How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. It's an open world with an emphasis on exploration, and there are movement power-ups that you need to progress, but other than that it's basically a level-based game that feels more like and Elder Scrolls game than one of the Genre's namesakes.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: Apotheon was played on Steam.
Buy Apotheon if you like…
- Greek Pottery Style Graphics
- Smart Exploration guided by notes and NPC dialog
- Experimental Combat Mechanics
- Greek Mythology Trivia
- Killing Greek Gods
▼ Review continues below ▼
Apotheon has some really good ideas and an excellent art aesthetic, but it fails to establish cohesion with all of its elements. The tutorial teases stealth mechanics and cerebral combat, but the moment you step foot onto Mount Olympus that promise quickly crumbles apart.
The unique feature of controlling the main character, Nikandreos, compared to other Metroidvanias, is that you can precision aim using the right analog stick. The stick locks your aim into its last position, so you can mix jumping with the face buttons and adjusting your aim pretty easily, keeping you from having to claw grip the controller or awkwardly switch back and forth. I can imagine it works pretty well with the keyboard and mouse too. Though the controls are relatively easy to learn and use, it’s also slow compared to simply having a predictable attack arc like in other games. Doubling down on this sluggish feeling, every attack you make has a slow windup before it strikes, meaning that you still have to plan on that delay when you’re taking this aim. And in addition, the game has a stamina system that makes your attacks even slower if you spam them too much, punishing button mashing. It’s a set of mechanics that invites meticulous gameplay focused on accuracy rather than agility, and begs for enemies that are highly telegraphed and just as meticulous as you. Sadly the game’s enemies – in general – directly clash with this design, often wildly flying about and flailing their weapons as if they don’t follow the same stamina rules that you do. So, I ended up button mashing anyway, and spamming the dodge roll to lure enemies into more favorable positions. This creates a lot of frustrating situations which I bypassed using the trove of consumables I had collected rather than adapting to the situation with my own wit and skill – this is true even when I increased the game difficulty to the maximum allowable.
To make matters worse, the game lacks any input buffering. To describe this issue, I’ll use the game’s bow. Like all the weapons in this game, you have to slowly draw back your bow, and after you shoot there’s a recovery animation afterward in which you are vulnerable. To draw the bow back, you hold down the fire button, and to shoot the bow, you let go of the fire button. However, if you immediately push and hold the fire button after firing – during that recovery animation – the game will not accept your input. Because of this, if you’re not paying close attention to Nikandreos’ animations (instead of paying attention the enemy’s ruthless onslaught), or if you don’t figure out the rythm of time you need to wait after firing your bow, you’re likely going to feel like the game’s controls are simply unresponsive (which is what I thought at first.) Even after I figured it out, it still felt really awkward. There are moments when the system works just fine, and thankfully the game’s ending was appropriately epic and satisfying. It’s just that, as a whole, the game feels almost broken in its current state.
This charlie foxtrot of design decisions applies to the game’s story presentation as well. The story is simple – Zeus is a being a jerk, and his wife Hera is fed up with him not being able to keep it in his pants (I mean, he also doesn’t wear any anyway), so Hera has you go up to Mount Olympus and commit deity genocide just to get back at him. With Greek Mythology being such a rich and interesting culture – and having such a great graphical presentation to go with it – this feels like a wasted opportunity. They might as well have had the game open with a Mega Man style stage select with a greek god’s face in each box.
Some areas do a better job at introducing the god-to-be-assassinated with its cutscenes, but as a whole I felt like they were just a quarry to be slain. Scattered throughout the game are quotes from actual greek mythology texts, but a lot of them seem tenuously relevant at best. It’s a haphazard attempt to stay true to the source material. If they were going to bother with that sort of thing, they could have used one of the many rich stories that already exist in greek mythology and made a video game based on that – it’s not like there are already a lot of video games that do that effectively. Instead, you can access Hades from the Olympus sewer system, Zeus just likes to watch the world burn, and you have a game that boils down to awful boss fights with an awkward mess of mechanics.
And I’m not saying that they absolutely had to make it an adaptation for it to be great. There’s another game based on an ancient mythology which also adopts an artstyle that mimics ancient paintings – it’s called Okami. That game borrows a lot of names and concepts for its events, but it’s true to none of its source mythologies. I mean for one, Amaterasu is a shy sun goddess who hid in a cave until she was enticed to emerge by someone gifting her a mirror, not a quirky pun-inspired wolf that urinates on her enemies. The difference is that Okami creates new characters that would hold up in spite of players not knowing anything about the original inspirations. In fact, it creates its own internal mythology as the backdrop for the entire game. Apotheon on the other hand does something awkwardly in between Okami’s original-but-inspired approach and adaptation.
In spite of all these complaints, there were moments I was having genuine fun with Apotheon. I actually think they managed to nail rewarding exploration, to the point that even though I dreaded coming across enemies, I still spent the extra time to collect the larger optional finds. For justifying its Metroidvania level design, I can at least award Apotheon with a gold star.
really wish everything else came together. The story is passable – it is
a video game after all – but if they could pull that combat back to the
drawing board and give it a good hard analysis and upgrade, I think
Apotheon could be great. In its current state, it’s something that I
find difficulty recommending.
Combat could have been great, but the enemy design fails to allow it to reach its potential
Even though jumping movement isn't the game's strength, that didn't stop Alientrap from including platforming challenges
Exploration is genuinely interesting, making the hunt for treasure the highlight of playing the game
While not prolific, there are some good switch puzzles that are thematically appropriate for the God you are facing
The game has difficulty choosing between being an authentic celebration of Greek Mythology vs its own thing
The aesthetic is gorgeous, and is probably the reason you're looking at this game at all
Orchestrated soundtrack is appropriate for the events occurring, but nothing memorable
You unlock a new difficulty after beating the game, but after obtaining 100% I can see little reason to go back
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