Apotheon is a simple game. This is obvious from the moment that you boot it up and see the art style for the first time.
It primarily uses blacks, oranges, yellows and whites in such a beautiful way and the characters and settings are designed perfectly to capture the ancient Greek style of pottery. A grandiose soundtrack that hits you and makes you properly feel like you’re undertaking a great quest accompanies these brilliant visuals. You genuinely feel transported to this time and place in history, while also feeling as if you’ve been sucked into a picture book. Apotheon knows that the God of War series has already succeeded in creating triple-A looking Greek mythology games, so it attempts to tell you a story from that time in the same style the people of that era would use to tell stories.
Unfortunately when it comes to the actual story, it’s strikingly similar to what has already been served up in the God of War series.
You find yourself playing as Nikandreos, a warrior on Earth who chooses to ascend Mount Olympus and slay Zeus after he decides that humans should be punished for their arrogance. Even as someone who’s only touched a couple of the God of War games, this felt like I was treading old ground. As the story continued progressing and I took down more and more of Zeus’s children, the feeling that I’d already played through this exact story continued to grow.
One of the biggest differences that sets Apotheon’s story apart from God of War is the games’ protagonist. One of the most common complaints levelled at God of War is that Kratos is an unlikable protagonist, and while Nikandreos is a character that we never hear speak, his character is brought out brilliantly through interactions with Zeus’s wife Hera and the other Gods.
Background story of the world is also fleshed out in numerous locations throughout the game, but these come across more as info-dumps and can be rather overwhelming, particularly if you aren’t well versed in Greek mythology.
At times the story also makes you feel like you’re going from objective to objective without you really understanding what you’re doing. You’ll complete one objective, such as retrieving a specific item, and then immediately get a new objective marker pointing you in a direction despite you having no idea where you’re going or why Nikandreos should be doing the things he’s doing. Similarly, the hub world can be rather confusing to navigate when you’re trying to find The Market, the location where you can stock up your inventory. You are given a map by holding down the touchpad on PS4, but you simply see the locations of many doors which makes it tedious to find exactly where you want to go, particularly because much of the hub world looks similar and starts to blend together making it much harder to remember where exactly to go. Fortunately this isn’t a problem when it comes to finding where the various Gods are located as the objective marker is incredibly easy to follow and a quick travel system is also readily available from quite early on.
Gameplay centres around a mixture of combat and quite basic puzzle solving (save for one particularly tricky encounter with Athena), but leans much more heavily towards combat, which makes it all the more disappointing that the combat system can be incredibly frustrating. Simple things like getting Nikandreos to face the right direction while in a hand-to-hand fight can be tricky, while holding down the right stick and moving it around to try and manually aim is way too complicated to use during battle. However, combat for range weapons actually works almost flawlessly, and while there are still major problems with trying to successfully aim manually when enemies are present, the auto aim will almost always work exactly how you want it to. The ragdoll physics are also quite enjoyable, particularly when you finish an enemy off with an arrow.
The biggest flaw of the combat might be its’ simplicity. Outside of the boss battles with Gods, which are generally interesting and unique, you’ll find yourself almost always just repetitively swinging your weapon until the enemies are defeated. Occasionally you might have to bring up your shield, but those occasions are few and far between and taking damage isn’t much of a problem as healing items and the ingredients needed to craft them are found so often that health is never a worry.
A problem also exists with the range combat, which is too overpowered at times. It’s way too easy to just sit back and pick off enemies as most of them aren’t equipped with a bow and arrow until late into the game, and even then those enemies are just an easy way to farm extra arrows for yourself. Not that you would ever need to farm for arrows as currency is found in abundance when killing enemies or finding treasure chests. You’ll also pickup weapons from these enemies and treasure chests, to the point where it’s almost never necessary to return to The Market after your first visit.
Of all the problems with the combat however, the most annoying is the weapon durability system. While in theory the system could work well, it falls flat when you acquire so many weapons over the course of the game, often having three or four of the same weapon in your inventory at a time. It should work to make the game much harder overall and force you to conserve the special weapons you earn until key moments, but instead you’ll be able to use the stock standard weapons up until the last 20-minutes, making the hardest part of the game far too easy.
These flaws definitely effected how enjoyable Apotheon was, but nothing was worse than the two encounters I had with a game-breaking bug which closed the game down, sent me back to the home screen and gave me an error code. From all reports this is a common problem and I was actually quite lucky in only having the game crash twice throughout my play through.
By the end of Apotheon I felt like I had undertaken a grand journey. I had fought in so many different locations and against a number of Gods, but it didn’t feel like I ever had to struggle or that I had my back against the wall at any moment. Thanks to the combat and the overabundance of weapons I felt like I was more powerful than anything thrown at me, rather than feeling like the regular human Nikandreos is.
I give Apotheon a 6.0/10. There are genuine highs littered throughout the game, but they are far too often broken up by lows, preventing it from becoming anything more special.