Binary Star Falling into Darkness

Posted: September 2

Product received for free

Made in Abyss is a fantastic anime, one of my recent favorites. So I was pleasantly surprised to see this pop up on Steam, the series has the potential for a fun video game.

Note: Summarized review to fit Steam, check video for full version!

Gameplay

Given the atrocity that was the Re:ZERO game developed by the same studio, I expected just another straightforward VN-adventure hybrid. Binary Star is much more than that though. There are still VN segments, but the gameplay takes priority here and there is a full slate of stuff to play around with.

Crafting food and equipment, using various tools to get around, taking in the many different areas of the Abyss, unlocking abilities on the skill tree, hunting down artifacts – it is a much higher-end production than I was anticipating and the studio has done a great job building a solid foundation.

Game Loop

Unfortunately though, that is just the foundation, because the game takes a massive dive in quality once you get to how the actual loop works. Instead of evoking that feeling of exploration and wonder that one would expect to come with diving into the Abyss, the overall feeling I had was one of monotony. This is because the vast majority of quests are simple fetch quests, “go here and kill this” quests, or “go here, talk to this person, and come back” quests.

You would think, “okay, but these fetch quests give you an opportunity to explore the Abyss” and yeah, you would be partially right. The problem there though is that once you’ve seen an area a few times, it becomes a bit boring to head back there for the fifth, sixth time to do something menial like collecting five bird eggs or fishing for material to craft a certain dish.

This becomes especially annoying later on when you have to trek through like four or five different areas just to get to your objective only to have to trek all the way back at the end. I quickly realized I was spending roughly 90% of my time just getting to where I needed to be and that most of that time was spent trekking through the same areas that I had already crossed through in the previous five quests. This is the bulk of the Binary Star experience and it is a massive disappointment given the great base that the game starts with.

Little things add to this disappointment too. Item weight, limited backpack size, equipment durability, and the fact that if you run out of stamina your character literally stops in place until the stamina bar regens to full. Sure, there’s an excuse for realism to be made there, but this is an anime game and a lot of these mechanics are blatantly anti-fun.

Combat

The combat is the most dead simple thing ever, with your one button attacks that only expand beyond that with the skill tree that just makes the combo string longer. The lock-on is a bit finicky, the hitboxes are usually way larger than they appear, and most fights boil down to simply hitting an enemy a couple times, rolling to the side, and repeating.

Story & Game Modes

The game is basically divided into two parts: “Hello Abyss” and “Deep In Abyss”. The former is the “proper” story mode that tells the story from the anime and allows you to play as Riko and Reg. That said, the entire thing only adapts up to the survival training with Ozen – episode eight from the first season – and it took me just three hours to clear. I found this mode to be a vastly inferior method of telling the Made in Abyss story for what it does adapt.

After completing that mode though, you unlock the full experience: Deep in Abyss – or the game mode that most of my earlier complaints come from. This mode allows you to create a custom character and tells an original story with said character. Sounds cool, but the story itself is just there to link things together and isn’t really a strong point. The rest of it is as I described earlier.

Graphics & Music

The graphics are what I would expect from an early PS4 or even PS3 game, with bland textures and boring world design. The music is a bit better, but honestly nothing can compare to Kevin Penkin’s work in the anime and I guess I’m just disappointed that we couldn’t get something that at least tries to be that good.

PC Performance

I ran the game at 4k 144fps, max settings on my RTX 3080 Ti with no performance-related issues. That said, there are some bugs worth mentioning, including voice playback randomly stopping after alt+tabbing and NPCs getting stuck in the terrain when moving. That latter one happened A LOT and it comes with an equally annoying sound effect of someone rapidly hitting the ground.

Overall

Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness is a decent game bogged down by some incredibly tedious quest design. Exploring the Abyss can be fun, but not when you have to do so dozens of times in the same areas just to complete simple fetch quests. It’s a shame, because the studio did a fairly good job building up a solid foundation. It’s just that they didn’t know what to do with said foundation and we get a filler-stuffed experience as a result. Maybe one day we’ll get something to build on this base, but for now, Binary Star is unfortunately an easy pass.

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