The great thing about playing games is that you sometimes learn things – as well as just going around virtually killing. There are certain games which encourage you to go out and educate yourself more; whether that be about a new subject or time in history you have been playing through. Since God of War and through to Assasins Creed Valhalla I feel like I’ve had a crash course in all things Norse, understanding the real world they lived in and their wonderful mythology. In Apsulov: End of Gods we are once again introduced to the wonder of the Norse gods and magic, but this time with a very unique perspective. You see, the game is set in the future, but the myths live on and affect the world in a very bad way. By Thor’s hammer, I will try to tell you why.
Apsulov is described as a future Viking horror game; a future full of cybernetic implants and shiny lights. It’s here where the humans have dug deep beneath the world and discovered the secrets of the Norse gods through mysterious artifacts and huge scary horrors. In doing this they have caused an apocalypse in the world, opening up portals to the nine realms and releasing all sorts of frights to roam the lands.
The game starts with your character strapped to a medical chair, with you viewing things in the first person while a machine talks to you. You don’t really know who you are, except you have runes tattooed alongside your arms, all in full view. Soon you’re walking through a disused dark facility, with two powers to your name: the ability to see in the dark for a short period, like a VR implant whereby you can see the layout of the room and the location of certain useful objects, and the fact that your hand has been replaced with a mechanic prosthetic – Jarngreipr. This hand can download schematics to certain level access on electronic doorways. It also has a power source used to open vent shafts and more complicated access areas. But it also can repel demons and all manner of creepy Norse-like aversions patrolling the world.
The story is excellent and a brilliant take of Norse mythology. It’s revealed in dribs and drabs through the main characters, as well as recordings found across the levels. This is certainly a very interesting world to spend time in, and it would be great to go back to it in another game of the franchise.
Gameplay-wise and Aspulov reminds a little of Doom – specifically Doom 3 – in parts. You move your character as you would normally expect, running around when you see fit. You will spend a lot of time crawling around in vents or dark areas too, so using your VR sight is pretty much essential. It’s also an idea to work out when best to rest the insight so you don’t end up sightless in the pitch black. Personally though, I feel like Aspulov leaves you to spend too long in the vents of this game, and by the end they had certainly overstayed their welcome.
The exploration of the world is great, especially as you travel from the facility to some of the other nine worlds like Niflheim, the frozen world. Here giant ice creatures roam around and the stealth elements of Aspulov: End of Gods comes into play, requiring you to avoid them by hiding and running at the right times. Using your robot arm to deliver a charged shot is vital too though, particularly in the later levels and especially in the one big boss battle you find yourself partaking in at the end. There are some minor puzzle elements to get involved in too, as will be the need to focus on collectibles that you can gather from all around the levels. And if you really want to punish yourself you can turn the difficulty up to ‘God’ levels and take the pain.
For the most part, the small development team behind Aspulov: End of Gods should be applauded for what they have achieved. The visuals are great, especially those in the level design of some of the large areas like Niflheim and Helheim; grand places which are filled with awe-inspiring scenery and horror happenings. The interiors of the stations are good too, but can get a bit similar after a while. The lighting is equally as impressive, and when combined with well designed character animations, Aspulov is a hit. Further, the soundtrack is brilliant throughout with some thumping tracks for the faster sections and more atmospheric numbers helping to emphasize the wonder of the environments. And that’s all without mentioning the voice work which is powered by some great cast performances.
Running at 7-8 hours in length, Aspulov: End of Gods is a decent playthrough. It’s a game that does feel a bit dark – perhaps because of the size of the budget – but the essence of the game and the heart of its content is excellent. It’s something which neatly tells a worthwhile story, one that takes a well-trodden path but does something completely new with it.
You can download Apsulov: End of Gods from the Xbox Store