Mere hours before the official end of GDC, I took my first real lap around the show floor to find Luna Abyss. As a shooting-focused action title, it’s not my typical indie but a couple of things draw me in. One, early glimpses I’ve caught of the game are unbelievably beautiful and I have to see if the real thing lives up to them. Two, every trailer thus far exudes the kind of haunting tone that often heralds an enthralling story. My time with the demo convinces me both elements are ready to deliver.
Confused and suddenly awake, I take my first steps as Fawkes. The name feels somewhat telling — its real-life bearer’s tale of capture and failed conspiracy is well-known. However, the game’s hero doesn’t seem to have done anything worthy of imprisonment on a strange world other than having red eyes.
Creative director Benni Hill was on hand to give me a little insight into what’s happening, though he is wary of giving away much. He explains the unusual astral body I now call home is a second moon that appeared in Earth’s orbit 250 years before the events of the game. Currently, it’s being used as a penitentiary for individuals branded with literal scarlet letters. Any unusual hint of red features earns you a one-way ticket to the ominous hunk of rock, and that’s where my adventure begins.
Platforming and environmental storytelling take center stage as I wander deeper into the abyss, traversing narrow platforms spanning unfathomable depths and rooms with hints of horrific tragedy. Even though a large portion of the landscape is covered with suspicious goo, every facet of the world is polished beyond belief. The trailers, I’m happy to find, didn’t oversell the game’s look.
As I play, the creative director talks about pulling inspiration from beloved story-based shooters and action-centric anime. From my time with the game, I got major Returnal, Control, and Portal vibes — all representing different aspects of the game and all blended together fantastically.
Returnal hits closest to what I experienced of Luna Abyss’ combat. There’s no doubt this is a modern-day bullet hell where the name of the game is avoiding enemies’ projectiles while returning fire. One of my favorite elements was the lock-on system, which keeps you trained on the target at all times. Curiously, Hill tells me this feature is the most controversial, with many shooter veterans preferring to trust in their own aim. Movement is also a big part of combat. Dodging homing blasts and dashing around the environment play a pivotal role in success, and Hill assures me that my traversal abilites will expand throughout the adventure.
Even from still of the early levels, it’s easy to see the Control-like splashes of read and sci-fi-inspired landscapes. But Luna Abyss also captures something of that game’s mystique. Something inexplicably terrifying slithers just under the surface, and I need to find out what it is.
However, the game isn’t all doom and gloom. My AI captor, named Aylin, is a peppy and persistent voice in my head. One of my favorite lines from the omnipresent jailer is the enthusiastic verbal pat on the back she gives me when I discover my first weapon, praising my go-getter attitude and resourcefulness in the face of otherwise certain death.
I didn’t get as much time as I wanted with Bonsai Collective’s upcoming title. I want to know more about what’s going on, why I’ve been imprisoned, and what awaits me in Luna Abyss‘ depths.