The story of Achilles is one that has been told again and again from time immemorial. The Greek hero who was dipped in a river as a boy, invulnerable apart from one little bit of his skin where his mother had gripped his ankle, is one of the most famous in the world. Well, now it is time for a video game to have a crack at his story, with the launch of Achilles: Untold Legends from Dark Point Games.
Stepping into the sandals of the eponymous hero, can we conquer our foes and emerge victorious, or will our bones lie bleaching amongst so many others? Well, let’s pick our best sword and see what we can find, shall we?
The story of the game starts off with that which we know, where Achilles and his Myrmidons are sent to wage war on Troy after Helen is kidnapped. We progress to the walls of Troy, pausing only to battle and defeat Hector on the way. From there we head off to face Paris, ruler of Troy. Here, things start to deviate from the story we know. Defeated, we somehow end up back on earth, 10 years later, and it appears that we have slipped through the net of fate, as we are not alive and yet not dead either. This leaves us with the ability to see into the other world, and for wraiths from there to come and attack us, finally making us dead. With a story of revenge and redemption to play through, it is fair to say that the tale told in Achilles: Legends Untold is very good.
Presentation should be seen as another tick as well, as Achilles: Legends Untold looks like nothing less than a cut price Diablo IV. The same isometric, three quarter viewpoint is there, the same look to the game, the same feel to the action. I have to admit, it has surprised me, coming to review with little in the way of expectations. But it has been a pleasure to find out what it was about.
The enemies you face all look like they are drawn from Ancient Greek mythology, ranging from giant scorpions, to cyclops, to griffins, even. They sit alongside more everyday foes like walking skeletons and regular guards. There never seems to be a shortage of things to hit, let’s put it that way! The design of the world is very good as well, with a large open area to explore and lots of secrets to find and things to see.
Sound is also a high point, with fully voiced conversations to listen to (even if the voice actor who plays Achilles seems to be doing a ropy Vinnie Jones impression) and enough melee noises to satisfy anyone. One thing I will warn you about is the language that is on display – even though this is a 16 rated game, the C-bomb will be dropped; that is a bit of a shock. I fact I can’t think of another game I’ve played where that particular expletive has been used, so approach with care if younger ears are nearby.
It is all pretty good in terms of gameplay too. Achilles: Legends Untold is described in the promotional material as an action RPG with a Souls-like combat system, and while this may be pushing it a little bit, there are elements of Dark Souls to be found. The action is like Diablo, to be blunt, with the addition that if you rest at any of the Shrines of Hades that you come across, most non-boss enemies are brought back to life, looking to kill you all over again. There is no explanation as to why this is, and with the Souls-like tendency for even tiny foes to kill you if you get cocky, maybe the comparison isn’t that far fetched after all.
As you progress through the game, we are given missions to accomplish, and the mini map in the top right corner will always show you the most efficient path to get to your destination, which is nice. You can also pick side quests to carry out, and these are able to be selected from the menu; the guideline will then take you there instead. All in all, the mini map is a pretty good feature, as are the loading times – there are literally none to be found. As you explore, you can choose to enter various cellars and dungeons to explore, and from pressing to enter and hitting a button on the next screen, there is literally no loading time at all. This is very impressive, finally getting towards what Microsoft promised with the advent of the Series X|S consoles.
Achilles: Legends Untold comes with more weapons than you can shake a stick at, and so the choice of how to fight is wide and varied. Single or double wielding swords and axes is pretty cool (I have a dual poison axe build going at the moment that happily shreds through a boss), as is the ability to use a spear and shield, or a sword and a shield if you prefer. There are hard and light attacks mapped to the right bumper and trigger, and with a block button on LB, it is a very Souls-styled control setup. Those controls work very well, and even though there isn’t a huge amount of feel to the combat (the only way you know you’re hurt is when the screen starts going red), it is fairly satisfying.
There is a full skill tree to play with too, and with numerous nodes to unlock giving us more health or stamina, or more strength or even new skills to utilise, the possibilities when it comes to building your Achilles are pretty numerous. With special attacks to unlock when you get enough skill points, alongside extra skill slots to put them in, the skill tree is pretty impressive. Add in the ability to upgrade your weapons at a blacksmith and you’ll soon be a lean, mean, sandal wearing killing machine.
Achilles: Legends Untold may well deliver more than you think – especially in terms of enjoyment. The combat and exploration are fun, the loading times are world class, and there is a lot to do. If you like Ancient Greek mythology, or want a new Diablo-styled game, this is one you should be giving a whirl.