Achilles: Legends Untold Review
Way back in January, 2022, I got an early glimpse of Achilles: Legends Untold. I was impressed. The action RPG brings together Diablo-like hack and slash combat seasoned with Dark Soulslike mechanics and Greek mythology, heroes and monsters. Weirdly, though, as the game has progressed through early access and later demos, it seems to have lost a few of the qualities that made the demo stand out. Does the final release fulfill the game’s promise?
Greek mythology is full of the supernatural, though the ancients might not have thought of it quite that way. So, it’s no surprise that Achilles: Legends Untold is chock full of minotaur, gorgons, medusas and chimera. There are hundreds of walking skeletons, too, though they seem more like something Ray Harryhausen thought up for Jason and the Argonauts. A number of historical superstars pop in for a cameo or a boss battle, like Hades, Agamemnon, Hephestus and many others. The narrative premise revolves around Achilles coming back from the dead after being slain by Paris. Hades sends Achilles back to the earthly realm to seek vengeance and ultimately, to reunite the lands of the living and the dead, ridding the world of monsters. The setting isn’t miles away from the excellent roguelike, Hades.
The vast majority of action RPGs — even some of the best ones — have ignorable stories. Achilles: Legends Untold is no different. In part, this is because the writing and voice acting are disappointing. The actors use an odd range of accents, sometimes within the same character. The dialogue itself is wooden, mostly expository and lacking consistency. In other words, while the core premise of the story is good, the execution, not so much. Still, it does its assigned task of moving Achilles through the world, mission to mission, boss to boss. The majority of the game’s quests are unimaginative kill or fetch quests. If all you want to do is explore and kill, it’s fine.
Achilles: Legends Untold describes itself as having Soulslike combat. I guess that’s sort of true. Achilles has health and stamina bars, can block and dodge roll and there are healing shrines that serve as fast travel points. Aside from those mechanics, though, most encounters feel like those found in most hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers. Honestly, so many action games call themselves Soulslikes that the term has started to lose meaning. But some developers get it. Examples are the recent Lies of P or Lords of the Fallen.
One disappointing thing about Achilles’ combat is how little impact there is to anything. The game’s repetitive battle audio effects are thin and don’t do much to add to the power fantasy when fighting. The un-zoomable camera is pulled back too far to really judge the timing of shield blocks very effectively, and the dodge animation makes it look like our hero is skating on ice.
As he moves through the game, Achilles acquires a huge number of weapons from chests and enemy drops. This is ancient Greece, so the weapons have at least some basis in historical reality, though many have magical abilities as well. Generally, this is a game where, instead of upgrading your weapon, you’re on the lookout for a better version of the weapon you have.
Achilles earns XP and coin in combat and fairly frequently unlocks skill points to apply to the constellation of character upgrades, giving him more HP, strength and stamina, for example. None of these systems are even the slightest bit original. However, there’s a certain comfort and instant accessibility in playing a game where you come in knowing the rules.
It’s All Greek to Me
Back in 2006, the original Titan Quest had a similar — though more mythologically based — setting and hack-and-slash combat. In its time, it was a colorful alternative to the gothic darkness of Diablo. Titan Quest’s 2016 anniversary edition updated the mechanics and graphics. I mention this because comparisons between Titan Quest and Achilles are both inevitable and instructive. Looking at the two games in 2023, Achilles’ graphics are much more detailed and its world more fully realized, which is no surprise. Titan Quest’s combat is less rewarding and more primitive than one might remember. But its camera is far more flexible. What’s surprising is that overall, Achilles: Legends Untold is not the massive leap forward you’d expect. Or at least hope for.
Achilles: Legends Untold is a safe and standard hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. Its ancient Greek setting and attractive environments help it stand out a bit, but on the whole it’s a formulaic game. The Soulslike mechanics aren’t especially well developed but represent a small element of originality. If fans of the genre can look past the lackluster missions, script and acting, they’ll probably enjoy the action.
***PC code provided by the publisher for review**
- Comfortable hack and slash mechanics
- Some Soulslike elements
- Attractive graphics and environments
- Mediocre writing and voice acting
- Uneven difficulty
- Lack of originality