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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Apotheon Game Review: A Brutal Ancient Greek Art Game



We've seen this story before. A simple man versus the gods and insurmountable odds. Apotheon strips this ancient story to its very bones and what results is a very simple plot which is easy to follow. Story isn't Apotheon's bread and butter and it understands that by limiting story to brief conversations which serve to give you objectives to accomplish. This is an admirable trait as players who play Apotheon will do it for the bloody gameplay. Basically, the gods have abandoned humanity, causing death and destruction on Earth and Nikandreos with the help of Zeus' wife Hera, in an act of betrayal, plot to kill and dethrone the gods in hopes to save the world from destruction. Nikandreos, in part, is a very one dimensional character. He is for the most part, silent, and follows missions without question. Despite that, the game succeeds at letting the player feel the gradual improvement in strength of the protagonist the more he acquires powers from the gods he had slain.If you need more out of the story, the game provides very brief pieces of lore in the form of tablets scattered throughout the world however, Apotheon doesn't do a good job of making you feel the need to read more about its lore. They contain various information about the symbols or statues you see throughout the game, which are interesting but do not add that much to the experience. To those really into Greek mythology, there is a lot to read up on in the game. I still felt for Nikandreos despite all these little complaints albeit in a very basic way.
Greek painting come to life
The gameplay is part of what makes Apotheon shine and at the same time is also its downfall. Being an action sidescroller, you are provided with a variety of weapons to brutalize your enemies in many different ways. Unfortunately, the impact at which enemies are killed leave a lot to be desired. Though there is a liberal amount of blood on the screen, killing enemies feel generally unsatisfying. Every weapon feels different and all are capable of bringing death to your enemies. The weapons are also very aptly named and add to the immersion. Spears are Doru and Swords are Xiphos. You also have a selection of maces, bows and arrows, a really long spear called Saris and some ally summoning items. Support items are pretty standard fare. You have a multitude of buffs to speed and defense, a health potion and repair kits to repair your armor.

The durability mechanic ensures that you will be switching weapons constantly if you want to keep for as long as possible, for example, that awesome hammer that shakes the ground and deals massive area of effect damage. Switching weapons on the fly to suit your needs is exhilarating and is sure to keep you mindful of the weapons you are carrying. The inventory management though is generally unintuitive. You have four columns with which you can navigate with the use of the lateral directional buttons and each column contains different weapons from melee, to ranged, to utility and support items. Though you can switch weapons at will, it may take a few seconds of fumbling with the dpad to actually get to the weapon you need which may prove frustrating especially during the more chaotic moments of the game. The game also suffers from some bad AI and clunky controls. During a specific boss battle early in the game, the controls work against you, making the encounter more difficult than it should be. Which is a shame since said boss is one of the most unique bosses mechanic wise in recent memory. This may probably be a limitation of the artstyle. Still, the experience of killing these gods can be disappointing. The AI is easily exploited unfortunately and may sour moments that are supposed to be filled with tension. Barring that, the game features at certain points at the game truly special level design.

When it comes to the world, Apotheon makes use of relatively huge maps with different objectives and places to explore. The player gets to decide which objectives to tackle next. Think of it as a semi open world side scroller. After finishing a few objectives, usually involving the defeat of a god, the story kicks in further opening up a few more objectives until you reach the final boss. Its a very formulaic presentation and for the most part, works. There are some side missions to do but the game doesn't give you a compelling reason to complete them as they offer little to no incentive in return.

Brutal yet unsatisfying
The Greek painting aesthetic is definitely a breath of fresh air in the gaming landscape. The graphics are incredibly polished and even minor details not usually seen at a glance like the persistent wall texture where everything takes place make the game that much more engrossing. The experience is degraded though by some noticable framerate drops at random moments. The color grading changes depending on the area you're in and they fit perfectly with what we know of movies and shows based on Greek myth.

The marching, percussion heavy music instantly drew me in as I started playing. It is adequately powerful and epic and sells the grandiose adventure you embark on in Apotheon greatly.
From the dark depths of the underworld, the bloody crazed halls of Ares, to the mysterious, enchanting forests of Artemis, I deeply enjoyed what Apotheon offered, but unfortunately I also can't help but look back at the moments where I was either frustrated by the controls or disappointed by the AI. The game also crashed constantly, crashing around 8 times throughout my 10 hour journey. I still recommend the game to anyone looking for something quick to play on their PS4, but be prepared to struggle a little while playing.



 

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