Pow Pixel games finally presents Abathor. With this demo we can finally understand the true potential of this game. Here are our thoughts on it.

Abathor: Demo Available on Steam

A while ago we talked about Abathor, although we only had images and concept art about it. Despite the little information, the potential of a game that wanted to pay homage to the old glories of arcade cabinets could be perceived. Only by analyzing the trailer could we deduce the strong arcade roots to which the game is linked. The pixel art, character designs, gameplay, and eight-way joystick controls are just the tip of the iceberg. An honorable mention goes to the level design: full of traps, verticality and excellent and varied artistic and gameplay ideas.

Finally with the demo we can have clearer ideas and go deeper with the analysis. Let’s try to understand how Abathor works and what it wants us to understand from its gameplay.

Pixel Art and Soundtrack

I usually never start analyzing a game by talking about its look and feel. For Abathor, however, I feel like making an exception. The graphical style takes the player into the past, especially if they are quite old like me. The many gamers like me who grew up on “bread and arcades” will surely feel the love that the developers have had for their game. The graphics are essential but undoubtedly effective. It focuses on the fundamental parts of the character sprites and at the same time gives a very detailed and well-kept environment. As if that weren’t enough, the soundtrack is of excellent quality. The level music is truly epic and very well written. Thanks to these arrangements, the player is able to immerse himself even more in the world of Abathor.

The 4 Heroes

I won’t dwell too much on the lore and character descriptions. For this information, I refer you to the first article written about it. The 4 characters available have different characteristics and different special attacks. The barbarian has a strong slash that drives him forward and the ability to roll to avoid enemy attacks. The Valkyrie can parry. With the right timing and only against certain enemies we can block their attacks and have a window for a counterattack. In addition to this, it has a dash that allows you to approach or avoid enemy attacks.

The class that comes closest to the rogue (assassin), is the most mobile and perhaps the most effective to play solo. His attacks are very fast and have less commitment than other heroes. It has a special attack that strikes up and also gives a window of invulnerability, as well as a dash that can avoid bullets.

The last character is the sorcerer. Very particular class because it has an energy bar to be filled with the use of its special ability. Once filled her attacks will be more effective and her dash will also do damage.

Although all the characters are all stereotypes of the classics of the genre, the work done by the developers is appreciable. In fact, the differences are not only aesthetic but also of gameplay. Each character has his own way of tackling the levels and overcoming them, thanks to his own characteristics and abilities.

Loot is Power

The most important mechanics of Abathor move on two fundamental points: the loot and the co-op.

The ability to have up to 4 players at the same time is one of the key features of the game. Since the trailer we have noticed the attention given by the developers to this feature. This element is closely linked to the loot and its importance.

Every enemy will drop something and the levels are filled with chests. Gathering treasures is essential for enhancing your character and getting the better of your allies.

In fact, once a level is completed all the treasures will be collected in an altar made of orichalcum. A material created by the ancients, who will reward us with power-ups.

We could get bonuses to weapon damage, critical, luck or health. In order to deal with the next levels and enemies more effectively.

Level Design and Ideas

Abathor‘s level design draws heavily on classic 80s/90s arcade games. The verticality of the levels and the arrangement of the chests makes it clear the importance that is given to loot and treasures. The aesthetics of the levels are fascinating and well cared for, with settings and a platforming that will put even veterans of the genre to the test. Each level has ideas and little secrets inside. There will be no shortage of illusory walls and secrets with which to interact. There are also stages of platforming and traps to avoid. In the second level, by completing an event, we will be able to obtain a boost for the character. We will get new armor, a new aesthetic and new moveset. Note the great care of the developers who have created a different aesthetic and gameplay for each character.

Honorable mention to the boss fight against the giant Kraken: challenging and readable, even if sometimes frustrating.

Balance and Quality of Life

Of course, the game also brings with it all the problems of this genre. While meant to be played in company, the classes and their abilities aren’t particularly balanced. The assassin turns out to be the best performing class, thanks to its speed and moveset. The AI ​​of the enemies is very basic, as befits the genre, unfortunately some mid bosses can be cheesed very easily. As per tradition, the deadliest enemies are flying creatures. Crows and bats are insidious and could end your game very fast. The presence of character knockback after taking damage can be fatal. Although it is a classic of the genre, it is now a mechanic perhaps to be reviewed.

Like the arcade classics Abathor hits the player hard. We have an energy bar which once finished leads to the end of the game. There are no checkpoints, so you repeat the level from the beginning. Moreover, once the credits are over, you get the game over and regardless of the path taken, you start all over again.

I personally don’t know if the latter is a good idea. I believe that in 2023 a little quality of life does not spoil the gaming experience, especially if it refers to the old arcade mechanics.

In essence, is there to wait for Abathor? I would say yes! The demo demonstrated the expertise and passion of the developers, and if they fix some flaws we could have a really interesting game.

I'm a musician (pianist), a nerd and a longtime manga lover. My gamer life started with a copy of Pitfall (1982) for Atari 2600, and so I grew up hand to hand with this medium until now. Later I started to look for what's behind the final product, its design and what happens behind the scenes of the video game world.