Apotheon: Failing to reach the heights of Olympus

February 20, 2015


With so many indie games flooding the gaming space these days, it has become unsurprisingly difficult to stand out in the crowd. Thankfully, many developers are stepping up, crafting games with innovative gameplay hooks, or in the case of the new side-scroller Apotheon, unique visuals. Inspired by ancient Greek mythology and utilizing an art style which truly looks unlike any other game, Apotheon attempts to draw you in with its surface-level hooks, but doesn’t deliver gameplay to match its incredible aesthetic.

Taking the Greek-inspired black-figure pottery style and running with it, Apotheon is visually outstanding. It adapts the Greek myths we are all familiar with into a 2D side-scroller and throws you right in the middle. The visuals go a long way to making it feel like you are a part of those works of art, shaping these once-mythical stories into one of your own. Of course, that mostly involves killing lots of humans and Greek gods in the process, but Apotheon manages to craft its own myth in the process by rewriting the familiar tale. It’s an impressive look that goes a long way to making you feel part of something larger.

That facade slips off slightly once you actually take control of your main character, however. The animation is all over the place, which offers you plenty of control over your character and their attacks, yet breaks the illusion just slightly. When you’re leaping around buildings and moving like someone who seems to have no real control over their body, it seems a tad out of place. Sure, you are in a world full of gods, but even when you’re a mere mortal during the game’s opening moments, you look and feel all-powerful. Perhaps too powerful. It doesn’t destroy Apotheon’s unique world-building, but it does make it less impactful as a result.


The animation ties in directly with the gameplay and controls. There’s no getting around it: Apotheon is not a satisfying game to play. The controls feel very loose, and despite the great range of motion and attack it provides you, it gave me a feeling I rarely experience: too much control. By that I mean I have a wide range of directions to attack in (and I can control the direction of my attacks with the right analog stick), yet it all feels so imprecise. Sure, my wild flailing eventually kills whatever it is I’m aiming for, but it feels less based on skill and more based on pure chance. Even after several hours with the game, I never felt like I had any kind of precise control over my movement or attacks.

There are also ranged attacks, including the ability to throw spears or use a bow. This makes sense given the game’s right-stick-to-aim mechanics, yet it somehow feels even less satisfying than the melee weapons. Long-range attacks inherently require more precision when aiming, which is something aiming with the right analog stick didn’t seem to provide. It wasn’t too long before found using ranged weapons to attack enemies tedious and gave up on it almost entirely. For larger enemies, it was a tad easier, but the normal-sized baddies you come across were always annoying to deal with from a distance. I ended up relying on close-quarters combat whenever possible. It’s still not satisfying, but at least I felt like I could deal some damage despite the game’s imprecision.

There is a surprising amount of depth in Apotheon, even if most of it feels unnecessary. All of the weapons you acquire over the course of the game will eventually degrade until they break, forcing you to keep a decent-sized arsenal of gear at all times. This provided me with plenty of opportunities to test out different weapons, all of which did feel different in terms of attack speed and reach.


Armor is also a factor. You can’t upgrade your armor, but you can buy new armor or continually repair old armor to keep your defenses high. The wide array of weapons and armor choices you have are all impressive, giving you some light RPG mechanics, but again, it rarely felt that important during the majority of my experience. Almost every encounter came down to jumping and attacking like a mad man until I won. That’s not to say having effective armor wasn’t at all a factor during certain encounters, but buying new armor never became a necessary step to making progress.

Despite its beautiful aesthetics and promising gameplay, Apotheon isn’t at all enjoyable to actually play. The loose controls and finicky aiming turn what could have been a simple-yet-satisfying brawler into an unwieldy experience with not much else going for it.

Pros: Excellent aesthetics, a decent amount of depth
Cons: Loose controls, imprecise aiming, unsatisfying combat

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.