Game adaptations of anime can be a hit or miss. From limited budget to time constraints, a lot can go wrong. So, while the announcement of Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness excited me, I knew to simmer my expectations until I saw more of the game. After playing, there’s an interesting gameplay hook here locked away behind a 4-hour story mode.
From starting a new game, players can see two modes, Hello Abyss and Deep in Abyss. However, you won’t have access to Deep in Abyss until after clearing the other mode. Hello Abyss is pretty much a surface-level retelling of the anime where we meet the Red Whistle cave raider Riko who is saved by a robot boy called Reg. The story hits on the essential beats of the narrative and ends before you know it.
The game doesn’t explain that nothing really matters in this mode except for clearing the story. Without choosing an option, this is the game’s Easy Mode, and I felt it provided a false sense of comfort. You can run deeper into the depths without worrying much about crafting, collecting ruins, or even fighting, but you aren’t explained any of this.
Still, the actual production and voice work during Hello Abyss was decent outside of a few stilted line deliveries. There’s an English dub for all of the characters, but man, I wish Reg would shut up during dungeon exploration or at least stop getting stuck behind small ledges.
Attack animations are floaty, and the navigation system leaves so much to be desired. Exploration is kept at a minimum, and if you try to venture off, you’ll be told to go to the quest marker. As much as I enjoyed the story beats, I wish I knew that none of it could prepare me for the real meat of this title, Deep in Abyss. Nothing seemed to carry over except for my low understanding of crafting and item collecting, which is something that you don’t need to do when playing as Riko. In fact, just discard everything that isn’t food or healing items in your inventory because you won’t need them.
Following the lengthy 5-hour tutorial, the actual game begins with Deep in Abyss. This mode is brutal. Players will need to forget the hand-holding nature of the story mode as they go on their own quest to become a White Whistle. Interestingly, this mode tells an original story that doesn’t hold back when delivering some genuinely gruesome and emotional story beats.
Players will discover weapon durability from the first mission, which requires you to craft additional items to take down enemies in the field. Along with new stores to buy and sell items. Further, Relics actually matter in this mode so bring those back to town for some extra funds. As missions are excepted, players will venture deeper into the depths and increase their Rank. However, Reg isn’t here to save you now, so clearing out enemies is your job.
Deep in Abyss offers some outstanding survival elements. Crafting is a must, but you must be aware of how much weight you carry. Luckily, as you increase in Rank, you’ll open up new skills that will benefit you greatly in the later dungeons. Unfortunately, while this makes your player stronger, the game doesn’t hold back its challenges, and you’ll suffer from the curse of the Abyss in no time.
Made in Abyss isn’t a graphical marvel. The character designs are decent, but the environments are blocky and almost maze-like. You’re likely to get lost and die many times, but a helpful auto-save system will put you back at the entrance. Movement is also rather basic, but I was surprised by the inclusion of sneaking and climbing, which provided a range of ways to traverse the dungeons.
Each level provides new challenges, but the enemy AI is limited. Their only goal is to attack; in deeper levels, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the group of enemies thrown at you. Weapons range from melee to ranged and can all be crafted in the menu, but durability will be your biggest enemy. The equipment wheel is a bit janky and tricky to navigate, making you spend far too long in the menus, but it becomes more manageable in time.
There’s a lot packed in Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness, but it will take someone willing to play through the 5-hour opening to discover it. However, the original story and challenging survival gameplay elements of Deep in Abyss will have you invested in your quest to be a White Whistle for hours. This is definitely a step in the right direction for game adaptations of anime, as the quality of the systems and added dub options make it a must-play for fans.