Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness is the latest title from Chime Corporation, a studio who had previously been trusted to create Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- The Prophecy of the Throne. But otherwise they’re largely unknown, so what can we expect from a game which borrows from such an expansive and creative setting as Made in Abyss?
Not only that but we’re given two modes to play with, a long tutorial where we follow the story of Riko and Reg from the manga until they leave the 2nd Layer. In addition there’s a completely original story supervised by series creator Akihito Tsukushi where players can create their own young cave diver.
Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness
Developer: Chime Corporation
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: September 2, 2022
Price: $59.99 USD
Firstly, the game prides itself on having two modes. “HELLO ABYSS” where you follow the story of Riko and Reg and “DEEP IN ABYSS” with your own character.
Make no mistake, rather than a separate game mode, HELLO ABYSS is a glorified tutorial that’s required to be completed before DEEP IN ABYSS. Basically you have to spend one to two hours with the retelling of a story fans of the series will know, and as a fan myself it’s not worth the trouble.
Even for a tutorial, the game doesn’t teach you much beyond movement basics. You barely have to craft anything beyond basic food, Reg functions as a reusable rope for rappelling down ledges, and your weapon doesn’t seem to lose durability. You basically just tackle each map as a puzzle to get to the end as quick as possible so you can start playing the real game.
HELLO ABYSS also suffers from poor gameplay whether that’s the ridiculous boss fight near the end where you basically just circle around a room while one of the most powerful characters in the setting takes small mincing steps, or the few quick-time events that doesn’t telegraph what the game wants exactly.
It took me five tries to do what seemed like a simple “press A”, but apparently that wasn’t good enough.
Apparently what the circle indicates is you press and HOLD A, or at least I think that’s ultimately what worked. I was seeing red after sitting through the same cutscene five times just to even get to the QTE. Feel free to make fun of me in the comments if you think this was obvious, but it wasn’t for me and I’ve played Telltale’s Jurassic Park.
After spending roughly 2 hours on the tutorial, you finally get to play the main game (aka DEEP IN ABYSS).
While HELLO ABYSS was a fun diversion, you don’t even use a fraction of the crafting items and other features introduced in this new mode. Now you’ve got your own character, a completely new story, and the satisfaction of character progression via levelling up and taking on requests in the Abyss.
While DEEP IN ABYSS feels more like a complete game, it doesn’t address the issues that are inherent to the game overall. The graphics remain muddy, the controls remain clunky and awkward, and the enemies still fluctuate between predictable and unavoidable. So with the rant about this game’s glorified tutorial over with, we can dissect the game as a whole.
Graphically, there’s not much to look at here. All of the attention to detail seems to have gone into the character models, which are smooth and faithful to the manga.
On the Switch, small enemies look like they’d be at home on the PS2 and the terrain in most places is muddy and featureless. Some of the larger enemies are at least ok to look at and there’s some pretty vistas in the background, but the actual playing field is bland and off-putting.
The controls are awkward, if you were expecting open world exploration the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild you’re best off looking elsewhere. I’d settle for exploration that’s as fluid as a janky survival game like Rust or Conan Exiles, but Made in Abyss doesn’t even manage that.
Climbing is an exploitable mess where if you count the number of moves you make before you spend stamina (it’s 3 going up and down or 2 from side to side) and then tap B to do a large move, you effectively double your stamina.
Other examples of poor design include small bumps such as roots and logs that bring you to a complete stop, and not to mention the annoying Curse of the Abyss.
For those unfamiliar, the Curse of the Abyss is a sort of sickness that occurs when attempting to leave the Abyss too quickly (or at all beyond the fifth layer) with growing symptoms the deeper a diver goes. The game does a laudable job of reflecting this in game except for one itty bitty thing. The curse is simplified where any upward change in altitude causes it to accumulate.
You can make your character sick just by jumping up and down in place, or walking over one of the aforementioned bumps in terrain. There’s an argument to be made that this is authentic to the game’s lore but I’m not so sure.
Ultimately, as a fan of Made in Abyss I’m disappointed more than anything given the potential of the source material. The game’s writing carries most of what’s good here and it’s a good introduction to the first part of the manga’s story.
Meanwhile, the original DEEP IN ABYSS story might keep curious players going a bit longer. While DEEP IN ABYSS does redeem the game, after the frustrating tutorial and gameplay I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of players don’t even bother to get that far.
Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Spike Chunsoft. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.