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Shadow Tower Abyss

シャドウタワーアビス

Developer / Publisher: FromSoftware
23 October 2003
Shadow Tower Abyss [シャドウタワーアビス] - cover art
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3.39 / 5.0
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25 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#119 for 2003
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Title
Along with churros and KFC, dungeon crawlers are one of those random Western creations that Japan seems to like a lot more than Americans. Although the more traditional, stat-heavy brand of dungeon crawler (Wizardy, Etrian Odyssey) has had the most influence overseas, From Software (Dark Souls) carried the genre torch by bringing it into 3D with the atmospheric King's Field series.

In between King's Field entries, the Japanese developer put out an overlooked dungeon crawler by the name of Shadow Tower in 1998. It would come to the States a year later with little fanfare, which is too bad because it paved the way for its superior Japan-exclusive sequel.

Shadow Tower Abyss was the last of its kind -- a Gothic dungeon crawler in which the player travels deeper and deeper into the darkness by every hour. Survival is based as much on skill in combat as it is on being resourceful and daring in exploration.

The original Shadow Tower felt like a spin-off of the King's Field series but with a psychological horror twist (think Silent Hill's surreal, dark world). The enemies were stranger, the plot was more obtuse, and the game placed an emphasis on exploration. Very cautious exploration -- remember, these are the guys who made Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. In fact, Shadow Tower is the bridge between King's Field and Demon's Souls in that it shares many elements of both.

Make no mistake, though, Shadow Tower Abyss is very much its own thing. Unlike Demon's Souls, the game takes place in one sprawling dungeon that becomes weirder the deeper you venture. I miss this aspect in modern games, including Demon's Souls. There is something unique about slowly traversing the layers of a mysterious dungeon, coming across traps, and discovering story details through random, discarded notes (not that I can read any of them in this particular case).

As much as I loved Demon's Souls, its divided levels didn't capture the sense of danger and mystery you expect to find in a From Software dungeon crawler. Level hubs and checkpoints take away from the atmosphere and danger that a game like Abyss embodies.

Unlike the PlayStation debut, Abyss has a decent amount of variety within its world. Through the swamp pits filled with poisonous clouds, a scenic cliff side, and the abstract neon glow of later areas, From Software provides an incentive to explore this dark, haunted world by virtue of its design and pacing.

Whenever you start to grow tired of an area, you soon find yourself facing off against a boss or discovering a key to the exit. The action at the core of the game is repetitive, but that's to be expected of the genre. Whether you take to it or not will depend on how you feel about a good, old-fashioned dungeon crawl.

Despite the similarities shared with the King's Field series, From Software decided to give these games a different name for a reason. They are pretty peculiar, mechanically speaking. For starters, the unorthodox controls may be hard to adjust to for some players. Looking up and down is restricted to the back shoulder buttons, and strafing is left to the front shoulder buttons. This is because the right stick is used for attacking. Moving the stick side to side registers as a slash attack, up as an overhead slash, back as a back slash, and inward (R3) as a forward thrust. Different weapons are optimized for different attacks, which also deal more damage to certain enemies.

The biggest difference between Abyss and other games lies in its leveling system -- rather, the lack of one. Not really. Your strength increases through exploring and collecting defeated enemies' souls (sound familiar?), but all your other stats are completely dependent on items and weapons. You'll occasionally come across an item, usually hidden away, that will let you upgrade dexterity, endurance, and all the other standard stats. For the most part, you'll be depending on weapons to give you better stats. This wouldn't be so nerve-wracking if the items weren't always on the cusp of breaking.

Like Demon's Souls, the game feels like a survival horror title during its opening hour. You creep around in the dark with very little resources, terrified of any enemy encounter. Since the enemy A.I. is pretty dumb and easy to take advantage of, you'll soon find yourself breezing through areas. Nevertheless, combat remains fun due to the variety of weapons, which range from medieval pikes to assault rifles. You can only equip two weapons at time, so choosing the right combo will go a long way toward your survival.

If you are a fan of dark, moody dungeon crawlers, Abyss is a unique game that shouldn't be missed. What it lacks in detail and polish, it makes up in atmosphere and art direction. I'd love to see another Shadow Tower sequel, but sadly, I don't think we'll ever get one. The modern crop of gamers like to have their games divided up for them and conveniently sprinkled with checkpoints. The design philosophy behind Shadow Tower, or any good traditional dungeon crawler, goes against what makes modern games popular and accessible.

It's too bad that Abyss was never brought to the West, despite being mostly localized. You can't blame publishers for not wanting to take a chance when similar From Software titles failed to find a market over here. Demon's Souls is a genius game for keeping many aspects of a dark, Gothic dungeon crawler intact while appealing to a wide audience. However, returning to Abyss shows that something was lost in that transition. There is something unique about being lost in the darkness of Abyss, searching for an ammo clip, that can't be replicated in modern titles.

