Achilles: Legends Untold
An Epic Poetry, Untold
Achilles: Legends Untold is an Action RPG that is currently in early access. I begin with this statement because Achilles does feel like the start of something promising. In its current state, it's not perfect, but the vision is clear for our Spartan warrior. While it is an "Action RPG," Achilles feels like a PS2-era dungeon crawler. Games such as Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath were simple hack and slash titles that gave players a sense of control in their builds.
While they weren't as in-depth as, say, Diablo 2, its simplicity and streamlined gameplay were rooted in its enjoyment. These games were also narrative-based and linear by nature. I've always been a stickler for games based on Greek mythology. Games like Immortals Fenyx Rising often take these mythologies and turn them into a family-friendly comedy experience. Achilles: Legends Untold is neither family-friendly nor a comedy, at least the modern terminology of it, as it is a retelling of the legend of Achilles. The tutorial begins with Achilles leading the charge toward the city of Troy.
A Dance To The Death
The controls as easy to learn yet will take some time to master. Achilles: Legends Untold is not a game the player can freely mash as, despite playing the namesake character, they are not invincible. Achilles didn't become the legend he's known for today by waving his sword around like a "bandit." He gives this same insult to someone later on in the game, actually.
Achilles is a dance, similar to the concept of "footsies" for those who play fighting games. You'd want your opponent to strike first and then counterattack after their attack whiffs or you successfully block the attack. There are some attacks that require the player to dodge and roll to evade as blocking will be rendered useless.
Timing Is Everything And This Reviewer's Timing Was Perfect
Achilles' latest update, Patch 0.1.3, was released today just as I began writing my first impressions. These changes gave Achilles the shield throw and kick abilities to start with. These help considerably in the early game where before the player had to unlock them via the skill tree. Abilities can be assigned as players unlock them and some are only usable depending on the weapons equipped. The shield throw is obviously only usable with a shield, yet the ability to rain spears on opponents is only valid with a spear. The combat felt more fluid, attacks felt more rewarding on hit, and the targeting is far smoother than before.
There are still some inconsistencies with some skills, such as "Hero's Call," where Achilles leaps with his sword, piercing his opponent. I found that if I used the ability too close to the opponent, my sword would whiff directly over their head. I'd then get punished because the recovery frames of the attack assume it made contact with the enemy. The other weapon skills I experimented with didn't have this issue. However, there are still some funny glitches that occurred. At one point, I was stuck in an animation and I couldn't attack, roll, dodge, or do anything. I had to force the game back to the main menu and reload.
Achilles Is Fairly Accurate With Its History
Despite these rare instances, the gameplay is fun but the experience is best enjoyed when you're fighting larger enemies. Occasionally, you'll fight giant ogres and scorpions which require a specific way to deal with them than normal enemies. These guys hit harder than the standard human and undead, so "footsies" play a larger role here than before. All of the ogre's attacks are unblockable, for example, but they are easily telegraphed. After the first handful of ogre fights, it becomes satisfying to run circles around them. The same goes for the scorpion, especially when you fight a boss variant for a quest.
Speaking of quests, as I hinted earlier, Achilles: Legends Untold is fairly linear in its progression. During your invasion of Troy, you fight against familiar names including Hector and Paris. Those familiar with The Iliad will recognize the former as the murderer of Patroclus, which isn't mentioned but is greatly referenced. The same goes for Paris, who would be the one to slay Achilles in the epic by targeting his heel. The way Achilles handles this is by making the battle against Paris an unwinnable fight. Upon losing the fight, Achilles gets sent to Tartarus, forced to become Hades's errand boy.
Creative Liberties Are Always Awesome To See
Achilles: Legends Untold then turns into a "What If?" situation, as "what if" Achilles was given a second chance at life? He's told that the events transpired as one expected from the Trojan War, with Troy falling and Paris dying. What's different in Legends Untold is that rather mentioning Apollo as in the original, it's told that Paris conspired with Ares of all the gods. Much like my review of Immortals Fenyx Rising, players who know Greek mythology will find amusement in the creative liberties the developers take with these timeless legends. Not too long as you are under Hades's leash, you are tasked to search for Hephaestus.
Along the way the player will come across Hades's shrines which are, you guessed it, the "bonfire/lost grace" of this game. You know the routine by now. Achilles can level up, restore health and fury, and by doing so enemies will respawn. The kicker here is that there aren't any "reusable" items like Estus Flasks in this game. The game will replenish the number of potions used for example via whatever reserves the player has. This plays itself more like Nioh where the player will have to be resourceful or they won't have any potions to rely on.
Why Is It Always Ares?
Fortunately, the skills that Achilles learns can offset any health problems. Achilles can drain the enemy's health like a vampire while also converting damage dealt into health. Rather than adding stat points, the game follows a skill tree where attributes are earned on the path to beneficial skills. There's just one minor complaint that I have about the game that branches into another complaint. It's possible for the player to get distracted in Achilles and appear in places far ahead of the plot. An example of this is on the way to the cave where Hephaestus is located.
The player always has a tracker that they can rely on except when in "dungeon areas," and it will always point the player in the direction they should go. However, the player can walk off the beaten path and go in the complete opposite direction, as I did. After fighting ogres and a griffin by the mountainside, I ventured into the Old Ruins and fought the Skeleton King. Afterward, I collected my fates and went to save Hephaestus. The only problem is that after I saved him, I was tasked to go back to the mountainside as if I'd never gone there for the first time. That means I had to once again fight the griffin, enter the Old Ruins, and once again defeat the Skeleton King. Since it's "story purposes," this time it counted.
Backtracking Is Expected But Make It Smart
While I wasn't bothered by it as it was bonus exp for me, it made me realize that Achilles: Legends Untold was far linear than I initially imagined. Sure it gave me the illusion that I had the choice to go off the beaten path. The game ultimately decided that rather than being rewarded for doing things out of order, I was "punished" by having to do it again. It's one of those "once bitten twice shy" moments as I didn't desire to explore too far from my designated path anymore. Another thing that I would hope gets included in Achilles is some form of a map. Maybe later on in the game, there will be such a thing, but even a minimap would suffice in not getting lost.
Overall, Achilles: Legends Untold surprised me from the kind of game I was expecting. It doesn't have the depth of Diablo or Sacred, but it meets somewhere in the middle. If I were to compare it to a PC game, it reminded me of Dungeon Siege. The game is powered by a narrative separated by slow, methodical, and sometimes clunky sword fights. However, as this is again an early access game, the developers are working to iron out the kinks rather frequently. Thus, for a first impression, consider me impressed. It'll be epic to see where Achilles ends up, pun intended.
Achilles: Legends Untold is currently in Early Access on Steam.