I wouldn’t blame you if after pouring over the numerous screenshots and the odd video of Achilles: Legends Untold you came to the conclusion that it was just another Diablo-style dungeon crawler. As it turns out, Achilles: Legends Untold is a little more than that and somewhat surprising into the bargain. A deft mixture of ARPG dungeon crawling and Soulslike precision combat, Achilles: Legends Untold is a routinely entertaining, if straightforward and sometimes unpolished hack and slasher that will absolutely appeal to fans of the genre, or have simply found themselves exhausted by the mammoth offering of Diablo IV.
Achilles: Legends Untold PS5 Review
A Satisfying Mythological Mixture Of Diablo And Soulslike Precision Combat
If the title didn’t sufficiently give it away, Achilles: Legends Untold puts players in the face-stomping sandals of the titular mythological Greek general who after falling in combat to Paris as the known legend prescribes, finds himself fighting his way out of purgatory and into ancient locations inspired by myth as he seeks to find his place among the Pantheon. It’s not a fantastic story by any stretch, but to me at least, Greek mythology has always been interesting and tangling with the various gods and monsters in Achilles: Legends Untold proves just as enticing as it always has.
After a brief introduction in which that aforementioned scenario plays out in true Soulslike fashion (Paris is somewhat predictably your first and most insurmountable boss encounter), the meat and potatoes of the game gets underway as you take control of Achilles and begin cutting a bloody swathe through all the evil-doers you can find in Purgatory and beyond.
To be clear first of all, unlike other dungeon crawlers and Soulslikes where you have some degree of creative latitude when it comes to choosing your class and customising your playstyle, Achilles is first and foremost a dude who favours melee attacks over magic spells or other arcane arts, so those of you looking for some class variety will be disappointed somewhat.
Once you’ve made peace with that fact, the most immediate sensation you’ll get when playing Achilles: Legends Untold is that the combat is surprisingly crisp, crunchy and satisfying in a way that not even titles like Diablo don’t really manage. Being a legendary Greek general capable of wiping out entire armies on his lonesome, it’s no surprise to discover that Achilles is both quick and devastating on his feet, capable of blending together leaping attacks, dodging rolls and sweeping attacks all of which you’ll need to employ in order to be even remotely successful at defeating the veritable murder’s row of foes that Achilles: Legends Untold puts in front of you.
Rather than being presented with crowds of mobs with the collective health of a wet toilet roll, many of the enemies that you’ll confront in Achilles: Legends Untold not only have chunkier health bars than what you might be used to in games like Diablo, but also many of them can down you in just few strikes – never mind the sheer number of different debuffs that they can stack onto you which can kill you twice as quickly, or the devastating unblockable attacks that they will frequently unleash upon you. Put simply, if you try to play Achilles: Legends Untold like Diablo you won’t get very far at all.
Thus, the order of the day when you’re scrapping with such hardened opposition in Achilles: Legends Untold is to evade and block first and then attempt to attack whenever you get the chance. There’s a good chunk of nuance built into the combat too, since not only can increase stats and unlock new abilities by levelling up Achilles via experience points gained from completing quests and killing enemies, but so too are there parry, riposte and other counterattack style moves that add further sophistication to the violent proceedings. Beyond that, Achilles can also stun his enemies with a Spartan-like front kick and, most amusingly, throw a shield at his foes which can return on command like some sort of ancient Greek Captain America – it’s simply great fun, all told.
Where Achilles: Legends Untold sometimes falls down in regards to the combat system is the lock-on system. Anybody that has put any amount of time into a Soulslike will know that being able to immediately quick-lock the enemy closest to you is key to your survival. In Achilles: Legends Untold I noticed on a number of occasions that Achilles would have a tendency to lock onto enemies that much farther away (and sometimes off screen), rather than those in front of him, making the business of evading incoming attacks and returning my own strikes a lot more challenging than it needed to be.