Sometimes you want to explore a game's world, and sometimes you just want to get lost and let the gloomy atmosphere consume you. In other words, dungeon crawlers are the post-punk of videogames, and I love my post-punks, dammit!
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SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2016-04-27T23:26:14Z
2016-04-27T23:26:14Z
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Initially breathtaking but eventually disappointing pre-Miyazaki FromSoft entry.
A few hours in thought this would be superior (in quite a few aspects it is) to King's Field 4 and that the low durability items, consuming items to heal yourself, consuming health to repair items, and various other related systems would make for an engrossing and unique experience, and the more "survival horror" aspects such as ammo, money and healing item scarcity would make for an intense and challenging journey, but the second half of the game was more or less a cakewalk where every one of those mechanics became obsolete as your gear suddenly becomes overpowered and barely breaks, constantly had maxed out money, double digit healing items, and the game lost all the initial charm it had. Still a fun and fairly unique ~10 hour romp with some intriguing From Soft-isms (scattered and opaque story, art-direction, rewarding exploration, non-existant cutscenes, etc) and proto-Demons Souls ideas. NG+ with new items was a nice touch too but game was even easier then so I didn't really bother.
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Dwesk 2021-07-09T19:11:22Z
2021-07-09T19:11:22Z
3.5
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This game... this game is a fucking shitposting.

Gone is the gloomy atmosphere the macabre first game stablished; yes, it's a dark game, but the enemy design is not as horror-inspiring and falls upon the cartoony style King's Field 4 mildly sweats. Neither the locations you visit are dreamy. They are more in the "out of this world" line rather than "nightmarish". It doesn't help it's much more colorful.

Having said that, it's clear From Software REALLY had some sick ass drugs while making this thing (those dragon leafs on the first King's Field were foreshadowing). The game has no clear tone nor epoch: you have your expected magic rings, armor, big damn sword and slashy axes; but you ALSO have combat boots, bulletproof vests, modern guns and a grenade launcher. A goddamn, freaking, no doubts about it, fucking grenade launcher. It's nuts, and it absoutely marks itself as a one-of-a-kind scenario.

The dismemberment/melee system is absolutely fantastic, probably one of the best I've tried: think about the first Monster Hunter's weird analog attacks, but instead it actually works and it's in a first person perspective. Or a better Daggerfall. The downside is the gunplay sucks donkey balls, with almost no crosshaired weapons. You kinda get used to it, but it's still frustrating at times to not be able to actually aim. It doesn't help your camera movement while holding a gun it's slower than The Ancient City's turning speed. It's that sluggish. The level design has... seem some better days. Enemy types are repeated a lot, there is no giant bestiary like in the old days, and while is aesthetically engaging, it does feel a bit repetitive on how the assets are used.

The game is kind of short though, which is both a detriment and a good thing: the story is so nonsensical and clusterfucked you can only grasp some level of details and the boss fights can be kind of hard, so you don't really want to mess that much with it. New Game Plus actually has some new content (which sometimes seems as the actual thing From tried to accomplish). But at the same time, the game... just ends, and the final boss is terribly piss-easy, letting you with more questions and answers, and not in a compelling way that invites you to look furthter in the lore, as there is... kind of no lore, just like the first game. But here it's even mind numbing.

It's not like it's a cakewalk all the way through; it takes time to grasp the new attack system and items, the first gameplay hours health recovery is really sparse and durability (which has been revamped as in stuff you get is always mint new) does get in your way. There is no "health potion trade" this time around: it's your health or nothing, and it really makes you decide when and how you are going to maintain alive the next 15 minutes.

It's a hell of a unique game with genius ideas, trapped between some of the most eyebrow-raising moments of From Software's development history. Think about Resident Evil 4, if Leon was actually tripping balls for seven hours straight. Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride of tribal demons and disgusting critters. Human stupidity can be really damn fun.
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Mur96 2021-06-28T15:50:03Z
2021-06-28T15:50:03Z
3.0
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Catalog

Jeronim シャドウタワーアビス 2024-05-11T11:10:43Z
2024-05-11T11:10:43Z
A-
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Faves
DirtyRatShit シャドウタワーアビス 2024-03-19T23:16:09Z
2024-03-19T23:16:09Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Buckru シャドウタワーアビス 2024-03-15T21:32:50Z
2024-03-15T21:32:50Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Sasu シャドウタワーアビス 2024-03-13T15:22:06Z
2024-03-13T15:22:06Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
locomotic シャドウタワーアビス 2024-03-03T14:32:49Z
2024-03-03T14:32:49Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Giann96 シャドウタワーアビス 2024-02-26T03:41:01Z
PS2 • JP
2024-02-26T03:41:01Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Nurplee シャドウタワーアビス 2024-01-27T17:56:01Z
2024-01-27T17:56:01Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
orange_cockroach69 シャドウタワーアビス 2024-01-13T14:25:59Z
2024-01-13T14:25:59Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
marten91 シャドウタワーアビス 2023-12-14T16:33:02Z
2023-12-14T16:33:02Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ElijahRah シャドウタワーアビス 2023-11-04T06:12:55Z
2023-11-04T06:12:55Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Bengals シャドウタワーアビス 2023-10-30T17:37:47Z
2023-10-30T17:37:47Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Strawson シャドウタワーアビス 2023-10-25T18:03:38Z
2023-10-25T18:03:38Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Shadow Tower Abyss
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  • NekoTempo 2022-03-02 05:21:31.323038+00
    Pretty great game, but it's definitely recommended to fast forward it while emulating when backtracking/exploring areas you've completed aready.

    The atmosphere and visuals of certain areas like the Red Desert, Waterfall and Chalkstone are so moody and dreary in the best way possible! I think this is my favorite From game when it comes to that.
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  • Teleguide 2022-12-14 02:34:50.307498+00
    yeah this is great in terms of early from's dungeon crawlers. absolutely agree in emulating this at maybe 140% speed, literally makes it so much more playable
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