simple, the typical WASD keys with the spacebar to jump and left control for roll/slide. It lets the player keep their mind on navigating the temple and avoiding traps. The whip works well with a left-click to hit a target and a right to focus so that the player can pull themselves to ledges/walls. You don’t swing with the whip mechanics in this game, which was a bit disappointing.
As players progress through different temples, they respawn in The Abyss after each death or successful run. Each time, having to either pick up the base whip again or choose one of the other whips they have unlocked. A new whip tier is unlocked by finding relics at different temple tiers. Once a new whip tier is unlocked, players can then pay currency gathered during runs for new whips in that tier. Each new whip has a positive and a negative trait that changes up the gameplay. For example, one whip eliminates falling damage while increasing the strength of guardians.
When the player dies, the whip equipped, except for the base whip, drops. A player will need to pay some currency to retrieve it from the temple or wait until another player claims a relic in the temple where it was lost.
The other dynamic aspect of the temples is that players can find shrines that will grant one of two blessings in exchange for the coins you gather on a given run. These blessings can provide abilities such as double jump and slow fall or buff/restore the player’s health pool.
I did encounter any game crashes or freezes while playing, even though this is an early access game on Steam. The only graphic issues I noticed were from the floor while running forward. It would occasionally look distorted as the texture sped by.
The biggest frustration I encountered was the imbalance of the Guardians. There are currently three types, and one is randomly assigned to guard a temple at the start of a run. These Guardians start to attack/chase players after the first level.
If a player is unlucky enough to get the Guardian that spews purple balls of poison gas, exploding in large AOE bursts, this can cause a run to end rather quickly when compared to the chase and laser Guardians.
There are a few other things some players may not like. The ability to share map keys with friends for temples is currently bugged, but the developers are working on it. Once you have played through enough maps, they can feel repetitive since many traps and other elements are constantly reused. Finally, there are no difficulty levels or sliders. If the default difficulty is too hard then you are out of luck.
Phantom Abyss by developer Team WIBY creates an almost Indiana Jones feel as players attempt different temple runs for relics. While it is challenging and, at times, frustrating, especially if it’s the end of the day and you are tired, there is a lot of fun to be had. If you are looking for a challenging roguelike, check this one out. It is worth it even with the guardian balance issues. Since it is still in early access as well, it will only get better.
A copy of the game was provided for review.
COMPARE TO: Hades, Bastion