Review

Apotheon Review

  • First Released Feb 3, 2015
    released
  • PC

What's a god to a non-believer?

Playing Apotheon is like being an archaeologist exploring and unearthing the mysteries of an unknown world. You find your hands stretching thousands of years back in time to discover a story you didn’t know had unfolded. The art is immediately distinctive. While the same could be said for a fair number of independent games, this time it’s more than just a pretty background. Like the ochre-stained walls of an Athenian temple circa 500 BC, Apotheon’s characters are little more than black silhouettes. The environments are elaborate, sprawling, two-dimensional cutaways. They beg you to imagine this wondrous world in its full glory, but they resist conventional beauty.

These paintings are all we have left. Beneath that veneer is a run-of-the-mill action platformer. You make a few jumps here, and fight a few baddies there. Throughout, the minute-to-minute play stays simple. You grab weapons and shields lying around, using one button to attack, one to block, one to jump, and the two sticks to move about and aim your strikes with added precision. There's a basic crafting system as well, but it's a straightforward one. Instead, Apotheon expounds on these basic ideas with a string of apropos twists. When venturing into the underworld, for example, you often have to give up the use of a shield to navigate by torchlight, unless you've found a shield kept by the servants of the sun god, Apollo, that can light your path. Each area has something unique to uncover that make some parts of your journey harder, others easier. Such flourishes greatly add to Apotheon’s character, and support the game's mythological inspirations.

Our hero in this neo-Classical myth is Nikandreos. While not a member of the traditional Greek pantheon, his epic sticks to the conventions of Classical tragedy. In the prelude, his hometown, Dion, is out of favor with the gods. The forests have no game, the fields yield no crops, and the sky is stuck in perpetual twilight. Nikandreos, seeking to restore the mantle of humanity, journeys to Mt. Olympus, the realm of the deities. There he learns that Zeus, king of the gods, has grown to hate people and will not rest until they are destroyed.

If that sounds clichéd, that’s because, from a modern lens, it is. Apotheon eschews modern expectations, reflecting a far older brand of storytelling. Greek tragedy, and Greek heroes in particular, are far different from the super-powered defenders of good we see today. Greek heroes were flawed, difficult people who accomplished great things, though were often cruel and awful as well. Classical tragedy is even more unusual. These stories draw on themes such as the conflict between men and gods, and depict arrogant heroes that unravel themselves with acts of great hubris.

The ancients were a scared, superstitious people. We frequently forget their struggles, remembering them instead as creators of grand, monolithic civilizations. We forget these people believed not only in divine providence, but also in retribution. We forget the limits of their understanding, and that for these classic civilizations catastrophe was evidence of the wrath of the gods. From that perspective, Apotheon is hauntingly poignant.

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In his quest for salvation, Nikandreos partners with Hera, queen of the gods. She’s been brewing over her husband’s many affairs and now lusts for justice. She guides Nikandreos, pointing out to him the weaknesses of the mighty Olympians. At every turn, figures from Greek myth appear--each with their own grudges, their own motives--to help Nikandreos. As he gathers power, he leaves nothing but death and destruction in his wake. Between each act, he sees that his people are suffering and dying--punished for his own arrogance. However, he, or rather we, never once waver. On we march to claim our prize, and to topple the gods.

This drama works because it’s relatable. At some point, every person who has ever lived has experienced pain. Suffering is a fundamental human experience. When we’re at our worst, we seek relief, no matter how destructive it may prove to be. The gods aren’t much different. Hera is driven by her lust for revenge, Zeus by his disappointment in his people. The other gods and goddesses you meet have their own motives, their own goals, and a slew of victims that want you to succeed. You become the vessel for hope, relief, and peace, your only failure being that you’re so damned foolhardy that you can’t see the consequences of your actions.

Apotheon shares many of its narrative threads with God of War, but the differences pile up quickly. Where God of War sticks to video game tropes, Apotheon is content to ground itself in myth. This is a fantastical world where gods and goddesses roam the earth, but beyond that, there’s no need for the suspension of disbelief. Where God of War is flashy and bombastic, Apotheon is soft and personal. Every battle is slow and careful. Each hit is quite damaging, so you hold your shield up and bide your time for a perfect strike.

