By: Mike Chen
Ancient Greece. Angry gods. Scaling Mt. Olympus. No, it’s not the latest God of War title. Rather than crazy combos of skull-crushing Kratos action, Apotheon offers old-school game play with some stunning visuals.
CONTROLS (3 /5)
While aligning to traditional Metroidvania gameplay, Apotheon‘s controls are a strange mix of platformer and twin-stick shooter. The right side’s trigger buttons are used for primary weapons while the left side activates secondary items and shields. The right stick factors into specific direction for primary attacks, which is kind of awkward for melee. It provides greater precision and flexibility, but sometimes you’re in a jam and just need to mash your way out. Because the game factors in range specificity (e.g. the arc of your axe swing has to connect with the blade part rather than just the general weapon), you’ll have to adapt to this hybrid scheme in order to really get far.
Ranged weapons give more sensible usage to the twin-stick method. That doesn’t help the floaty jumping and loose movement, however. Platforming requires sharp movement and crisp jumps, but it feels like Apotheon‘s developers should have spent just a little more time nailing this down.
It’s safe to say that while you may recognize Apotheon‘s aesthetic, you’ve never seen a game quite like it. Based on pottery art of ancient Greece, it’s distinct and striking without ever getting old or overflowing. Similar to Limbo, this is a simple yet unique graphical approach and a smart way to make the game stand out among contemporary powerhouses. The music and voice acting are nothing exceptional — particularly because hero Nikandreos is silent outside of grunts — but they get the job done.
One of the biggest issues with the game is its visual scale. Characters are just small enough and similar enough that it’s easy to get yourself confused with enemies despite color and shape variations. Similarly, the menu system and text are all just too small to be comfortable; despite playing on my normal 46-inch Sony TV with my Lasik-corrected eyes, I still had to move closer to comfortably figure out what was going on.
Still, you can’t argue with the game’s unique and stunning art style. The aesthetics get a five for concept and a three for execution, making the final tally a solid four.
Apotheon mines its gameplay from classic Metroidvania platformers. With an explorable map, side rooms and sections, and upgrades/special abilities, Apotheon is a smartly designed rehash with a story that echoes God of War (mostly without the R-rated stuff).
Game segments usually give you options toward achieving your goal, allowing you to customize your strategy based on whether you prefer hack n’ slash, range and defense, or finding an alternate route around the enemy. Protagonist Nikandreos is a silent hero, and the 6-8 hour story is pretty generic in terms of deity revenge fantasy; this isn’t The Last of Us where the gripping narrative propels you to keep playing.
Combat can be both fluid and frustrating based on the control scheme above. However, level design provides plenty of variety and exploration along with some creative bosses, making the overall package an engaging experience.
Outside of advancing the plot, there’s plenty to do in Apotheon. You can loot just about every bit of environment you see — jugs, carts, tables, etc. That produces both consumable items and unique weapons. From here, there’s a dedicated crafting menu that lets you create items that make your journey easier.
Areas are large in scale with secret rooms and locked doors, allowing for further replayability or just exploration for completionists. There’s almost always somewhere else to get to, so the game’s length is more dictated by your personal pace rather than your vengeance on Zeus.
Apotheon looks great and is filled with clever and enjoyable design. Some questionable presentation decisions and floaty controls take it down a notch, but it’s a solid choice for Metroidvania fans.