Genre: Action, Turn-Based Tactics, Dungeon Crawler
System: Steam (Windows & Linux)
Developer|Publisher: D20 Studios | Whisper Games
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £24.99 | US $29.99 | € 29,99
Release Date: May 11th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Games Branding.
Set the Table for Game Night
Abalon is a top-down dungeon-crawling roguelike with a little card mechanics and dice rolling mixed in. The game was formerly known as Summoners Fate when I covered it during its venture into Early Access. Now it has reached its final release in a brave window when a popular Nintendo IP is released.
Abalon has a very familiar feel with its fantasy setting. Still, there are plenty of quirks to the dungeon-crawling formula to create an addictive gameplay experience that I highly recommend. Especially if you’re a fan of tabletop games.
Roll the Dice
Taking on a run of Abalon feels like embarking on an epic quest of adventure and fortune. Feeling similar to sitting down to an interactive version of Dungeons and Dragons since you’re not sure what will await you once you embark on the quest to seek out the boss on a generously sized map. Before you embark, you can pick your character from two (provided you complete the tutorial), each with its own appearance and perks. More characters are gradually unlocked as you meet certain milestones throughout the quest. You can then pick your starting biome. A very welcome feature to roguelikes which usually see you repeat the same tedious starting level over and over. You can pick from a variety of settings like forests or castles, if you prefer, you can select random and just let the fates decide.
After that, you’re dropped into the randomly generated map, and the hunt for the boss begins. All rooms on the map are blacked out, so you’re not quite sure what to expect when you enter a new room except for some vague hints on your trusted map. Many rooms will feature some form of battle, but you may be greeted with a random event where a dice roll is required. This might include attempting to rescue a captive creature or more unusual surprises like joining a goblins party. In some circumstances, you may be able to buy your way out of the situation, but often a roll of the D20 dice is needed.
As you explore the map, you can collect D20 dice, and when it comes to one of these dice rolls, you can choose how many to add to the pool, increasing your probability of success. The higher the roll, the more likely the success and only one dice needs to roll high for the best outcome. This mechanic may not work for some gamers looking to rely more on their skill alone, but I really liked it, even if it meant things didn’t always end well for me.
Combat and Difficulty
Combat is turn-based. The game allows for either mouse or a controller, but I found the mouse the much preferable way to enjoy this game. With this method, there is less faffing around looking for the right button as you essentially click where you want to go and what you want to do.
Each of the characters in your party is given a chance to move and possibly attack if in range of the enemy. If you have enough mana, you can spend this on any cards you have in your deck. This could include summoning a new temporary ally or activating a devastating spell. There is a lot of planning and strategy to each battle, given that authentic tabletop feel.
Experimentation is very much encouraged, and if things go totally wrong, you can use the undo button to place you a few turns back to attempt to correct your mistake. If you enter a room where things look a little too hot or difficult (something the game will warn you about), you can choose to back out to return later once you are better equipped or still take the risk.
Getting into this genre of game can have a high barrier of entry for newbies. However, thanks to a bite-size tutorial and reminder prompts, Abalon does an excellent job of settling you into the complexity of its many mechanics. If you choose, you can have the game constantly remind you what certain pickups do and battle mechanics. Then once you’re comfortable, you can switch them off.
Abalon also offered multiple difficulty options for novice and more advanced players. So there is a roguelike experience here for you, depending on how much spice you want to be added to the experience. On top of all this, a satisfying feature is you can quit and save the game absolutely anywhere. So if you have one of those moments where you get called away by a small child needing some cuddles, you can quickly exit the game with all progress intact and return later when suited.
If you’re looking for a quick turn-based fix, you can try a quick 3vs3 battle in the menu, which usually only takes a few minutes compared to the hours you may spend in Adventure mode. There are silly amounts of characters to meet and cards to unlock. Each biome even has lore to collect if you want to learn a bit more about the background. Abalon is easily a game to keep you busy for months, if not longer, if it hooks you.
Look to the Heavens
Abalon adopts a simple hand-drawn graphic art style but not without its little charms. While the environments feel basic, the game has this delightful tabletop feel to the whole experience. It’s like you are gazing down at the board whilst interactive figures play out your every command.
Characters, both friend and foe, have a comical friendly feel which is suitable for all audiences. I loved how your hero will look towards the player for guidance as you plan your moves. But if you feel awkward by the hero glaring at you, the developers have made it optional to switch this off. One wonders if this is due to feedback during early access. I became further immersed in the run thanks to the game’s epic soundtrack, which made me feel like I was embarking on the most epic of quests. Playing on PC, I experienced no issues with performance with no significant glitches to note.
Conclusion: Game Night Sorted
Abalon is an excellent package that brings the excitement of the tabletop experience without the need for a big table or friends, for that matter. Some may find the difficulty spikes a bit unfair in places with its battles and unfair dice rolls. But for me, this only added to the excitement of the experience.
Anyone that has ever sat down for a night of tabletop gaming may recall you can have the worst run possible, but so long as you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter. And I had a lot of fun with Abalon. On appearance, it feels like another familiar fantasy dungeon crawler, yet its attention to its gameplay makes this a wondrous experience to play through. Abalon will whisk you away on an excursion for however much time you can spare.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up
Check out the free demo on Steam if you want to have a taste of an epic quest.
I love tactical turn based dungeon crawlers and tabletop RPG’s, this definitely has me interested if they nerfed the difficulty and the dice rolls had better RNG.
Hi! Just wondering: is this an expression of concern based on the article, or feedback based on having tried the game itself? I’m asking because there is a “novice” difficulty level to make things easier. As far as dices, you can add as many as you have in store. You can back out of most fate encounters if you feel that you don’t have enough dices yet to maximize your chances, and come back later.