Friday, 22 May 2020

THE ABYSS: INCIDENT AT EUROPA


Out of all of James Camerons' back catalogue of blockbusters, I've always felt The Abyss to be a bit underappreciated. Sure, the visual effects were a milestone in moviemaking but underneath all of that is a thought-provoking sci-fi that's as deep as the depths the story takes you. In 1998, a year shy of its 10th anniversary, a little known developer by the name of Sound Source Interactive took that ageing I.P. and created a somewhat forgotten first-person action-adventure.

Set several years after the movie, the sea-like aliens are now working with human scientists in the research facility known as Deepcore. Contact has been lost, and you, as either Bud or Lindsey Brigman have been tasked to investigate. It turns out that a virus from Jupiter's moon Europa has begun deforming all life forms - alien and human alike - turning them into violent Lovecraftian beasts.

Bump into the environment to open cabinets or pick up items such as keycards (left).
To use them, highlight them from the inventory and press 'space' (right).

In essence, The Abyss is a survival horror played in the first person. You navigate your way through a maze-like ship, collect keys, press buttons and avoid encounters with the shuffling crew members. Is it just me or is this sounding a lot like Resident Evil? Even juggling with weapons and ammo is a key feature. You are never really adequately equipped to deal with the hostile forces, which can never fully be killed. Your only offence is a stun gun with woefully little capacity. It can knock over most creatures in two hits, though at first, the pitiful weapon can only carry enough energy for a maximum of three. On every floor, a small number of recharges stations can replenish the blasts, but you'll almost certainly have to master the artful skill of dodging. While not always difficult, it's not that easy either thanks to the keyboard-only controls and slow turning speed.

The more you play, the more you'll quickly learn their limitations. When in your line of sight, they will take their sweet time meandering in your direction. If there are any obstacles blocking them, they will either get stuck behind it or find the simplest alternative route. Keep moving, as any door with a step - which is most of them - will keep them here is that they will often lurk outside your only exit, blocking your path. And if you have already used 2 out of your 3 shots, you'll be stuck there else risk taking damage.

Creatures will get stuck on the smallest of steps. Use this to your advantage.

Some creatures cannot be downed, even temporarily. These will require you to either perform the worst recreation of a Benny Hill sketch as you attempt to collect items and solve puzzles or devise a way to imprison them. In the first encounter of such enemies, there is a large area that can be blocked off with a force field. You can lure the two roaming horrors there and, if you time it right, trap them by running over to a nearby button and pressing it.

If you touch any of them, you will lose health. There are a number of single-use first aid kids scattered around which will refill your health bar located on the top left. These can be found attached to walls, though in later levels these may be replaced with alternatives like unappetising seaweed.

A recharge station to replenish your stun gun (left).
You'll want to hunt down all of the (slightly) better weapons (right).

You also have an air bar on the top right, which is used when diving underwater. In these sections, which you'll need all the right gear to get to, are slow-moving events. In the first one, which is optional, you can find a much-needed upgrade to your weapon, increasing its number of charges from 3 to 50. At the beginning of the next stage, you'll have to frantically gold the A key to swim up and reach a viaduct to enter the alien research station.

At the bottom of your screen, you can see your inventory. This can be scrolled left and right using the square bracket keys. There are a number of simple puzzles that will require good use of your random collection, but it's the plethora of keys and keycards that will get the most use, at least during the first level.

First aid kits refill your health (left) though the alien equivalent is a mountain of seaweed (right).

To the left of this is your life scanner. Whenever another lifeform is near, the gauge will increase accompanied by a grating beeping, static sound. To fair, this is quite useful as you have little else in which to assess your surroundings. On the far right is a log of conversations you've had over comms. Press P to repeat the highlighted one, or scroll through them with the semi-colon (;) and apostrophe (') keys.

These lines of dialogue are few and far between, making much of your adventure a solitary one. But when your partner does speak up, they offer some nice interactions between the two player characters. Depending on who you choose - Bud or Lindsey - they will swap roles. One will be the protagonist while the other your communications guide. They have some nice banter too, including one that shames me on my own lack of an exercise regimen. Most of the sparse story is garnered from these moments, although you can find some depressing VHS tapes in the rec-room. You'll have to find a working TV to play them though.

Actual maps for the second and third stages. Even without the multiple levels, 
they are insanely labyrinthine. Find the full set HERE.

While I like the idea of exploration, enemy dodging and weapon resource management, these go out the window by the second level. There are some basic tile puzzles here and there but the main feature is corridors, hallways and more corridors. Everything looks the same here, and there's a vast amount of square mileage to cover. After almost an hour of play, I got so lost, that I ventured into the very little online information this game has in search of a map. That map looks like a psychedelic cross between a Pollock splatter painting and a kaleidoscopic Rorschach test. How anyone is supposed to find their way around is anyone's guess. Sadly, there is no in-game map which would've alleviated the majority of The Abyss' design problems.

We may be in the middle of the great pause, but time still ticks and I gave up trying to get any further. The Abyss: Incident at Europe could have been an interesting title but it's stymied by undercooked design, graphics that were 5-years old even at the time and a thoughtless plot that obviously tried to cash in on Resident Evil's success. A far cry from the captivating sci-fi and pop-philosophy of the movie.



To download the game, follow the link below. This is a custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses  DxWind to run on modern systems. Read the ChamberNotes for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 219 Mb.  Install Size: 357 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download

Watch the Video Review here...



