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 Post subject: Review - Apotheon
 Post Posted: Mon Jun 01, 2015 11:05 am 
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Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:25 pm
Posts: 39
(Full disclosure: Game was acquired as a part of PS Plus' free giveaway event in February)

Apotheon is what might happen if God of War and Metroid got together in the Ancient Greece section of the British Museum – gods will die, one mortal man will rise up to save the world, and Zeus is looking to pull you apart like warm bread. At the same time, it also peppers excerpts from Homer's Iliad throughout a game that looks and plays like an ancient, Grecian pottery painting come to 2D life.

You play the role of Nikandreos, a warrior who is nearly killed by the chaos set loose on the world after Zeus and the other gods had finally turned their back on it. Fighting your way through raiders attacking his village which acts as the tutorial, Nikandreos meets the goddess, Hera. Both you and her have one thing in common – a hatred of Zeus – who also happens to be Hera's husband. This time, Hera is determined to finally put a stake in his wandering heart. And you're the obliging stake.

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To do that, you'll need to steal the powers of the gods who live far above the world of humanity on Olympus. Even as a mortal warrior, the gods aren't as all powerful as they might seem – they have weaknesses and they can be killed. In Apotheon, they're a lot like mortals only with special powers that they can use from time to time to set them apart whether that's turning someone into an animal or striking you down with a thunderbolt.

As Nikandreos, you'll need to equip yourself with weapons and armor based on both the history and legends of ancient Greece to survive the challenges ahead like a xiphos (short sword), doru (spear), and a sarissa (an even longer spear). Armor also changes the look of Nikandreos as he upgrades himself from linen wraps on his legs and a linothrax tunic on his chest to things like bronze greaves, a plated cuirass, and a strategos helm. Shields help to block everything from arrows to boulders, and there's a great variety of those in here, too, from small shields to the intimidating Ajax's Wall.

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Combat is concentrated on the left analog stick which controls movement and the right analog stick controlling which way Nikandreos is facing and aiming his weapons. This way, you can target where he strikes with whatever's in hand while running left, right, or whichever way you need our hero to go. It takes a little getting used to, but after getting a hold of a few weapons and with a bit a practice, I had Nikandreos on his way to outdoing Hercules and his labors as he fought soldiers, wolves, man-beasts, and even giants.

Different weapons also have a bit of curve to get used to. Swords are short-ranged slashers while spears like the doru were great at keeping the enemy at bay while doing a decent amount of damage. However, each weapon also wears down and Nikandreos can only keep so many of one type on hand in his seemingly infinite pockets. He can only carry one xiphos at a time, but he can stack up to five doru, for example. There are also special weapons, like a Midas-blessed blade, that have unique effects such as making enemies drop more valuables when they're killed. There's even a black market that can resupply these weapons in addition to the regular market for less-than-divine weapons as long as he's got the coin. Shields also have a limited lifespan.

The thing is, I never really used shields all that much. Fights usually came down to stabbing the somewhat suicidal AI as often as possible and once I had Nikandreos adequately armored up with plenty of doru, I hardly used a shield at all aside from one particular boss fight towards the end of the game. Most of the time, the game felt as chaotically frenzied as one of those classic hack 'n slash arcade hits from Capcom like Magic Sword which isn't really a bad thing.

Nikandreos can also craft. Ingredients from leaves to cogs can be used to build things ranging from healing potions to elixirs giving temporary boons such as invincibility as long as he has the right recipes which are scattered throughout the game. But by the end, I was able to get Nikandreos on the creative end of building things ranging from repair kits for his gear (which he can use even in the middle of battle) to mechanized crossbow sentries born from the forges of Hephaestus himself. But like shields, I didn't have a lot of use for most of these, either, other than the healing salves which always came in handy.

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Locked doors and chests are automatically picked if Nikandreos has enough lockpicks, treasure chests containing anything from armor upgrades to unique weapons are hidden in the shadowy corners of Olympus, and enemies can occasionally drop things to help. Animals, for example, can drop pelts that convert into cash. Markets resupply Nikandreos with the gear he needs and even provide training to upgrade how deadly he can be with his weapons if he has enough change on hand.

Apotheon's simple story is told in teaspooons of well-voice acted vignettes as Nikandreos meets the gods, does a few favors for one or two, and moves through Olympus as Hera's weapon of vengeance. It's sparing with the details yet works effectively in weaving a story set in a twilight of the gods. Some of their stories, even in small snippets, can't help but try to garner some sympathy as not all of the gods see things Zeus' way hoping only to be favorably remembered in the aeons to come. The ending was a satisfying cap to a worthwhile journey especially with Marios Aristopoulos' atmospheric score coloring the action.

That is, if you can tolerate the crashes, because Apotheon crashed quite a few times in my playthrough. There's also not much of a game plus mode – you just have to avoid the final battle and explore Olympus for anything that you might have missed before heading there if you still want to keep playing with your current arsenal.

Local multiplayer provides a total of four “arenas' like a ship or a temple where two players can go head to head, though it would have been nice if there were some kind of matchmaking for online play. The real strength of the game, however, is its single-player which ran for about seven or eight hours of play depending on what you do. In my case, I tried exploring as much as possible which padded the clock.

Apotheon's rough edges did little to diminish the fun I found in journeying through this Greek tragedy on through to the bitter end. It's a neat action game and if you love exploring a Metroidvania-lite hub linking together places inspired by ancient Greece with secrets buried behind their painted facades, this is one legendary tale that you might find worthy of attention.

Pros:
  1. Great art direction
  2. “Metroidvania” elements; quite a few opportunities to explore
  3. Interesting story and resolution

Cons:
  1. Crashes are not fun
  2. Limited replayability
  3. Little initiative to craft anything else other than heals, buffs, and repair kits

Grade: B+


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