For better or for worse, the term Soulslike is thrown about pretty loosely these days. Every new game proudly brandishing the term a gamble between a total flop and a play-worthy twist on FromSoft’s special sauce. Achilles: Legends Untold is neither of these, sitting cozy between the two. Neither spectacular nor dreadful, serving up digestible, if unimpressive fun.
Developed by Dark Point Games, Achilles: Legends Untold is an Iliad-inspired isometric action RPG blending Diablo‘s old-school hacky-slashy and the Soulslike genre. Cast as the weak-heeled, titular Achilles, you’ll stomp across lands populated by square-jawed hoplites, lumbering cyclops, sinewy heroes, and cranky deities.
After a battle with Paris exposes our hero’s bungled immortality, death boots Achilles to the underworld. A chin wag later, and you set off as Hades’ errand boy, aiding Hell’s main man make some headway in a long-running feud with Ares. There’s armor to fix, demigods to battle and other busywork to get on with.
Achilles: Legends Untold’s Combat-Focused Fun
Despite such rich source material, the shallow story is just dressing for gameplay, in this case, raw, visceral combat. Luckily, Achilles: Legends Untold does this fairly well. Though a tad clunky in places, there’s a real thrill to challenging the colorful roster of enemies, from giant snapping lobsters and griffins to bosses like the down-and-out Agamemnon.
Run in, freshly-smithed sword gleaming, spamming attack, and you can expect a swift death. It’s a more meticulous style of gameplay. Patience and stringing together evasive dodges, blocks, and light and heavy attacks win out. In other words, the Diablo nod is mainly aesthetic, and the Souls-inspiration takes center stage.
You collect souls from downed enemies. Die, and you’ll need to fight back to where you fell to pick them up. Die in the process, and they’re gone for good. Bonfire-like Shrines of Hades litter the world at forgiving, regular intervals. Resting respawns all enemies. It’s all tried-and-tested stuff for the genre with nothing in the way of innovation.
Achilles: Legends Untold’s RPG-ness rests on a skill tree, where you can drop an ever-ballooning stack of souls into attributes such as strength, endurance, vitality, and luck, along with unique skills such as parrying, shield throws, and sprint attacks.
In addition, weapons scale based on these stats, throwing in different damage and damage reduction attributes, such as Dark and Magic. Visiting Hephaistos’ smithy allows you to upgrade weapons from gathered resources, bumping up their attributes and your overall fighting chops further. Sadly, these don’t translate to different combat styles as all weapons are tied to light and heavy attacks.
A Pretty Little World
Achilles: Legends Untold world is surprisingly big, divided into an overworld and smaller dungeons to explore. You’ll dart from ruins and cities to mountain tops and shadowy forests, all benefiting from the magic gloss of the isometric point of view.
Moving about is chiefly through winding and interconnected paths that are easy to get lost in, especially as there’s no map to fall back on. Tap Y on the controller, though, and a smoke plume gently guides you towards your next quest marker. Other than collecting resources and consumables, there’s little to prompt exploring beyond the main narrative path.
Achilles: Legends Untold is propped up by Dark Point’s in-house developed GAIA AI system. It’s billed as an innovative system that morphs and adapts enemy behavior to your playstyle. In action, not so much.
Archers leap off their brothers-in-arms to fire a deftly-aimed mid-air shot. Glowing-eyed wolves tactically surround you before attacking. But other than those fleeting cinematic moments, combat ruts itself in repetitive, well-telegraphed enemy behavior.Rather than crutching on one or two mobs with sleek move-sets for its ‘try, die, learn, and try again’ loop, Achilles: Legends Untold is a numbers game. You’ll regularly find yourself fighting groups of mobs, as much as a dozen at a time, that can down you with no more than a few hits.
Much of the game’s difficulty and enjoyment rests on managing these crowds. Luring them one by one away from the pack, using the environment to your benefit, firing off a shield throw to chunk down their health bars from a safe distance; all tactics to thin the herd. It’s a skewed difficulty, but there’s gratification in strategizing your way through a tricky choke point. Add to that a stamina bar that evaporates almost entirely with a single dodge roll, which needs careful management, along with an equally feeble health bar.
Cutting Some Early Access Slack
Achilles: Legends Untold is riddled with bugs and performance issues. Audio cuts off during cut scenes. The frame rate occasionally slows to a crawl. Invisible walls block off previously usable stairs, preventing progression. It’s also deceptively easy to get stuck in a stack of twigs or behind rock mounds. On one occasion, loading up the game spawned Achilles in a different dungeon to the one he was in previously.
There are also enemy aggro issues, where battle music will start blaring with no enemy in sight. Similarly, the stamina depletion mechanic, intended for combat only, will sometimes carry over once fights are wrapped up.
Fortunately, none are game-breaking. Achilles’ Ariadne’s Thread item – similar to Elden Ring’s Memory of Grace – also allows teleportation to the last visited shrine when you’re stuck. They are ever-present, though, and pepper the experience. As Achilles: Legends Untold is an Early Access release, we’ll pass these off as growing pains. Hopefully, they’ll be patched out for the 1.0 launch sometime in 2023.
Achilles: Legends Untold Review – In Conclusion
It’s easy to write off Achilles: Legends Untold as yet another surplus-to-requirement riff on the copycat Soulslike formula. In many ways, it is. That depleting stamina bar, the rhythmic dodge-attack-repeat, enemy lock-on, and the deceptive safety of bonfire-like shrines scattered across the map adapted to fit Greek mythos.
But, after ripping through the odd eight hours offered by the prologue, first chapter, and some loot-hunting, there’s a feeling of wanting more of Achilles: Legends Untold’s light, sufficiently challenging brand of fun. It’s familiar, moreish, Soulslike comfort food. While Achilles: Legends Untold won’t reach the giddy highs of Souls-inspired indie standouts like Hollow Knight, Dark Point’s freshman effort is certainly worth sampling for genre fans. Just don’t expect anything particularly new or revolutionary.
WePC received a free PC code for this review from the publisher.