The Abyss: Incident at Europa is © Sound Source Interactive
The Abyss (the movie) is © Twentieth Century Fox
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

http://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2015/09/azraels-tear.html   http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/echo-night.html   http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/treasures-of-deep.html


14 comments:

  1. I remember playing this years back and completely forgetting it even exists. Thank you for providing this on the Collection Chamber even if it didn't age well at all compared to other contemporary survival horror-esque(be it fixed camera angle or FPS based ones like Realm Of The Haunting or Azreal Tear) games of the late 90's.

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    1. Completely agree. Those are far better choices for this kind of game.

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    2. People may put "Azreal" in the search bar and not find it here, and they may also forget to check the Action Adventure section, so I'll remind them that the correct spelling is "Azrael's Tear", as in the screenshot above.

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  2. Quite abysmal indeed.

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  3. As you know, there's a first time for everything, and that's exactly what happened when I discovered an intriguing thumbnail right below Biff's competently written review, which, by making a lively click at it in my role as a "first-timer" on this matter, directly guided me to YouTube's moving pictures and the herein featured review about the game dramatization of The Abyss universe. Which then again belongs to the Collection Chamber's Video Review segment that has been around already for some time, but about whose existence I first had to be led round by the nose in shape of the aforementioned link until I finally immersed myself in it. Mea culpa, Part II. ;-)

    And truly, Biff, it didn't take long at all until I felt reminded on those professionally recorded game review videos which could be found on a good few of German print game magazines' accompanying DVDs that I enjoyed so much during their heydays. And that is why it is no surprise that your self-created video dramaturgy consisting of well-chosen gameplay material and the wisely narrated words of your hundreds-of-words essay performed by that cool sounding voice of yours to whom I enjoy listening brought back those nice memories in a heartbeat.

    So, mission successfully accomplished, I'd say. Which in turn makes it a hard decision for me from now on if I should either read or hear you talking first. Well, at least it'll be one of the more enjoyable things in life to choose between. :-)

    Bye for now,
    Thomas

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    1. Thanks Thomas! I suggest you both read the review and watch the video. They tend to differ slightly due to their different mediums. Something that works in written form may not when spoken out loud and vice versa.

      In this instance, I wrote the video script first 'cos I was running out of time and the YouTube algorithm rewards consistancy. As such there are several rushed edits and silly mistakes in the script which I'm not too happy about (eg confusing the 'comma' for the 'apostrophe' key). A written review's far easier to correct.

      Either way, I'm glad you're enjoying them. Expect more to come!

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    2. Of course, I read and watch your creative works likewise; it was just a question with what precisely I'll be going to start in the future. Well, I think I'll take the traditional route by reading first, then watching (and listening). Best of three worlds, anyway. :-)

      I understand your little anger on clerical mistakes due to shortage of time all too well, because I tend to be a perfectionist in that field, too, regardless of the used language. So, if such a thing happened and the damage already has been done, I always strongly intend to do it better next time whilst reminding myself on my own established commandment that says: "No matter how great the hurry is, there always must be enough time left for final proofreading."

      Even more if there are no such things like second chances, as it can be seen with this message of mine. Once it is send, that's it then. Left with the hope to be spared of at least fatal linguistic and orthographic errors, as always. :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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  4. I've been caught out by the inability to edit here as well. I'm sure if editing was possible, the above post would soon have been fixed to say "reminding myself of" and "it is sent". Quel dommage.

    Maybe the voice in the video sounds "cool" to German ears, but that wouldn't have been my description... until I heard the snoring at 4:25! I think that settles the question of whether the written or video review is better.

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  5. Oops, wrong language. Was für eine Schande.

    Damn the lack of an edit button.

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    1. Haha, love your humour, James! Along with your not-so-secret-passion for correcting my language mistakes (no irony intended), and on which I insist, no matter if they came into being by wrong assumption (I almost could have sworn that reminding myself on would be correct here as well), or just by pure carelessness (of course, it is sent, silly me). Vive James, le roi de correcteurs d'épreuves! :-)

      Well, the tone and associated timbre that arises from Biff's vocal chords indeed sounds laid-back, fresh and hip to my ears. However, I am unable to assess his dialect, since my skills to compare slangs of Anglo-Saxons aren't pronounced beyond measure. All I can say is that he sounds British for sure, but it weren't so easy for me to tell from which part of the United Kingdom his dialect actually originates, if I wouldn't know better.

      Yeah, too bad this holy grail of a website doesn't offer the option for editing texts that have been already sent, which is out of the question due to the layout's technical limitations, I guess. But as far as you're concerned, James, maybe Biff will still implement a translation-on-the-fly for all your excellently German written sentences, so that not only a chosen few will be able to enjoy them at first reading. :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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  6. Prepositions are the trickiest words to get right in any language, and frankly, the least important. I bet even French people wouldn't have noticed that "le roi DES correcteurs d'épreuves" might be slightly better than your version with "de". Or would it? I'm not really sure. It doesn't matter.

    I can't honestly say whether the tone and timbre of that voice sounds cool or not. Your German ears are probably accurate. If Biff wants genuine feedback about his videos, he should read your opinions, not mine! Bear in mind that it is never possible for me to lavish fulsome praise on another bloke, because... because... doing that is a privilege reserved for men like you.

    I'm sure everyone here can read my German sentences, with the help of Google! (I did admit from the start of the New Year that I was writing mit Hilfe von Google.) If people don't know how Google can help them, they should learn. It's a marvel, just like the Babel Fish of Douglas Adams. (Never mind if you don't get that reference.) Anyway, bye for now. I'm looking forward to see what Biff meant by "Expect more to come!"

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  7. Interesting read about (yet) another PC game I've never heard of.

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