Made in Abyss is a series that has both a manga as well as anime that spans over 11 volumes, 23 episodes, and 3 movies at this time. This charming looking anime looks fluffy at first, but as you dive into the nitty gritty you realize there are many dark and mature themes as well as deep storylines. On September 2nd, 2022 Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness was released, a video game based on this series and exploration of the aforementioned Abyss. Is this just another anime game flop? Or does this game have promise?
Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness features two different stories for you to sink into. The first is named “Hello Abyss”. If you have watched the first season of the anime or read the manga, this story follows that beat.
You play as Riko, an orphan who resides and works at Belchero Orphanage which is located in the city surrounding the opening to the Abyss called Orth. Her work is as a cave raider, people who brave the Abyss to explore and find rare artifacts. She is a Red Whistle, the lowest rank cave raider, who after receiving a mysterious letter decides to delve to the bottom of the Abyss.
The second, named “Deep in Abyss”, follows you playing as your own original character that you create and name. You are an orphan who joins Belchero Orphanage a few months after the events in “Hello Abyss”. You are described as having determined eyes, being a child (presumably 12), and having the goal of reaching the bottom of the Abyss. Your motivations are never explored past this (most likely for role play purposes) and you progress through the Whistle Ranks with the ultimate goal of becoming a White Whistle.
The story for “Hello Abyss” was nothing new for me as I have watched the first season of the anime and all 3 movies. Seeing it adapted into video game form was interesting though, as they had to adapt the story to a quest system and to the gameplay. I love the anime story so there is no surprise that I liked the story here despite there being nothing new.
The story for “Deep in Abyss” is the new original story. All I can say is I was not surprised at how things turned out and could foresee some things coming, but that most likely is due to my familiarity with the series.
The story fits well and is believable as a story that could have happened within the universe, even if it does come off as a bit fanfiction-esque at times with your character progressing a crazy amount for their age. It was funny when I thought about how I was a higher Whistle rank than my teacher and I was only 12, and thus technically his superior after a few promotions.
One critique I do have is the story is not paced very well. A lot of it is front-loaded into Red Whistle rank, and after that you get very few sparse story quests that direct you to do anything other than “explore Abyss layer x”. While this allows you to focus on exploring and not feel compelled to rush the story, it does also make Red Whistle feel like it lasts forever with little gameplay compared to other ranks.
This game is a survival exploration game. You must manage a health bar and a fullness (hunger) bar while delving in the Abyss and using materials to craft. This leads to inventory management being an important part of the game also, as you only have a certain amount of weight you can carry.
Exploration is the core gameplay of Binary Star Falling into Darkness. During your time in the game, the main draw is to the Abyss, the titular place. This giant chasm is still mostly unexplored, and thus lures an adventurer such as yourself! You walk, climb, and use rope and other tools to open new paths and explore as deep as you can go.
You can explore up to 13000 meters deep, which is to the end of the 5th layer. During this time the biomes are varied, from a nice green starting layer that resembles meadows to an upside down forest and even a biome that resembles a tundra. There are unique enemies in each biome, as well as loot to find that makes each biome feel fresh.
It was fun to explore each layer, being able to go through places I saw in the anime was fun and it felt like I was in the series. The areas felt different enough from layer to layer and even area to area that the first time through I was genuinely curious and wanted to explore. A lot of smallfry enemies are recycled with various types, but the “mini boss” enemies are all unique and recognizable from the series which is awesome for fans. Even if you aren’t a fan of Made in Abyss, I feel confident exploration will be enjoyable to you.
Another big mechanic of exploration is the curse of the Abyss, or the curse. After ascending a certain amount of distance, your character will start to experience the curse. Depending on what layer you are in, the effects of the curse can range from vomiting to bleeding from every orifice and losing sense of yourself. This manifests in losing fullness rapidly, losing health, and being unable to see your character or hotbar. This can be avoided by ascending at a pace, usually stopping before getting to a certain range and waiting until the curse stops affecting you before beginning to ascend again. This adds another layer of challenge of trying to explore without having the curse ruin your resources.
LEVELS AND THE SKILL TREE
When playing “Deep in Abyss”, you start at level 1 and gain levels through acquiring experience from doing quests and turning in relics you find during your dives. Every level you gain stats in the form of HP, attack, and defense, but most critically you also receive a skill point.
The game features a skill tree with three different sections. These are Survival, Cave Raiding, and Crafting. You can customize what you want to focus on in this way by putting points in what you find useful versus what you think you want to go without.
I really enjoy this kind of system in the game. If you grind enough you could feasibly obtain all the skills, however your average gamer most likely will not and thus have to make strategic choices on what to take and what to bypass. Do you take a skill that gives you more cooking recipes, or the skill that makes it so you can eat while climbing? I enjoy having the choice in the game and it is fun to see how the skills can change how you raid.
