Welcome back everyone. Today we’re covering Project Abyss, an underwater exploration game based around scavenging for supplies around the Mariana Trench. As you reach the edge of the starting area, you find a mysterious note pleading for your assistance. These notes give hints of a sinister plot that must be thwarted, but this mostly hangs in the background.
In each area, the player is tasked with completing certain objective before being allowed to proceed to the next. Collecting gold and XP is something they’re likely to do anyway, as the submarine needs a steady stream of supplies and repairs to keep functioning, and this is where most of the gameplay comes from: seeking out small chests in the environment. Some are buried inside rocks that can be drilled into, some are inside wrecks that you must eject from your submarine to reach, some drop from boss fights. Each environment has an area marked by a red backdrop, and entering this area will initiate the fight with the boss. It’s a pretty standard affair of “dodge shots, return fire” in each case, being neither exemplary or poor in execution. The money salvaged from wrecks can be used to upgrade the submarine along three different specialties, with Offense and Defense being exactly what you’d expect and Survival containing several Quality of Life upgrades.
Now, I must note that the controls are very unwieldy at first. The submarine doesn’t move quite like the ones I’ve handled before. A and D control the pivot of the engine that controls movement, with W controlling the amount of thrust is generates. There’s an under-mounted claw used for retrieving loot but it only works on objects directly below the ship, while the front claw can only grab items to re-position them and it will toss anything it releases downward which was often not what I’d intended. These little quirks made it difficult to maneuver at first, to the point where I played the tutorial through a good 3-4 times before I was confident in my skills. The other reason was being afraid that I’d wasted too much time and too many resources to recover, but this game is fairly lenient in terms of supplies once you grasp the basics. Essentially, save fuel tanks you’re not using for later, turn off lights and sonar if you don’t actively need them, and keep pushing forward. By the third area I had enough money to upgrade every system on the sub to its maximum and still had plenty to waste on consumable ammunition and maintenance. While I know some people were complaining about the resource management being too harsh, I quickly passed the point of ever worrying about running out of supplies. Those are the risks of making a resource management game, so I’m not overly upset about it.
The setting is well done, with nooks and crannies in the environment holding extra supplies and money while providing a lovely view of the bottom of the sea. Also, I really appreciated the white text in the backgrounds denoting the names of areas and the little blurb of information about each new encountered life form. There is some serious wasted space in the open ocean, though, with a ship that serves as a shop at the surface, a dozen interesting fixtures on the sea floor, and little of interest in between. The player will often be tasked with hunting sea life that spawns around these empty areas, but the lack of any sort of map, as well as the size of the area to search and blandness of it, made that my least favorite task when trying to move forward. In terms of sound, there’s maybe 3 songs in the entire game, and much like the boss fights, they’re acceptable but little else, with sound effects sitting in that same category. That said, combined with good visuals and a satisfying core gameplay loop, they’re important components of a solid underwater experience.
If you’re interested in playing an underwater game, but want something a little more simplified than Subnautica or a little less intense than Depth, Project Abyss is worth a look. It’s normally 7 dollars on Steam but is selling at half off thanks to the Summer Sale, so now is an especially good time to check it out.