Apotheon, the first indie game I get to review on PS4 and I feel it’s a thematically appropriate one to start with (Greek mythology and all). You play Nikandros, the champion for all of humanity as Zeus throws down his own version of judgement day on all of mankind. With Zeus’ wife Hera as your backer (for her own reasons), you travel to Olympus to obtain the powers of the gods to be able to defeat Zeus and put an end to the apocalypse. The story draws inspiration from Greek mythology with a bit of God of War thrown in. Lore and mythology, asides from being delivered in story can be found via inscriptions that quote Homer, Aeschylus, Hesiod, etc.
What’s most noticeable about Apotheon is the Greek pottery style which not only is used for the graphical style but additionally trickles down into the level design and game mechanics. The levels are relatively vertical with multiple tiers, not only inside buildings, but also out in Artemis’ forests or the underworld. And just like the pottery, the game is 2D, side-scrolling and lends itself perfectly to the “metroidvania” genre.
Like any standard metroidvania games, you have a central hub or two from which you venture out to complete your tasks. You have dozens of different types of melee and ranged weapons; shields of varying sizes, potions, concoctions, bombs, traps and other random items. All items have durability and inevitably break. This normally annoys me in games (seriously Dead Island? How does my metal pipe break after smooshing in the heads of four zombies?), but I will give Apotheon as pass on this as decent weapons are aplenty and some items are intentionally over-powered that having them for the entire game would actually take the fun away.
I will say the controls are reasonably complex with movement, jumping, dodging, melee attack, ranged attack, shield, switching items and potions, all needing to be done at the same time. While this complexity makes the game frantic, fast-paced and fun, it also be to its detriment at times as having to use the D-pad to scroll through a dozen items to find the exact one you need while fending off a 3 hoplites and a pissed-off Olympian god can be a little tedious and frustrating and most-likely get you killed. I feel a quick switch button between presets would have been the best solution. There were also times when I needed to move quickly in a certain way and the controls didn’t respond well-enough.
To obtain every god’s power you need to defeat them, and not necessarily in combat. And here’s one of the aspects I love about this game. Every boss battle is different. Generally you have to complete a series of tasks to gain access to any particular god in the first place and once you have access, you either have to defeat them, or do something for them (if you didn’t already realise, the Olympian gods squabble amongst themselves like a group of teenagers). For example, Artemis had you conduct a series of hunts for her which led to a boss battle where you had to evade her as a deer while reaching certain point, which then had her changes into a deer while you then hunted her. Dionysus had you move from wine-cup to wine-cup and never stop drinking so you wouldn’t get a hangover. You had to fight Poseidon from a boat while he threw the boat around the ocean. Each god you defeat/win over grants you an upgrade. Nothing too powerful, but generally useful.
Apotheon is worth playing if you’re into these kind of games, or worth playing if you’re interested in Greek mythology. I will say the price is a bit steep as it’s a potentially quick game, but I got it for free with the Playstation Plus (around $19.95 for three months) which pays for itself several times over.
The next review in 3 weeks will be Hand of Fate