Few adventure games really make you feel as tense as you’d expect crawling through dungeons. Even with the enemies and traps waiting, some games fail to truly make an impact on the player. Because the player has infinite lives and encounters with that dungeon, they can make as many mistakes as they want.
But what happens when the game takes away the ability to replay an encounter? If the player only has one shot at each level, then every misstep becomes that much heavier. Every trap you fall victim to actually stings and each victory is that much more rewarding. In Phantom Abyss, players will only have one chance to claim the idol.
What’s good in Phantom Abyss?
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like Indiana Jones with a grappling hook, Phantom Abyss might be the game for you. The feeling of jumping only to grapple with your whip at the last second is genuinely exciting. Avoiding traps with careful sidesteps and clever maneuvering makes you feel like you’re a real adventurer using your brain in the field.
The phantoms of the failed adventurers before you can point to important quests as they run through the temple. Following alongside these adventurers’ ghosts can lead you to more treasure or an early demise alongside them.
With the new essence update, players can collect the blue shining orb that phantoms leave behind, allowing them to level up their character. After a certain number of levels, players unlock new whips and skins for them.
This is in addition to a system where playerscan use keys of different rarity that can be found in differing level dungeons and be used to level weapons. It’s hard to obtain these keys unless you can progress far enough in each dungeon you visit, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
You just have to recognize and correct the mistakes of the ones before you. While you’re moving, pick up their essence to level up.
The Guardians pose a unique threat each time you’re faced with one inside the temple. When you hear one approach, your only option is to get away as fast as you can. As you progress through the temple, they’ll become stronger and faster. However, if you can manage to stay far enough ahead of them, you’ll never have to worry about their strength.
What’s negative about Phantom Abyss?
Some of the criticism for Phantom Abyss comes from the repetitiveness that can be present when playing through multiple levels. Since the game loads you into a random dungeon each time, it’s common to see multiple rooms or trap configurations that look basically the same. This doesn’t detract from any of the gameplay but may break immersion for some players.
The player character’s jump can also be a bit weird to estimate until you’re familiar with it. It’s very easy to overestimate your jump and then panic and fall off the platform. The whip doesn’t help, as it has a short range for standard grappling. Many deaths will happen as a result of the player being too far from the point they’re trying to grapple to.
Another issue is that the loading screens take a long time for some players as the game tries to load past player actions and the assets in the level. This can be really frustrating for a game that asks you to keep replaying when you repeatedly die within five minutes. If the player is spending more time in the loading screen than the level, something probably isn’t working right.
In all honesty, it feels like there is a lot of potential in Phantom Abyss. Whether it be the level design, whip mechanics, or interesting take on the Rogue formula, this feels like a game that is something really special. However, in many places it feels like that potential is not fully realized, stopped just before it could get somewhere really great.
That doesn’t mean that Team WIBY can’t evolve on what’s already there, but it would need to be more than a handful of improvements. With updates as recent as Dec. 2021, it’s not possible to rule out any future updates for the game.
For fans of the Indiana Jones movies, Phantom Abyss will feel like something out of a dream. As players slyly avoid traps and use their whip to grapple out of danger, they’ll truly channel the fedora wearing adventure hero. However, not every run will end with the same success, so be prepared to fail until you learn the mechanics.
The Final Word
The game has been out for over half a year now and has received multiple updates that have introduced new mechanics, levels, and quality of life improvements. These have changed the game and input new ways of recognizing the phantoms and where they die in the temple.
Our Phantom Abyss review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!