It’s a very specific art style that they’ve pulled off incredibly well. It looks entirely like a Grecian urn. What’s a Grecian urn? Hopefully more now a left-leaning government has taken power that is committed to ending austerity, but that is an ongoing situation.
It’s a vase. The game looks like a vase.
Volunteering to take on this review, due to an inability to remember the title, I was exclusively referring to Apotheon as “that amazing looking vase game” and whilst playing it when other Gamestyle staff asked how it was going it became “that fucking vase game” due to the sort of irritations that we don’t take kindly to here. Since then, it’s moved back to being called Apotheon.
That Amazing Looking Vase Game
Apotheon has picked an art style and knocked it out of the park. There are slight problems with the animation, things look and feel limp and vague with more than a hint of a Flash game to them, but the character design is flawless and the backgrounds even better. The amount of time the development team must have spent looking at 3000 year old pots is probably a lot higher than the average game developer does. It was worth it.
The story is utter gibberish, but being based on Greek mythology it has to be. They wrote a lot of gibberish. I mean, that bit with the swan? The basic story here is that Zeus, as he often is, is being a dick (see also, swan incident) and that means that humanity is going to die out. One person (yes, you) stands out as a champion and then does things to either impress the other gods or kill them to gain their powers…It’s very Greek. And it does its job. A thumbs up.
That Fucking Vase Game
Well, after that, things go downhill a bit. The problems with the animation affect the combat which feels slightly too vague to be enjoyable. Waft your weapon at the general area and hope. Attacks are selected by aiming with the right analogue stick, uppercuts by holding up, which makes the game play slightly like a twin stick shooter. Except those don’t also require you to jump. And heal. And block. And change weapons in an awkward inventory. With all that to keep in mind they’ve made melee attacks be the trigger and weapons you launch be R1. The end result of this is quite often throwing your sword at an enemy’s face and then standing there looking like an idiot as you realise what you’ve done.
And if the combat is flawed, the amount of it is sure to make you notice. This lovingly created world is made to be interacted with through your sword. Combat, sure. Although it is unreasonably constant. But you’re also rewarded for destroying everything. If it can be broken, it can drop inventory items. And that applies to civilians. Murder them all, they might drop some armour. The guards outside, so strict if they see you picking a lock, never notice that you’ve walked into a bathhouse and slaughtered every single bather.
A player faced with the imposing entrance to the fortress Zeus calls home should not turn their attention to smashing the table and chairs outside it. The fact Grecian urns exist for the developer to reference is proof enough that warriors in Ancient Greece did not smash every pot and piece of patio furniture they saw.
More crucially, this is not a well-programmed game. Whilst crashes can be patched out, completing this amateurish piece of junk has seen me lose whole Gods of progress, twenty minute stealth sections, boss battles. Two boss battles, including the final one, feature game breaking bugs. Apparently some achievements are impossible to unlock too. And it’s not just crashes, the physics are frankly bizarre, the problem behind some of the bugs and the frame rate drops to single figures when multiple enemies are after you. Both make the game much more awkward than it should be.
With it turned off, really it’s back to just being Apotheon, neither amazing nor awful. Ignore the technical and gameplay problems, quite impressive if you manage that, and there are some great moments. Each section brings new ideas and the rare puzzles are fun, although even one of those is spoiled by the game revealing the answer much, much too soon. There’s plenty hidden away, and they’re worth finding; rare weapons in particular are good fun. It’s a good 10 hours plus to complete it properly, so it’s very difficult to criticise it for value. Plus the time restarting the game when it crashes. And there’s a local multiplayer, which is fine, if you didn’t actively dislike the combat.
And it does look great.
Ultimately, if you have any love for Ancient Greece, wait for the inevitable patch and there is fun to be had here. The attention to detail, the snippets of myth all add vastly to the game. If 3000 year old story fragments aren’t interesting to you then leave Apotheon well alone, as even without the enormous number of technical problems there are enough gameplay flaws in the experience to not recommend this. A genuine disappointment.