I tried really hard to like Apotheon. I argued with other staff members that it wasn’t that bad, and insisted I was going to continue playing. At the end of my eight hour journey I can say this: I at least like the music.

Apotheon tells the story of Nikandreos and his quest to defeat the Greek gods, who are dooming humanity by no longer offering their gifts to the world. If you’ve played God of War, read Greek mythology, or read modern adaptations of it (like the Percy Jackson book series) then Apotheon’s plot will likely seem very cliche. There’s tidbits of myths here and there that are fairly interesting, but it’s not exactly telling a story so much as just having Nikandreos go from place to place, encountering different gods or people from Greek myth.

While the story isn’t epic, the music is. Whether it’s sadness, tension, or a badass clash of man and god, Apotheon always backs up the gravity of what was happening on screen with a score trapping my attention. From start to finish, it was consistently the aspect I liked most.

At first glance, it’s easy to see why a game like Apotheon garners interest. Its aesthetic of emulating ancient Greek pottery is a cool idea, but it’s missing proper follow-through. It has issues with friendly units not being discernible from enemies — and even more concerning — backgrounds being indistinguishable from platforms to jump on: which is maybe one of the worst problems to have in a platforming game. Certain areas seem to ditch the visual style altogether, and I was left staring at clunkily moving warriors that seemed incredibly out of place.

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My biggest issue with Apotheon, though, is its gameplay, which is stuck somewhere between a side-scrolling action game and a platformer, but without the competency to perform as either. Swinging any of Apotheon’s vast armory of weapons feels sluggish and weak, even with upgrades to improve their speed. Hitboxes on some of the weapons renders them completely useless, since enemies seem to naturally gravitate toward me like a black hole. Taking a swing at them with a scythe means wiffing it into thin air, instead of hitting the person literally right next to me.

One positive thing I can say is that the physics engine is absolutely hilarious. Using explosives shoots enemies — or sometimes myself — like a rocket in a completely cartoony fashion. Even this, sadly, is sometimes used to hinder my occasional fun, since it can glitch and explode me into the ground, without a way to return to the surface. This isn’t the only glitch either; opening chests caused my game to crash several times during my playthrough, as did opening certain doors.

The enemies don’t really offer much in terms of bringing differing tactics to the battlefield, even though there’s plenty of enemy types. My tactic for everything was to get close and stab with a spear, or run away and switch to arrows to try and chip away at them. Some of the encounters come off as drawn out and tedious, rather than exciting. I never felt in danger, unless I put myself in that situation by being reckless from boredom.

“I ended up fighting with the inventory system just about as much as I fought with enemies”

I ended up fighting with the inventory system just about as much as I fought with enemies. It’s frustrating and incredibly bloated due to the arsenal that Nikandreos drags around with him at all times. Switching between the melee and ranged weapons, or to traps and potions, leaves me open to attacks, unless I paused the game to manually switch to one of them. Having a better way to switch weapons on the fly would help so much, especially since the dangers in Apotheon are both close- and long-ranged. Additionally, whenever an item breaks from use, it automatically defaults to whatever is at the top of your inventory, which always seems to be exactly what I don’t want to use.

Boss fights mix things up a little bit, and sometimes in a fun way. I really enjoyed fighting an ancient cyclops near the beginning of the game. Needing to attack him in the eye was a fun throwback to myths like the Odyssey where Odysseus blinds the cyclops Polyphemus. But a lot of the other fights used the exact same formula: hit the god with a specific weapon or item and follow up with normal attacks. And repeat. Even up until the final confrontation with Zeus, this formula was still being milked.

Tedious is the perfect word to sum up Apotheon. It describes how it feels to slowly chip away at enemies and how it feels to go on fetch quest after fetch quest. There’s a lot of surface level things that are appealing, like its visual style and music, but after a while what it does right is so outnumbered by what is done wrong that they seem inconsequential.

But hey, eight hours is nothing compared to the 10 years Odysseus dealt with, at least.

  • I think I feel more sympathy for western game developers than contempt these days. They just cannot seem to make a playable game no matter how many times they try. At some point it goes from being exasperating to just pathetic.