It’s been about a month and a half since I decided to stop playing a game after investing enough time in it in order to form a solid enough opinion for a review. Yet after about five hours with Valdis Story: Abyssal City, I reached a point where I do not wish to continue playing, and feel the need to justify to myself why I did not find this game to be all that enjoyable. If that sounds a bit odd, consider the concept of somebody going out of their way to transcribe their opinions and place them on a website they’ve spent time customizing.
Valdis Story: Abyssal City Review
Developer/Publisher: Endless Fluff Games
The story of Valids Story is one that had me more than a morsel bit confused from the very beginning. Involving some sort of large war involving humans, angels, and demons, or so I think. It is the kind of plot that when looking upon the narrative synopsis on its Steam page I felt as if it could be applied to another game entirely, not that the story is as important as its inclusion in the title may imply, as it more or less acts as justification for somebody falling into an underwater city with their crew scattered and one of them likely becoming a breed of mastermind near the end. Which is my way of saying I would expect it to be a rather basic plot on top of that. Not that it is particularly poorly written or anything, but the fact that I had no idea where I was beyond wandering likely says something about the way it was told.
Though that is far from the major detractor I found when playing the game, though the ability to skip through dialog before it was even done scrolling is rather odd regardless. Instead Valdis Story’s, in my opinion, missteps are in regards to the combat system. Now, I’m not necessarily good at games as I spent my formative years playing games on easy or with the assistance of a cheat device because I was scared of failure, but what I was presented felt like a clunky mess. A term I do not wish to use lightly, so allow me to criticize nearly every ability.
You balance a set of light and heavy strikes that never felt all that good when I attempted and failed to piece together combos. A dash that is very oddly maintained, with the scenario of me ramming into an enemy futile mashing RB in order to pass through them being a far too common result of my absent mindedness towards a dense HUD. A set of customizable direction sensitive magic spells that are gradually introduced, through the fact that some of them are either necessary for many areas or just replenish your health makes half of the options more or less moot. A super mode that boosts damage, heals you up, and even throws in a finisher that in itself is customizable. Along with what I can only describe as an overbearing amount of equipment that is in itself upgradable, and the ability to summon an ally, though I nearly always forget that the ability exists, as it felt stapled on and is also expanded far more than I can view as necessary, though I believe the game’s Kickstarter had something to do with that.
I could go on about the skill trees being a bit on the odd side with their sense of progression. Equipment upgrades being scarce and stat based level boosts being miniscule as far as I could see. Or the crafting system seeming a bit on the unnecessary side of things, but I feel as if the way the game handles the exploration is one of its worst aspects. In short, the game is fairly linear aside from this and that hidden item that varies in terms of actual usefulness, while not being very enjoyable to traverse the world and backtrack through it. Enemies are relentless due to their ability to damage you with little to not recovery window and the jumping never seemed to click for me as I kept on falling around the massive rooms the game often places you in.
Then there is the map, which is conveniently mapped to a shoulder button, but does very little in terms of detailing if there are secrets in a given area. Sure, there is a degree of color coding in place, but that does not pertain to the actual contents of the room in any way I could fathom upon going through nearly every area available to me at least thrice. Yet, due to the massive amount of resources needed in order to craft and upgrade equipment you will possibly never touch, grinding on enemies seems to be required to a certain degree. If it were, it would certainly explain what made me drop the game about five minutes away from a proper save room, the boss battles.
I would hesitate to describe the bosses as challenging as much as they are obnoxious and requiring a certain finesse that I was unable to obtain. As looking at footage of “proper” players, they were able to execute far longer combos as they dominated fights that felt like restart heavy slogs of determination and healing in the corner. The former can be attributed to a ranking system, which I personally dislike more every single time I come across them, while the later can be blamed on much of what I previously banged on about. They felt like damage sponges in my experience and were not helped by how I always felt rather crappily for getting a mere A rank, as the elusive S rank would surely offer a better game specific reward that could only be gained by grinding on enemies I enjoy battling as much as one would expect from the way this review is going.
So I stopped after a boss whose design I can barely recall, which acts as a very convenient way for me to move into criticizing the visuals. While the game certainly has the necessary amount of visual detail and finesse to warrant much of the praise that it has received in what I used as research before buying it, the end result failed to come across as noteworthy to me. With the most memorable aspect being how the character I selected to play as was a platinum blonde when part of the plot is that she is one of the few without white hair.
Valdis Story feels like the type of game I am simply not giving a proper chance to, but after nearly dropping the title three times, I feel that my opinions have been cemented. Maybe it is due to the incredibly high standards I hold for any game that is compared to Symphony of the Night and have certain expectations for all games comparing themselves to Metroidvania or using such a term as their description. Yet, the very clunky set up of Valdis Story and visuals that went along with it felt like a fleshed out browser game that while fun to a certain extent, is not especially well made. I always feel a bit bad when being less than glowing to the little guy, but Valdis Story just simply wasn’t fun to play, and that is the ultimate handicap for a game to have.