These days, soulslikes come in many shapes and forms. Thanks to FromSoftware’s overwhelming success in recent years – owing to projects like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring – many developers have fancied their chances of taking a slice of that very lucrative pie. The result is that the core gameplay elements of the genre are replicated in a variety of ways. From straight-up copycat projects like the recent games Lies of P and Lords of the Fallen, to more diverse offerings, such as 2D Soulslikes Blasphemous and Hollow Knight. Achilles: Legends Untold is the latest soulslike to provide a unique take on the genre. The game offers a Diablo-esque isometric 3D open-world for players to explore as the titular hero from Ancient Greece. While it’s a solid maiden effort from Darkpoint Games, it lacks the innovation to truly stand out from its competition.
Note – A PlayStation 5 code was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
Achilles: Legends Untold Takes You Back to Ancient Greece
Any game featuring historical figures will always be scrutinized. Fortunately, Developer Darkpoint Games displays a clear love for the source material, which shines through. Achilles’ story is brought to life with many of the sights and sounds you’d expect from a game set in Ancient Greece. The 2004 Wolfgang Petersen epic, Troy, seems to have been a particular source of inspiration here. Some of the more notable characters, including Achilles himself, are clearly modeled after their appearances in that movie. The game’s soundtrack also bears more than a striking resemblance to its big-budget silver-screen counterpart.
The Story of Achilles Reimagined For a New Audience
Achilles’ story is a relatively well-known one. The fierce Greek soldier is known to be among the greatest warriors to have ever lived. Having commanded the Myrmidons during the Trojan War. He slaughtered the Trojan prince Hector – himself having a reputation as a strong warrior – before succumbing to an arrow shot by Hector’s brother, Paris. Traditionally, this is where his story ends. But Achilles: Legends Untold puts a new spin on things by having Achilles ‘survive’ his defeat to Paris, in one of those near-impossible tutorial boss fights made famous by FromSoftware. Awakening a decade later, Achilles must piece together events and find his Myrmidons, while taking revenge on his enemies. It’s a cool concept, and the opening siege of Troy, and battles with Hector and Paris, are sure to get players engaged right from the off.
Unfortunately, though, once the action-packed tutorial is over, Achilles spends far too long on mundane fetch quests. He fights the same handful of enemy types for the first dozen or so hours of the game. The open-world map is undoubtedly large. But it feels like some of the uninspired reasons for Achilles to travel to certain areas are purely for the purpose of padding out the game’s runtime. The early-access version of the game was only approximately half the size of the full offering in terms of story. While it sounds like a positive move by the developers to add more content, under scrutiny it becomes apparent that much of this content is pointless. By the end, it feels like Achilles’ story could’ve been streamlined to much greater effect.
Visuals, Audio, and Enemy Diversity in Achilles: Legends Untold
Ancient Greece is presented nicely enough from a top-down perspective. For an Indie project, the visuals are neat and tidy. The game features diverse biomes doing a good job of recreating architecture and landscape that fans would expect to see from this time period. Cutscenes narrating the game’s story are few and far between. But considering they’re about as low budget as you’d expect, and do little to add to the atmosphere. This is hardly a bad thing.
The game’s audio is extremely hit-and-miss. The soundtrack isn’t bad at all, but the voice acting is awful, Achilles in particular. The most fearsome warrior in all of Ancient Greece should command respect when he speaks. Here though, unfortunately, he is so incredibly understated that you’d be forgiven for needing subtitles to actually hear what he is saying.
In terms of the game’s animations though, these were smooth, and there were no noticeable dips in frame rate or performance issues throughout the game.
The enemy types on offer include mythological creatures such as the Minotaur, as you’d expect, but in terms of the standard enemies, they are nowhere near diverse enough. Outside of the Greek soldiers whom Achilles will cut through effortlessly, other enemy types like wolves and skeletons are overused. In fact, it’s overused to the point where you’ll struggle to contain your disappointment upon coming across yet another batch of them.
For a soulslike, Achilles: Legends Untold is more forgiving than most in the genre. It offers plenty of generously placed checkpoints to heal, level up, and teleport between. While the player can get overwhelmed by groups of enemies, Achilles has sufficient tricks in his toolbox to fend off most attacks.
Fluid Combat But Lacks Spark
The combat is fluid and responsive enough to make you feel like you’re always in control. However, it just lacks the necessary diversity to keep you engaged over such a long campaign. Achilles has the usual light and heavy attack. As well as special attacks such as a Spartan kick or shield throw which need time to recharge. It borrows slightly from Diablo in this regard, while asking the player to manage their stamina bar – another overused staple of the genre.
The problem again here is the distinct lack of variety on offer. Encounters become super repetitive, and even in the late game there just isn’t enough to keep players engaged. The combat is by no means bad, it just lacks flair. The same can be said for the game’s upgrading and crafting systems.
Crafting and Upgrade Systems
Both upgrading and crafting do their job well enough but just lack that little spark of creativity. Upgrading and leveling up needs to be done via shrines (this game’s version of checkpoints) by way of a system that borrows from the Greek constellations. It looks pretty enough, as you plot your way from one constellation to the next. There are standard upgrades such as strength and endurance as well as new skills and abilities. The fundamental issue here though, is that there are so many paths and branches to take. It’s likely that you could miss a key ability or skill simply by moving through the tree in a different direction. At the time of launch, there was no respec system either. Unfortunately, this means that players are locked into the path they choose, for better or worse.
Crafting is done by picking up loot from downed enemies and combining it with other materials to create potions. Such potions can restore your health or buff you to increase damage or raise elemental resistance. Like much of the game, it works fine but sorely lacks innovation.
The game offers plenty of weapon variety, all of which are upgradeable, and Achilles can use them as he sees fit. Dual-wielding swords or combining an axe and shield should he wish. They don’t really change the way he fights though. It is likely you will end up using the one that you think looks the coolest, rather than which one matches your play style.
Final Thoughts on Achilles: Legends Untold
All things considered, Achilles: Legends Untold is by no means a bad game. It ticks a lot of the boxes you’d look for in a soulslike, with robust combat, a cool world to explore, and challenging bosses. The issue is the repetitive nature of the game. After a while, each dungeon will look the same. Each combat encounter will feel slow and methodical. While the handful of enemy types on offer will wear extremely thin.
The game also suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It isn’t quite sure if it wants to be a Diablo-style looter/ dungeon crawler, or an isometric soulslike. The result is it ends up being a little of both, without doing either particularly well. That being said, developer Darkpoint Games deserves praise for showing an impressive amount of affection for the source material. Fans of Ancient Greek mythology, as well as Diablo or soulslikes, could do a lot worse than checking this game out. Just don’t expect much innovation.