Apotheon eschews modern expectations, reflecting a far older brand of storytelling.

Your weapons and shields also have limited durability. At best, a spear lasts you a few small battles. There are no flaming chain blades here. Instead, you have a small assortment of conventional blades, axes, and pikes. Shields can cover only a limited part of your body so you also have to predict the direction of incoming strikes. It’s similar to a two-dimensional Dark Souls in that respect. Unfortunately, that lack of depth is one of the few knocks against Apotheon. Repeating the block-wait-attack tactic for ten hours gets thin. The only respite is the bouts with the gods themselves.

Each deity has an individual domain with its own rules and challenges. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, for example, transmutes you into a deer and try to lay traps to kill you. To best Athena, goddess of wisdom, you must navigate three concentric, rotating labyrinths. These contests serve two purposes. They reinforce your smallness and their godhood, and add variety to an otherwise monotonous trek.

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My time with Apotheon reminded me of a conversation from the film Prometheus. David, an android, discusses with Charlie, a human, the relationship of creators and creation. David asks Charlie why people created robots. The response, “We made you because we could,” upsets David. “Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?”

Apotheon asks these same kinds of questions. Zeus, consumed with regret for how petty mankind has become, wants to unmake us. Nikandreos, having observed the same pettiness in other Olympian gods, conquers them and creates a new world where he is god. The names Apotheon and Nikandreos both allude to this chain of events, meaning “one who is elevated to godhood” and “victorious man,” respectively. Victory, and even deification then, are fated from the beginning. You will win. You are the hero, after all, but I can only wonder if in time his creation will bring him relief or despair.

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The Good
Unique art style sells the narrative
Bouts with gods often have twists, making them both much more believable and tangible
Masterfully recreates classic Greek tragedy in a modern form
The Bad
Limited combat options leads to monotony towards the end
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Dan Starkey has always been enamored with Greek myth. He spent ten hours battling his favorite gods and goddesses for the sake of this review.
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Avatar image for TRMDYL
TRMDYL

"The ancients were a scared, superstitious people." how wrong you are, my friend. I'd say today's people are far more "scared" and "superstitious" than the ancient ones.

Avatar image for horosavinXX
horosavinXX

hey, does anybody remember "gods" (1991). i used to play it day and night on amiga as a kid...

anyway, this looks like a stylish re-make to me...

Avatar image for norman69
norman69

Downloaded this the other day, enjoying it so far. Sure, the controls aren't as precise as they could have been feels a little floaty when you're jumping around, but I'm a sucker for Greek mythology anyway, and I like the fact that many of the boss fights so far have some unique feature to them- especially the Artemis one (that I've experienced so far).

Avatar image for dariusq
dariusq

This game has a very nice aesthetic but everything else bored me to tears. Definitely not my taste.

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joel_c17

@dariusq: needs more guns

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advocacy

I saw dong in this game, and I liked it.

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Richardthe3rd

Many may not remember it, but there was an old NES game called The Battle of Olympus that this game reminded me of. Similar in design to The Adventures of Link, you played the Greek hero Orpheus, who sought the gods favor to deliver his girlfriend from Hades (somewhat true to the myth of Orpheus, mind you).

It was a painfully hard game as I recall, but fun. I'll have to give this one a try, and maybe look up an emulator for Olympus sometime.

Avatar image for fanirama
fanirama

Game is decent. Not terrible nor something great. The aura of the game is the best part - I love greek mythology.

Sadly the combat is so so, weapons degrade very quick and disappear, aiming is tough and some movements are clunky.

The game is a 2d dark souls scroller (with a lot of similar elements like hit, block, roll, bonfires to travel etc.) but not up to the my.

I'd rate it 7.3/10 tops

Avatar image for joel_c17
joel_c17

@fanirama: i bet you love the greek

Avatar image for tshipe
Tshipe

As sad as this sounds, this is one of the best games I have played on the ps4.

