Dropping on the PSN store last week, Apotheon is the latest release from indie developer Alien Trap Games. Born from the creative partnership of Lee Vermeulen and Jesse McGibney of Capsized fame, Apotheon is an arcade style hack-and-slash with both its visual and gameplay style set firmly in the old school. Set in Classical Greece, you play as every-man hero Nikandreos, a citizen of the ravaged, dying city of Dion. Beset by raiders, famine and disease, Dion only survives by the swift intervention of Nikandreos and his willingness to arm himself with weapons/farm implements and butcher every person who isn’t a mewling civilian. This leads to him being chosen by Hera, wife of Zeus, to launch an assault against Mount Olympus and Zeus himself in revenge for abandoning mankind. As it turns out, Zeus has got bored with humanity. Clearly the best way to sort this out is for our hero to lop off every God’s head on his way up the mountain, collecting their powers as he goes, as he works his way to see the management.
‘It’s all just part of a departmental restruc-AAARRGGHHH’ – Random Greek Dude
So far, so humdrum. Why bother trying to reinvent the whole ‘murdering Greek gods’ shtick when God of War already gave us the pinnacle of the genre with an entire quick time event dedicated to eye-gouging? But wait, this might be worth it. GoW went for ridiculously over-the-top action and glorious HD effects. In contrast, Apotheon has a far more unique (and dare I say it, interesting) art style. Looking like a Greek pottery scene come to life, Apotheon is all terracotta shades and black outlines with washed out colors thrown in the mix. It’s a bold yet delicate style and incredibly striking – this really looks like nothing else on the scene. The landscapes are beautiful and the maps detailed, rewarding players who explore with unique and interesting goodies. Character animations are fluid and interesting and the HUD is understated but be warned – those of you with smaller aspect televisions might find yourself squinting a little at the details but after the ridiculous effort it took to read anything in GTAV on my measly screen, this is nothing.
It’s not all just brown and orange – washed out shades of blue, green and gold keep the style interesting.
Gameplay wise, anyone who has played an action/adventure side-scroller in the past 15 years will be in familiar terrain. You can pick up and collect a mix of armor and weapons such as knives, axes, spears and swords that can be used in hand to hand combat or thrown at range if desired and believe me, you’ll want to do that. It may sound juvenile but hurling a farmer’s fork at an enemy and watching them catch it full on in the chest is a thing of beauty. Weapons are beautifully balanced and feel authentic which just adds to the experience. You may have also guessed this but the world of Apotheon is less Disney’s ‘Hercules’ and more Homers Odyssey – it’s a violent, epic story revolving around revolution, war and revenge. Nikandreos is a little boring as a character but honestly, that doesn’t really bother me. We’ve had our fair share of boring heroes’ verses boring villains in games for a while now and it’s just nice that he’s not an offensive stereotype.
This isn’t to say the games perfect and some of its flaws do let it down. Apotheon is beautiful but it’s not particularly unique – it is, at heart, a Metroid/Castlevania clone. It plays with the rules and boundaries of the genre but never particularly crosses them and after a few hours, it can feel a little ho-hum but perhaps I’m being harsh. Apotheon is fun and just the right side of interesting with a visual aesthetic that is by itself worth your time and for its low cost on Steam (and the fact it’s free for PS+ subscribers), you’d be a fool to miss.
My Big Fat Greek Slash-Em-Up
Gameplay - 7/10
Plot - 6/10
Design - 9/10
+ Beautiful aesthetic and visual style
+ Well balanced game play and mechanics
- A little dull on extended plays
- No eye-gouging