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31 Jan 2022

REVIEW: Achilles: Legends Untold (Early Access - Beta Test)

Review by Jon Donnis
Achilles: Legends Untold is currently in Beta testing, as an early access game, I was invited to take part in the testing, and what follows are my honest and unbiased thoughts. Please keep in mind that the game is not finished, and my opinions on the game are based on the unfinished product.

To start off, this is an isometric RPG game, that isn't really isometric, nor is it a RPG game, in the classical sense. It is isometric only in parts, and the camera angle does move to set positions.

You as the player are unable to move the camera yourself, which is beyond frustrating, especially when you first start the game. Your initial instinct is to use the right stick if using a game controller, to adjust the camera so you can see your surroundings better. And this is the first huge problem with the game. By going against the natural instinct of the player, and forcing a camera perspective, you are taking away a huge part of what makes a game enjoyable. But we will come back to that later.

The game is basically a linear route, hack and slash game, you control your Greek warrior, you run about, and when you come across an enemy, you try to hit him and kill him before he kills you. You will also face mythological creatures, boss fights and everything in between.

As you play you will collect "souls", and other colelctables, used to upgrade your character. Health potions, bombs and so on.

It just so happens that I have been playing Assassins Creed Odyssey for the past few months, so instantly upon playing Achilles: Legends Untold, I already have in my mind what a good game based on Ancient Greece should look like. Unfortunately Achilles: Legends Untold is not in the same league as Odyssey, but then they are very different games with different budgets, so you have to accept that although first impressions of loading screens and so on, indicate one kind of game, what you get is something quite different. The closest you could compare would be one of the top down view Lara Croft games.

Onto the gameplay itself. As I mentioned earlier the camera view is a bit of mess, straight away you feel too close to the character, in that it is hard to tell where you are supposed to go, as the field of view is very limited. There are no on screen maps, no directional arrows, and although the levels are linear, there are a few little side routes you can take. That instinct to adjust the camera is huge though. As you play, the camera angle does change depending on which part of the level you are on. Moving to an almost side on 2D type perspective. This then causes other problems including your character being hidden completely by obstacles in the foreground. Check the photo below, can you see where my character is?

This is seemingly done, to show off some of the pretty backgrounds. It does seem like the game makers created the graphics, backgrounds etc first, and then thought about gameplay, which is a slightly backwards way of creating a game in my opinion.

In your regular hack and slash game, you have a large health bar, and you just go on a killing spree. However in this game, your health bar is tiny, meaning a few good shots from an enemy and you die. You will then respawn either at the start of the level, or at certain points placed around the level, which also act as a place to replenish your health, upgrade your character and so on. With the health bar being so small at the start, you will find yourself drinking health potions in an attempt to stay alive, but this takes a few seconds, leaving you wide open to being attacked by the very enemy you are trying to beat. The menu system is a bit of a mess, to upgrade yoru character and so on, it is pretty unclear, and you will just find yourself clicking on everything, trying to figure it out.

In fights you have a regular attack and a hard attack, the hard attack takes a few seconds to hit with, and the regular one is slightly faster, both seem so slow to use, and instead of what you would normally do in a hack and slash game, you find yourself trying to time the attacks, as they seemingly take forever to actually hit, meaning the game forces you to strategise basically every hit. Not so easy when you are fighting more than one opponent. And if you are facing a boss fight, or a mythological creature, you will struggle, even on the easy setting. Think "Hit, run away, hit, run away" You also can only hit a few times before your stamina runs out, so you then have to wait for that to refill.

I am truly dumbfounded why they would make a game that plays in this way, especially so when you choose the easy difficulty setting. You have a shield you can use in fights, but this just slows down your movement and ends up increasing the chance of you getting hit, and making it harder to time a return hit, as you cant move away fast enough.

Some of the cut scenes look great, some look a bit 2005.

The one saving grace of all of this, is that the game is early access, it is unfinished, and most of these problems can be fixed. I assume that the camera angle is a lost cause, as to fix that, would mean reworking the entire game. But the basic fighting can easily be fixed. Will the game makers listen to the players? Time will tell, as a second quarter relase date is promised.

As it is right now, the game has potential, there is a good game hidden in there, the question is if the developers can bring it out of the mess they have created for themselves. Even if they just make a easy dificulty setting with faster strokes, and a massive health bar, and just allow players to have fun. 

My tip to any game developer out there, concentrate on the gameplay first, make an enjoyable game that works, and worry about the graphics and cut scenes later, they really aren't that important.

I wont score the game as it is right now, as it is no where near the finished article. I just hope that the game developers can take constructive criticism, and understand that my criticisms are based off of frustrations for a game that I was sure I would love. I am Greek, so any game that uses my history, my culture needs to be of the highest quality, As of right now, I am just disappointed. 

When the game is finished, if the game makers want me to take a look at it, I will happily do so, but they need to fix the problems I mentioned first.

For now, if you want a great game that celebrates ancient Greece and delivers on the gameplay at the highest level, check out Assassins Creed Odyssey.

Review by Jon Donnis

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