It must be a difficult feat to create a metroidvania adventure that even closely lives up to the games that the genre is named after. Apotheon is definitely a notable contender, but is it worth the journey back to ancient Greece or should you save your drachma?
Apotheon puts you in the sandals of the brave Nikandreos who desires to overcome the gods' oppressive reign. As you journey from the Olympian gates to Zeus' fortress, you'll find yourself in many distinct locations. The entirety of the campaign appears as if it's a painting on the side of ancient Greek pottery come to life. Although this style is spectacularly unique, there isn't much visual variety as you travel between locations. Even though the colours change and you'll be shrouded in darkness from time to time, you'll still find it difficult to distinguish environments. That being said, subtleties such as lighting effects and translucent foregrounds offer some much needed depth to your surroundings. The soundtrack complements each area wonderfully. Eerie caves are accompanied with equally creepy ambience and the struggle during boss fights is amplified by orchestral pieces. Apotheon's sound quality is quite accomplished. If your home theatre is even remotely decent, you'll hear understated low-frequency vibes and spot-on effects for every on-screen occurrence. The voice actors lend excellent performances as the characters' intentions are portrayed effectively in every line of dialog.
You control Nikandreos fairly simply as you run, jump, attack, and block. Your inventory can be accessed during gameplay by flipping through categories and items using the directional buttons. Although this is convenient, it may be tricky to effectively navigate when you're in the heat of battle. In order to avoid enemies' attacks you can either block or roll to evade which are both intuitively executed. There are plenty of weapons to collect as you progress and each one is controlled similarly. For example, firing a bow allows you to charge the attack by holding the button down, while smashing an enemy with a club is performed by just tapping the button. Your weapons become damaged over time and eventually break but there are plenty to be found lying around Olympus. There are many ways to harm enemies. If you want, you can even throw your sword at them. The combat is nearly as unbounded as the game's vast open world.
Apotheon's world will compel you to explore every nook and cranny. At first, the open concept may make you feel worried about not knowing what to do, but as you wander around you'll quickly realise that there's a seemingly endless amount of quests to take on. Once you're fully immersed in the world, you'll eagerly search for challenges and secrets with every discovery feeling just as satisfying as the last. It's a game that may not impress right off the bat, but instead opts to slowly sink its teeth into you until you find it hard to look away from your television screen. As the hours pass by, it becomes clear how long of a journey this is. The entirety of the campaign takes about ten hours. Of course, this depends on your skill level, how leisurely or hurried you are, and if you're a completionist or not.
Although Apotheon is a journey worth taking, there is one significant flaw that you may either learn to overcome or find mildly frustrating. Basically, the combat can get somewhat cumbersome. Executing an attack isn't as immediate as it is in most games because after pushing the attack button, Nikandreos must first charge his attack. This initially causes many missed strikes, but you'll learn after a while. Also, there are many factors to consider during combat. A stamina meter depletes as you attack consecutively and when it's low, Nikandreos becomes as slow as molasses. Along with these factors, you must also control the direction you're aiming and keep an eye on your health and armour levels and heal if you need to. It becomes overwhelming when you consider everything that you need to keep in mind when fighting. Imagine battling an enemy and realising your armour is getting low. As you tap left to select an armour repair item, you get blown back a long distance from a powerful attack. No one said it would be easy, but sometimes you just need time to take a breath.
If you ever get lonely travelling through Olympus by yourself, you can battle your friends in local multiplayer. It isn't anything particularly special, but it's an interesting inclusion that you and your fellow hoplites may enjoy together.
Apotheon is an experience that fans of metroidvania games will admire for its unique art style and vastly open-ended world. If this odyssey doesn't sound like one you would enjoy partaking in then may Zeus have mercy on your soul.
- + Vast open world is incredibly satisfying to traverse and explore
- + Lengthy adventure with tons of secrets
- + Fantastic audio and unique graphic style
- - Combat can be cumbersome at times
- - Not much variety when it comes to visuals