Avatar image for yourdenversport
YourDenverSport

@tshipe: Haven't you played Far Cry 4, Shadow of Mordor, Diablo 3 or Fifa 15? These games are all really fun. Personally I like COD Adv War and Battlefield 4 as well, but I understand why you wouldn't like those.

Avatar image for tshipe
Tshipe

@yourdenversport@tshipe: I have played half of the games you mentioned above, enjoying most of them, especially Shadow of Mordor. My point is for being a basic platformer, I had a lot of fun playing Apotheon and it kept me interested. So yes, for me, this is one of the best games I have played on the PS4, and it was free.

Avatar image for joel_c17
joel_c17

@tshipe: can you please share all the great games that have been released on next gen systems that arent on ps4?

Avatar image for Armyboy5
Armyboy5

I gotta say this looks awesome. Excited about this being a PS4 freebie

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lrdfancypants

The local couch MP arena battles are a blast.

Reminds me of Towerfall.

Avatar image for balthrus
Balthrus

The game was good, but it's (too?) easy and I had a lot of crashes and some bugs where I needed to reload my save. It took me 12h including some afking to finish the story and collect everything. PS4

Avatar image for Thathanka
Thathanka

This reminds me of the old Bitmap Brothers game Gods.

Avatar image for raynimrod
raynimrod

@Thathanka: Omg true! I was just thinking that!

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xantufrog

Looks pretty sweet

Moderator
Avatar image for princeev
PrinceEV

this game reminds me a lot to Outland.

Avatar image for cleevergreen
CleeverGreen

It's exactly what it looks like. It's beautiful and simple in it's art, presentation and controls. It's fun to play and great to look at. If you were someone who went to a museum and admired art from this period, and ever imagined what it would look like if it cam to life, this is the game for you.

Avatar image for iandizion713
iandizion713

Wow, controls look like garbage from the gameplay trailer. Where is the innovation? They should have made it a coop so you could gets some great laughs.

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lrdfancypants

This game is a lot of fun.

Avatar image for cip_raziel
cip_raziel

@iandizion713: Not every game needs to innovate. As the reviewer said, this game is like a 2D Dark Souls, combat feels awkward at start and you need some practice, but the rest of the game is great imo (finished it in 16 hours). There are some really interesting and varied god domains and exploration is rewarded. Heck you even have a GTA-like wanted system in the main hubs. There is also crafting: health potions, armor kits, traps and minion summons.

Avatar image for GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

@cip_raziel@iandizion713:


Well said.

Avatar image for iandizion713
iandizion713

Im guessing Guacamelee inspired this. Even the map feature reminds me of it.

Avatar image for Saidrex
Saidrex

@iandizion713: are you retarded? How is this in any way similar to Guacamelee? Play it first before making idiotoc comments. Guacamelee is brawler, this one is RPG, they have nothing in common other than both being platformers.

Avatar image for balthrus
Balthrus

@Saidrex@iandizion713: If this is RPG then Super Mario was propably the first RPG I played and CoD is one of the most popular RPGs out there, unless you got different Apotheon than I do.

Avatar image for Thathanka
Thathanka

@Saidrex@iandizion713: Someone's on their period!

Avatar image for deactivated-597794cd74015

@Saidrex: Guacamelee is a Metroidvania game with Brawler elements.

Avatar image for GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

@Saidrex@iandizion713:


He's referring to the Metroidvania element that they both share.

Avatar image for iandizion713
iandizion713

@Saidrex@iandizion713: the way the platformer environment was designed, like climbing up and down the ground and the way the map took over the screen is what made me feel that way. Even the character speed.

Apotheon More Info

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  • First Released Feb 3, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 2 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Apotheon is an open-world action stealth 2D side-scoller game by Alientrap.
    7.1
    Average Rating76 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Apotheon
    Developed by:
    Alientrap
    Published by:
    Alientrap
    Genre(s):
    2D, Action, Beat-'Em-Up
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Blood, Mild Language, Nudity, Use of Alcohol, Violence