Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds – Prologue Review

Rascal Devworks’s upcoming commercial release of Sigh of the Abyss, a dark fantasy visual novel had seen a free-to-play prologue release back in April of last year, a teaser for its eventual full game release. It’s an extremely promising starting point for the product in question and is absolutely deserving of closer inspection.

We’ve been meaning to cover the title for some time now so without further ado here are our thoughts on Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds – Prologue.

A gorgeously intriguing world

Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds – Prologue is an introduction to the characters, world, lore and setting of Sigh of the Abyss. The full game is slated for release sometime in 2024. Considering that this is a prologue you will not be spending too long with it in order to experience all it has to offer. At around barely 2 hours long to 100% it which includes unlocking all CG and steam achievements Shadow Bonds succeeds in building up intrigue in wanting to learn more about its world and characters.

Without going too deep into it to retain said intrigue, the plot follows a heroine who is fortunately (or misfortunately) linked to the higher powers of its world – the Abyss. Being able to wield dark powers and hear ancient voices does her no good in avoiding the immediate fateful event that kickstarts her origin story. She encounters a young, troubled and helpless boy – Ornell, a fugitive mage.

Regardless of how you go about dealing with the sudden run-in and subsequent situation, its protagonist becomes interweaved with the boy’s fate; a curse befalls the two, linking them together by an invisible chain. It’s up to you to somehow be rid of the curse and break the chain – no matter what, unless you want an early death. But that begs the question of just how far you would go to save your own skin. Or does Ornell amount to more than your own life’s worth? In any case, think of the consequences.

Characters who already make a lasting impression

While its heroine is a really interesting protagonist (more on why that is shortly) the other significant characters of Sigh of the Abyss are just as promising. Comprising of folks of differing origins, ethnicities and sexualities makes the title not just inclusive but also further intriguing. In fact, many of the relationships we come to learn about have existed well before we embody the heroine which brings a spotlight on what brought them all together in the first place. It enriches the relationships that can further deepen, with the most obvious examples being of the romantic kind.

But what I find most remarkable about the game is the core relationship of the piece being between its heroine and companion Ornell. It’s a relationship that can also be somewhat shaped depending on how you react throughout the game and progress through its plot. As a title that can technically be called an otome if you’re playing it that way Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds’s focal relationship being between these two is as refreshing as they come.

It’s not a romantic one and instead lays down a solid foundation to the heroine’s arc and characterisation unlike anything I have seen in the genre before. It’s really enjoyable to experience to say the least because of how unique and different it is.

Unique gameplay features that compliment its intriguingly original world-building

There’s a lot to be excited about Sigh of the Abyss’s full release thanks to what we have to experience from the Shadow Bonds Prologue. Other than its incredibly aesthetically pleasing visuals being coherent throughout to further illustrate its darkly bewitching world, the title’s gameplay mechanics make this all the more appealing. Tailor the game to suit your own playstyle with its stats and personality customisation options. Upon starting the game you have several options to customise its heroine with. Select a name for her, which can be one of ten pre-generated ones or insert one of your own. Then select who you are open to romancing; men, women, both, or none at all.

The title’s budding system is therefor designed for both platonic and romantic relationship progression. It’s worth saying here and now that regardless of how optional the romance is in this prologue, it’s exactly only that. Shadow Bonds never trails away from being focused on its world and story more than anything else. Romance can and is obtainable here but it’s not the focus of the product.

There are additionally seven skill points in total to use when putting them into three Abyss talent traits; there’s physical prowess, shadow magic and mind control. Players also shape the heroine’s personality which is inspired by using a template based on the Four Humours of Hippocratic Medicine – Sanguine tends to be positive/outgoing, phlegmatic is more negative/measured, melancholic is sappy/emotional and choleric is pretty much sassy/dismissive.

These not only help players self-insert as its heroine but such stats all link to how compatible its heroine (and by extension the player) are with the responses that they have available to them in two ways. Firstly when bonding with its characters and secondly with the eventual possible process open to them in how to deal with the curse.

There’s also a nice bit of breathing room in the game’s lengthy, dialogue heavy moments with map movement segments scattered about. The game is still linear enough despite this feature being present because the shaping of the heroine’s personality, traits and available options is what steers you into the different variations in your playthrough. Said variations are plentiful considering the amount that are always locked in each and every possible choice players can make because your playstyle does not line up with every possible option. This makes for an already impressive amount of replay value for just a mere prologue.

Speaking of impressive the title also has an extensive codex despite it being just an appetiser. The foundation of its world is solid and intriguing, so much so that it’ll be one of the biggest reasons as to you will be wanting to see the end product come into fruition. That’s because much of the terminology and information vaguely presented in the game suggests of underlining happenings and foreboding events that its full release will almost undoubtedly return to and expand upon.

With all that said and done please consider giving Sigh of the Abyss: Shadows Bond – Prologue a go. It’s free-to-play after all. Be sure to check out the developer to stay up-to-date on news about the full game!

Lilia Hellal
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