Day 124: Abaddon

Posted: 2011/03/13 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #124, and today’s game is “Abaddon”.

Way back on day 41 I reviewed a game called “Starchon”. Abaddon is a similar style of game, in that it’s a cross between an space combat action and tower defence. Now, tower defence haters (you know you’re out there), don’t click on to the next review quite yet, because this game can be played as action-oriented as you want, or as tower defence-ish as you want.

First, from the developer:

“Are you ready to experience EPIC space battles against enormous enemy fleets over XBox Live? If so, then Abaddon is in need of pilots like you! This game mixes tower-defense strategy with fast-paced-shooter intensity. Choose from 4 upgradeable ships, 5 weapons, and 7 abilities as you defend Abaddon in 3 unique game modes. Supports 4-player networked co-op, and 2-player local co-op.”

The game puts you in control of a starfighter, and charged with the defence of the carrier Abaddon. Similar to a game I reviewed way back on Day 33, “Sol Invasion”, you have the option of playing it as action-oriented as you want, or as strategically as you want. In Sol Invasion the decision was whether to spend your resources building up your fleet (and, if so, whether you built fighters or capital ships), or whether you simply massively upgraded your ship and tried to take on all the enemies yourself. In Abaddon, you have the choice between upgrading your fighter, upgrading your carrier, or both. Spend more time upgrading the turrets on your carrier, and it becomes much like a tower defence game. Spend more on your fighter, and it’s more like an action game.

There was an unexpected “crafting” element to the game. After successful missions you will be granted a power orb that, when equipped on your carrier, improves it in some way (such as increasing the rate at which its shields, or its power level, recharges), but get enough orbs and you have the option to start combining them into more powerful ones, which is very useful because you can equip a limited number at any one time. These persist from one play through to the next, in a “new game plus” manner, allowing you to make your carrier more powerful, and play through the game again.

This combination of action and tower defence seems to be all the rage. As mentioned before, Starchon and Sol Survivor both have elements like this. So too does the XBLA hit Toy Soldiers. There’s a new game from Double Fine Entertainment coming called Trenched that also has this action combined with tower defence focus. So what sets Abaddon apart?

Well, I would actually argue that both Abaddon and Starchon have strengths in this regard. Starchon has the interesting element that combat is taking place in all sectors of the game at all time, and (once you get past the training levels) you have the ability to jump to wherever you think your leadership is most needed in turning the tide of the battle. Abaddon is a linear game compared to that, but Abaddon has some battles that are impressive in scope, has online play, and (much appreciated by me) three control systems, each one a more realistic of Newtonian physics than the last. The harder settings of the controls completely de-couple thrust and turning, giving you the ability to simply use momentum to your advantage in a way that’s realistic to how space actually operates. The space geek in me appreciates that (more Star Fury from Babylon 5 than X-Wing from Star Wars, and while both are cool in their own way the more realistic physics touch a chord with me).

Combat takes place on a top-down, Star Control-esque fashion that serves the game well by simplifying the controls and letting the player focus more on the strategy and/or combat (as per their preference).

The singleplayer is short, but the multiplayer helps make up for it (including local co-op where one person flies while another person shoots, and online co-op with four people piloting fighters in the defence of the Abaddon carrier), but at the very reasonable price of 80 Microsoft Points and with new game+ for extra replay value I found that quite forgiveable.

If you have a space combat and/or strategy itch that you need to take care of, Abaddon is recommended for those who appreciate multiplayer and more realistic space physics, but with a special mention for Starchon with its innovative non-linear gameplay and much longer story mode for those who are singleplayer focused.

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  1. For some strange reason, I wrote this article yesterday but it was attributed to March 8th when I hit “Post”. Very strange. I corrected the day just now when I noticed it was nearly halfway down the front page.

  2. Dave says:

    The sequel Abaddon: Retribution is much better. It includes an actual campaign and more weapons, ships and upgrades.

    • It’s on my list of things to pick up some day down the road. I decided I wanted both of them so I could play all the scenarios (the sequel doesn’t appear to have all the content from the first game), and since they were $1 each this hardly seemed an unreasonable proposition. :)

  3. Dave says:

    The scenarios are just the different multiplayer modes (which can of course be played singleplayer too) and the sequel has all of them.

    • I’ll make a point of trying the sequel sooner than I planned then. I’m not exactly crying about spending 80 unnecessary Microsoft Points to support an indie developer, however! :)

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