Besides skill points limiting what you can take, there is also your Whistle Rank.
Whistle Rank is how progression is marked in the story, due to how the story is sectioned off. You start gameplay as a Red Whistle, who is only authorized to raid in the First Layer of the Abyss. There are 5 different ranks, each with a quest to promote to that rank. Each rank allows you to delve further into the Abyss and also unlock more tiers on your skill tree. It also unlocks fast travel to and from different layers depending on what rank you are.
I think the system works nicely as it helps you to pace your exploration of the Abyss as well as ensure you don’t get overwhelmed too early by too many things. If I could wander in and out of the lower layers as a Red Whistle you bet I would, but I am sure that I would not have had a good time and the Whistle Ranks help to deter getting yourself in to a messy situation with that monster you thought you were ready for but aren’t.
Crafting in this game is simple, you just get the necessary materials, click on what you want to make and voila! The item is now in your inventory. Where the depth comes in is from the materials you need as well as how many skill points you put in to crafting and/or cooking. The more points, the stronger and more complex things you can make and cook. Also generally the rarer the material you need will be.
I don’t really have any strong opinions on the crafting system, I sometimes wish the game had a function to tell you how to obtain certain materials but other then that it is your run of the mill crafting system. If you like crafting you will like this, but if you were looking for innovation that is not here. And that’s OK, don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to.
Combat in this game is very shallow. In the end, it boils down to knowing the pattern of the enemy and dodging and whacking away. And by end game I was so powerful I could usually tank and kill any enemy before it could kill me so I wouldn’t even have to do that much. A lot of times even dodging is pointless, as you can simply walk away or run away to dodge most attacks. The combat is definitely a low point for me in this game.
THE STORY GAMEPLAY DIFFERENCES
There are many differences between “Hello Abyss” and “Deep in Abyss”. This is mostly due to the fact that “Hello Abyss” is set up to be a tutorial. It teaches you how to play the game. This is done with quests that task you to do things as well as infographic cards that explain how to do the thing. Weapon durability is explained to you but is not actually in effect in Hello Abyss, and resource management as well as inventory management is generally easier. Additionally, Riko is set to level 5, meaning that you do not have to worry about experience or the skill tree. She automatically has anything you would find necessary to complete “Hello Abyss” unlocked. This is the reason why when you boot up the game the first time it will recommend you to play Riko’s story first, besides it canonically taking place before “Deep in Abyss” and knowing who Riko is and her back story helps with lore in “Deep in Abyss”.
GRAPHICS AND MUSIC
The graphics are pretty run of the mill for an anime video game, which is not to say it looks bad. It just has a particular look that people either love or think looks goofy. I happen to think the look fits this game perfectly, with how the anime and manga are illustrated and such.
Sadly it seems the game does suffer from being on the Nintendo Switch. Graphical glitches and quality drops were common, and sometimes it was downright hard to see in fog and what have you. Frame drops happen also, especially if a lot of enemies spawn near you.
The music is mostly non memorable. I felt like I could have played without the background music and been fine, I didn’t particularly think the music added to anything nor did it take away. The Abyss music is relaxing to delve to, but I also would listen to my own Playlist while playing. The opening song sung by the CVs for the main cast is a bop though, and the ending credits song is also nice.
The Switch version of the game does have bugs. Most of them are not egregious, just noticeable and look funny such as my legs being backwards at the knee when I crawl through a particular passageway or the occasional graphical glitch that shows lights on the right side of the screen. There were two bugs that truly bothered me, one affected me gameplay wise and the other was audio.
The first bug was I got stuck in a falling animation in a crack for a rock I had to push over a ledge, and after trying everything I could think of to get out of the crack and falling animation I had to give up and restart from the last checkpoint. It was annoying as I lost quite some progress in the area I was in as I was almost near the exit. I generally avoided any cracks after this to be sure this didn’t happen again, so I am unsure if there are other instances of this.
The second is an audio bug that happened after I attained Moon Whistle rank. Everyone sounded like they were speaking on a blown out speaker. As someone who enjoys listening to the voice acting, it was really off-putting for me. It was fixed after this, and doesn’t necessarily affect gameplay, but it did bother me.
All in all Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness was a pleasant surprise. I definitely went into this game thinking that I would not like it as I usually think games based on anime/manga struggle, but this one was fun. The exploration kept me engaged but the combat and story pacing could have used some work. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who loves Made in Abyss, but I would be more cautious recommending it to anyone who isn’t an anime fan.
Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness gets a 6/10.