Abathor evokes the sword and sandal arcade games of yore
09.02.2024 - 23:41
The ’80s and early ’90s were a haven for a very specific type of arcade side-scroller. Ripped heroes brandished blades and vile wizards attempted to stop them at every turn, and that spirit is very much alive in Abathor, which is available to try out as part of Steam Next Fest.
Abathor comes from developer Pow Pixel Games, and upon firing the demo up I was whisked away to a world full of bold box art, Fabio’s hair blowing in the breeze. The demo conjures thoughts of games like Rastan, Magic Sword, or even Turbografx-16 adventure Legendary Axe.
The nostalgic journey offers four playable adventurers to choose from as you embark upon what certainly appears to be an epic quest, from blustery beaches to massive seafaring vessels and treacherous forests. There’s enemies abound in each sample stage, all ready to be hacked, slashed, and, in some cases, soul-sucked to oblivion.
I played through the demo once with the thief-like Kritias and gave the other three a spin to see how they all differed. Each has a unique secondary ability beyond the basic attack. There’s Crantor, a sword-wielding warrior with an additional power attack, and Sais — a similarly imposing woman able to parry enemy blows. Kritias, my pick of the bunch, has a mean Crescent Slash that slices upward.
Then there’s Azaes, maybe the most interesting of the quartet. He can slash and dash like the others, but he also uses Soul Plunder to power up a meter that gives his sword flame attributes. Dashing with juice in the meter lets you blast through enemies with a fiery aura. Otherwise, you just have a standard dash that leaves you open to attacks.
The action itself is fairly straightforward, which is certainly nothing to complain about at this point. You venture forth at a somewhat meandering pace, in the lumbering tradition of the sub-genre, cutting away methodically at every enemy standing in your path. That path is also lousy with treasure chests, offering up plenty of loot and health to keep you going and give you some cash to burn at the local merchant.
Bosses await at the end of certain stages, starting with a massive kraken that slams down its tentacles and fires off bounding balls of energy. I didn’t get a chance to try out the co-op — which supports up to four players — but it seems like it would bring everything that much closer to the inspirations behind it.
Abathor is visually impressive in a way more subtle than the sea of others like it. The camera pulls back just far enough to put more of a focus on the full picture rather than each individual character or enemy sprite. It ends up being more about the atmosphere, not just individual quirks.
That picture really comes together, too, as huge waves crash upon Atlantean shores in a