Also worthy of mention is the impressive AI system which governs the numerous baddies that you’ll face off with. When fighting a pair of fallen soldiers for example, I watched one leapfrog over the shield of the other to quickly gain extra distance to strike at me, while in another instance I witnessed a massive ogre pickup an undead warrior and hurl him at me like some massive, spiky projectile. There’s also the various bosses that you’ll fight too which without spoiling things too much, pull on the strings of Greek mythology with aplomb. Again, much like the core combat itself, this is the sort of thing that helps to elevate Achilles: Legends Untold beyond its contemporaries.
Achilles: Legends Untold also makes another little change to the formula that helps it to keep up a frenetic pace. Though the usual health, stamina and fury bars are all present and echo their counterparts in similar games, Achilles: Legends Untold utterly does away with any kind of weapon durability system, meaning that you aren’t been interrupted to stop killing bad dudes to try and find someone to fix your broken gear for you.
In sticking with its dungeon crawler DNA, there are also quick use items – such as potions and other single-use items – that can be assigned to the d-pad, allowing you to use them at a moment’s notice during battle. There’s also a fairly basic crafting system in place too which lets you create restorative items, buffs, bombs and other weapons based on the recipes you have collected and the collected materials that you have at your disposal. Though to be clear, the crafting in Achilles: Legends Untold is as rudimentary and straightforward as it gets, so if you’re expecting a crafting system with the depth of, well, just about anything else, you certainly won’t get that here.
Achilles: Legends Untold also pulls from the Soulslike playbook a little more deeply than you might initially see at first, too. Shrines of Hades act like the bonfires from the Dark Souls games in that you can use them to upgrade your skills, fast travel to other shrines and replenish your health, but so too will your foes will also rise from the dead if you choose the latter. Equally, dying in Achilles: Legends Untold also allows you to track back to your remains and collect any experience that you lost, providing a nice way for you to redeem yourself after a death or failed encounter.
Another surprising element that Achilles: Legends Untold weaves into its offering is one that allows players to take or spare the lives of certain bosses that they come across. Though we’re not really talking about a whole heap of Dragon Age style non-linear player agency in terms of the direction of the narrative, these choices do dovetail somewhat into the multiple endings that the game presents you with. This is in addition to the trophy chasing that either killing or sparing all of the bosses encourages players to take part in.
So Achilles: Legends Untold gets a lot right in its careful blending of Diablo style dungeon crawling beats and Soulslike mechanics, but it’s also not going to stand side by side with the best dungeon crawlers or Soulslike games either because of a number of reasons that are all tied to the scope of its overall offering. It’s clear that the small team responsible for Achilles: Legends Untold does not have the benefit of a massive studio or the sort of resources from which to draw like Activision Blizzard or FROM Software, so as a result, Achilles: Legends Untold is a much more compact and somewhat less polished offering than one might expect from either one of those two triple A developers.
Perhaps the biggest omission from Achilles: Legends Untold is that of cooperative play. Currently a single-player only experience, cooperative multiplayer is promised in a future update as of right now it just isn’t there, which makes Achilles: Legends Untold hold a little less allure than other dungeon crawlers that would normally boast the feature as standard.
From its perfunctory inventory and predictable quests (go here, fetch this, kill this and so on), to a lack of gear beyond just weapons and a shield (you cannot equip individual armour slots like you can do in other games) and some less than convincing voice acting and visuals that could easily be achieved on a PlayStation 4, Achilles: Legends Untold isn’t going to break any new ground in either genre. Likewise, at around 20-25 hours or in length, Achilles: Legends Untold isn’t trying to be a Diablo IV style time-sink that’s hundreds and potentially thousands of hours long, but rather a snappy take on the genre that blends in Soulslike mechanics for a surprising dose of extra depth.
With Achilles: Legends Untold what you have is a surprisingly effective combination of dungeon crawling gameplay and Soulslike mechanics which add up to a satisfying and visceral offering. Though it’s a fraction of the size and scope of the games that it seeks to emulate and some elements of it feel a little under baked, Achilles: Legends Untold is nonetheless an endearingly scrappy, rough around the edges sojourn into ancient Greek mythology that hack and slash fans who have found themselves tired of Diablo IV will surely welcome.
Achilles: Legends Untold is out now on PS5.
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