Announced only a year ago, Apotheon is getting ready to release in 2013, and it's playable on the show floor here at PAX. At first glance it looks like a simple platformer or brawler, but the actual mechanics run deeper.
Directional combat, flanking, climbing on walls and ceiling, brutal physics, item upgrading, and dialog choices make give this stylistic 2D game an interesting edge. I am way more interested in it now that I have had the chance to play it.
The controls feel more like an old-school shooter like Unreal Tornament with lots of jumping around and trying to get in a good position to kill bad guys. Having played Apotheon with a controller, that now seems like the only way to play.
The left stick controlled movement and the right stick aims attacks and blocks. The direction of attacks is crucial. A well-placed spear can go over an enemy's shield and hit them in the face. Another good trick is jumping over enemies to quickly stab them in the back before they get a chance to turn around and block.
Items can be collected and upgraded, and it's possible to have lots of different items on you that can be quickly swapped using the d-pad. Some items might not seem useful at first, but anything you're carrying can be thrown at enemies. Today I learned that it's fun to toss wooden clubs at people over and over again.
The trailer above does a really good job of showing off the unique 2D, Greek-inspired art. It's a good art direction, fitting in with the game since you play as a Greek hero who has to go to Mount Olympus to battle it out with gods and demi-gods.
Combat has a good feeling to it. When you hit something successfully, it feels satisfying and impactful; there is an amazing visual response with physics and animation. Boxes can be smashed to bits and enemies can be beaten to a bloody pulp. There is also a pleasing layer of 3D effects and animation added on top of the 2D art that makes things like breaking shields, burning torches, or bleeding guards look spectacular in motion.
A quest-driven story system comes complete with dialog options, a giant map to explore, and quest markers. To add to this role-playing style, there it loot to pick up everywhere, while armor and weapons can be upgraded. I wouldn't say it's a full-fledged role-playing game, but it does borrow a lot of elements from the genre.
Apotheon will be out later this year on PC and after that, it might find its way onto other platforms. Along with the single-player campaign there will also be a mutliplayer mode, which sounds like a lot of fun.