There are some very good ideas sewn into the fabric of Achilles: Legends Untold. It’s an isometric soulslike, essentially, although it offers nowhere near the level of challenge you’d expect from a game wearing the genre influences so proudly. But that may not be a bad thing, as the more relaxed difficulty kept me playing – and you can always up the difficulty level if you really want a tougher time.
It follows the titular hero through the Fall of Troy and beyond, complete with a boss fight against Hector and then a fateful encounter with his brother, Paris, whose legendary arrow slays Achilles and deposits him in Tartarus. Dead but still very much filled with that fighting spirit, Achilles is charged by Hades to battle his way back to the world of the living and take his revenge.
What this means, essentially, is that while fighting against standard armoured soldiers, centurions, and warriors, you’ll also cross swords with skeletons, giant scorpions, animated statues, and actual demons. You pick your way through the ancient Greek underworld from Shrine to Shrine, and use these holy places to rest, level up, and fast travel.
Simply using a Shrine doesn’t respawn enemies, but resting at one or being resurrected at one does. They’re primarily used for fast travel as you unlock new abilities in an almost MetroidVania style, such as the ability to use Achilles’ magic focus vision to see into the underworld and thus destroy spirit barriers. Besides that, though, you must also use a Shrine to level up.
Defeating enemies will accrue XP, natch, and death will drop it with your corpse for you to retrieve (unless you die again, of course). When you have enough XP you can upgrade Achilles along a frankly confusingly huge skill tree that uses constellations to chart a path. Most stat improvements have three levels, but unlocking the first level is enough to open up the adjoining nodes, which most often lead to other stat increases. It’s a system that was overhauled and refined since the PC early access period, but it’s still far too messy.
It takes some time to unlock new passive and active skills on the tree, too, which means you’re often just boosting your stats in ways that don’t always feel like they’re making a difference. You have HP, stamina, and Fury, the latter of which is the resource by which Achilles can activate special attacks and magic. These can all be increased, and there are plenty of passives that affect them or allow you to regenerate them by certain actions, but the skill tree is so busy that I often found it a chore to plot a path to a given skill. It’s great to have so many options, but it’s still too loose a system.
Combat, too, is just a little too floaty. You’re often beset by several enemies at a time, and while you have a standard i-frame dodge, and a parry, it can be easy to get overwhelmed on higher difficulties. Luckily there’s a pretty huge array of weapons that you can find and upgrade (once you find the Blacksmith), and a vast selection of throwables that you can craft with the right ingredients.
It doesn’t help that the combat just feels a little imprecise, and I never felt any weapon combo was better than the standard sword (or axe) and shield. Weapons are almost always found in special chests or rewarded for killing certain enemies, while your armour can’t be switched but can be upgraded. Either way, very little in the game can stand against the tried and tested tactic of dodge-rolling and counter-attacking.
The voice acting isn’t great – particularly Achilles himself – but this is a lower budget indie game and you can’t fault the effort that has gone into it. The environments are quite effectively atmospheric, and the standard difficulty is gentle enough that I never got frustrated. I also appreciate loot in all its forms and Achilles: Legends Untold showers you with it, from random pick-ups to chests and enemy drops.
Despite its shortcomings, though, there is something very playable about Achilles: Legends Untold. There are flashes of a great game here and there’s no doubt that developer Dark Point Games has put a great deal of effort into realising a vision, but it just doesn’t quite come through where it counts.
Lots of loot
Some nice environments
Iffy voice work
Skill tree is too sprawling