I think that if Apotheon confirms anything, it’s that Playstation’s ‘PS+’ service is by far the best way to discover hidden gems which you might otherwise not even bother trying out. Sure, the graphics are neat (more on that later), but otherwise the screenshots just look like yet another side-scrolling, MetroidVania-esque platformer. While those screenshots don’t lie by any means, actually playing Apotheon reveals a game which has been deservedly praised universally for its endlessly enjoyable combat and beautiful appearance.
Apotheon has you playing as “humanity’s last champion”, and tasks you with the insurmountable challenge of killing the numerous Greek gods and claiming their various weapons in order to climb towards godhood for yourself – certainly no small feat.
You begin the game under attack and are immediately introduced to the game’s combat system, which plays an arguably primary role in your enjoyment. Think of it as a side-scrolling, twin-stick shooter and you’re halfway there. The left-stick controls your movement around your 2D plane, while the right-stick allows you to direct your swords, spears, or clubs in any direction you please. Holding L2 raises your shield, which can also be directed in this manner. This simple scheme allows for some hugely enjoyable directional combat which constantly keeps you on your toes and is what makes Apotheon stand out so much. It means that swinging a lumbering axe has some real weight to it, and bludgeoning an enemy with an iron club feels almost worryingly satisfying. Developers ‘Alien Trap Games’ could have simply opted for a basic, button-mashing style of combat, but using both sticks in tandem with one-another really is something you have to try out to fully appreciate. There is also a whole host of ranged weapons at your disposal throughout your adventure, all of which are affected by gravity and therefore require compensation when aiming – scoring a headshot is bloody and immensely satisfying.
As mentioned, all of this violent combat is presented with gorgeous visuals which screenshots simply cannot portray successfully. In motion, Apotheon looks like an ancient, living Greek painting, to the point where certain textures such as clouds and stones have a light shining off them as if somebody is examining an ancient work of art. But this work of art wouldn’t be complete without equally impressive music, and thankfully Apotheon has that covered too; the soundtrack to the game is considerably varied and gives each area with a cinematic tone. Each character who you interact with is also given a voice through dialogue instead of simply text, which furthers the immersion the game strives for. Additionally, in order to not break this immersion, pressing the touch-pad on PS4 will bring up a translucent map-overlay, which you can use while traversing in order to seamlessly see where you are going and simultaneously move without having to look through clunky menus.
Unfortunately, your actual questing is where the game falls down slightly. Once you get through the initial tutorial areas, most of the gameplay devolves to “go here and find the 3 items”. It makes reaching a new area of the game slightly pointless, because you’re always asked to go to three connected areas, kill some sort of boss, and claim their item for your own. While it doesn’t make playing Apotheon any less enjoyable, it means that long stretches of play will become boring very quickly. Also, in terms of bosses: The game’s boss fights vary from exciting (a large golem-like figure), to needlessly ‘innovative’ and boring (a fight involving playing as a deer while avoiding arrows). More of the former would be preferable, but the actual frequency of bosses is too rare to begin with.
Apotheon is a great game for short bursts which features one of the best 2D combat systems I’ve used and is all presented in a beautiful Greek painting style. However, while the variance of weapons is much appreciated, the gameplay itself leaves something to be desired. Surprisingly, the game also features a PvP mode which is potentially better than the single player, because it places a focus solely on gladiatorial combat.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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