by Ewan Wilson
reviewed on PC
Gather your party before venturing forth
Temple of the Abyssal Winds harkens back to old-school computer RPGs, despite being an iPad port. The campaign runs on a system similar to Dungeon & Dragons. There are characters with six primary attributes to guide each die throw, a bunch of skills/proficiencies, and the combat runs on things like attack rating and armour class scores. Whilst it’s of the style of Bioware and Black Isle’s AD&D classics, Abyssal Winds is far more reminiscent of an old shareware game you’d unfortunately installed one afternoon out of desperation.
The game is split into chapters, the first of which is free. From the get-go the story is bland and formulaic, beginning as all fantasy must – with your quiet village being attacked and burnt to the ground. You’re confronted by someone called “Evil Lieutenant”, told that “there must be some force behind the violence, some evil wizard, or cruel warlord, or some such” and asked to aid the “Order of Light”.
The narrative is unsubstantial and dialogue between characters is brief. Plot points include running into a mad man in the forest who yells a line about destroying the world: should you kill him or let him live? There hasn’t been an awful amount of attention paid to the writing in the game, which is disappointing, as it was the lifeblood of so many old D&D inspired RPGs. Once you realise the plot is weightless and would be blown away by a light breeze, you begin to skip dialogue altogether. When all is said and done, there isn’t much to care about in the world of Temple of the Abyssal Winds.
Exit here for technical primitivism
Despite imitating the isometric view of classic RPGs, Abyssal’s world and characters are drawn in rough 3-dimensions. It’s hard not to be taken aback by the primitive visuals on display. Characters are tiny groups of blocky polygons, faceless and Lego-like. The world itself is drab and unnatural looking, and spoilt by large swathes of black space at the top of every wall and tree as well as the greater dark void at the edge of the map. At the end of each zone, there is a large floating box with the text “Exit” written there.
There’ no way around it: Abyssal Winds looks ugly and unfinished. A few birds chirp in the background as ambient sound, but music seems to have no place beyond the title screen. The game’s technical primitivism also transfers to the user interface. The tutorial is propelled by a series of screenshots that look as though they’ve been print-screened and pasted in, and the tips/descriptions link to an external website! Being zoomed out of a game and taken to a wiki-page to read about armour class or find out what a particular skill does isn’t a pleasant experience, and the fact this is actually integrated into the game highlights the huge problem Abyssal Wind has in delivering information in an appealing way. Likewise, the map of each zone is a completely undetailed black-and-white “sketch” (I use the term sketch here loosely).
Fighting for something
The combat system in Temple of the Abyssal Winds is simple, although inflexibly so. There are only three classes: Fighter, Spellcaster and an all-round Adventurer who is better placed to put skills into things like diplomacy, stealth and observation. There’s transparency to the systems and dice rolls in play; information is delivered only, as mentioned, in a largely unappealing manner. The combat is real time with pausing. Overall, however, it’s uninspired. It lacks any kind of depth, particularly when fighting without Spellcasters. Melee characters simply bash each other until one of them scores a lucky hit; there are no special attacks or manoeuvrability to speak of.
Abyssal Winds felt strongest when reminding me of another game. Re-entering the hero’s burnt village, I found that everyone had respawned and were once again going about their daily business of walking around aimlessly. I decided to attack them – why not? They had come back into existence before. One by one, they rushed towards my party and I hit them with my longsword until they disappeared. Suddenly, I was reminded of the original Baldur’s Gate. When you messed about in Candlekeep the guards would come and confront you: would you pay them off, try to escape, fight? It was then that I learnt what RPGs were all about. That feeling of complex consequences, of a living breathing world - Temple of the Abyssal Winds doesn’t come close to that. In fact, it’s nothing like those old classics.
May remind you of older and better times.
Unsubstantial and cliché ridden narrative, primitive on a graphical and technical level, completely inconsequential roleplaying, forgettable combat.