Indie developer Dark Point Games’ debut project Achilles: Legends Untold has been in Early Access since May 2022, and has since seen some major content updates and overhauls before its official 1.0 release this month. As much as the term ‘Soulslike’ is thrown around nowadays, this game is unfortunately another unimpressive take on FromSoftware’s formula. The caveat here is that Achilles: Legends Untold uses a Diablo-esque isometric point of view and combines some loot-based progression in its overall gameplay loop. So is this indie action RPG that takes on Homer’s Iliad worth your time or is it an easy skip?
To no one’s surprise, you assume the role of the legendary Greek soldier during the Trojan War, Achilles. A doomed battle with the prince of Troy, Paris, leads you to your death only to be revived magically by someone. Looking at old footage of the game, it seems that you are resurrected by the god of death himself, Hades, but for some reason during my playthrough, this entire cutscene was missing.
Honestly the story takes a backseat for the majority of the time, as most of the game has you working towards regaining your fame and power. You do meet tons of mythological names along your journey though, such as Castor and Hector. What’s interesting is that you’re given an option to either spare or kill a character after defeating them, although it’s not explicitly clear what narrative impacts it has, other than potentially changing the ending. The voice acting of said characters is serviceable at best, but mostly a letdown.
The overall gameplay loop boils down to large open area exploration with tons of different paths to go down, enemies to fight, and chests to loot. Sometimes you’ll even find an occasional Cellar mini-dungeon reminiscent of what is done in Diablo IV. For the most part, exploration is fun and rewarding, as walking down a side path always rewards you with a chest or two. A fair share of side quests can be stumbled upon as well, in addition to other rewarding activities to engage in. There is cooperative play available but unfortunately that feature wasn’t enabled during the review period.
An early criticism of the game when it was still in Early Access was the absence of an in-game map, as it was very easy to get lost without knowing how to get back to the objective or a nearby shrine. Thankfully the developers have implemented an intuitive map on the right hand corner of the screen that maps out the path towards your next main mission. There’s a diverse variety of locales to visit and explore, ranging from derelict ruins and cities to poisonous swamps and snowy mountains.
Combat is a mixed bag, coming from someone who enjoys challenging Soulslike combat. For starters, the lock on system works against you, as it makes the game frustratingly hard when navigating multiple enemies at once. The game does feature some special abilities such as a kick or Kratos-inspired shield throw but overall it doesn’t do too much to break the mold of the genre that FromSoftware pioneered. Achilles: Legends Untold follows the classic formula of stamina-based combat, dodge rolls, and enemies that hit like a truck, albeit from an isometric, bird’s eye view. You drop your experience upon death and can rest at dedicated Shrines of Hades to restore your health at the expense of respawning enemies.
What makes combat an absolute chore is the insane amount of input delay in every movement. To make matters worse, sometimes the dodge registers, sometimes it doesn’t. The same goes for attacks as well. I know this because I’ve tested this extensively on one particular enemy over 20 times to see if it was just me or the game itself. It’s definitely the game. It doesn’t help that there’s no concept of poise in the game either, so you’ll be interrupted out of all of your moves, and that all the enemies, even the “weak ones”, are damage sponges. Combat is also not consistent when it comes to staggering an enemy out of their attack animation or not, so it seems like a random ordeal.
The game boasts its proprietary GAIA (Group AI Action) system that governs AI cooperation within the environment, but I had several instances where the AI would just bug out and run in circles or have pathing issues. The frustration of combat becomes exacerbated when you face groups of enemies, as you can easily get stunlocked to death, and you can’t dodge through them. It doesn’t help that the original keybindings are extremely awkward, with the sprint ability being mapped to holding the space bar instead of left shift. I could go on and on about the little gripes I have, but this about summarizes the main ones.
Instead of the traditional RPG progression of using experience to level up stats such as vitality, strength or endurance, Achilles uses a headache inducing skill tree that bakes those aforementioned stats into it. The skill tree is modeled like a constellation of stars, with each star being a node on the tree. Most nodes in the tree are bland and boil down to +1 on agility or other equivalent attribute, whereas some others grant you new abilities, such as parrying. You can’t unlock further nodes until you connect the surrounding ones preceding it, so it’s gonna take a while before you get a special cool ability you want to try. I’m not sure why the developers opted for this approach instead of a more classic one, perhaps for the visual flair of the constellation, but navigating it makes my head spin.
In terms of weapons and gear, they can be found via chests scattered across the game world. Expect single handed swords, axes, two handed great swords, shields, and spears. These come color coded in the classic “looter” style of gray, blue, purple, and orange for different rarity levels. You unlock the blacksmith a few hours into the game, who can upgrade your weapons for you at the cost of raw materials. There’s also a barebones crafting system that lets you make healing items and throwable consumables.
The recommended system requirements for Achilles: Legends Untold isn’t too high, with a GTX 1050 as a minimum and a GTX 1660 as a recommended GPU. Playing this game on an RTX 3080, I had decent performance, though I expected a lot better given my PC specs. The load times are undoubtedly fast, even upon a fresh launch of the game, but I had frequent FPS dips to the 40s, even with DLSS turned on. Graphical settings were bumped up to Epic, but even then, the graphics don’t look very good, with blurry character models and environmental objects.
Achilles: Legends Untold
Achilles: Legends Untold is a serviceable indie Soulslike experience with an isometric camera angle that doesn’t introduce anything revolutionary. Don’t be fooled by the Diablo-esque visual style either, because this is not a dungeon crawling looter. There’s no doubt that the game is in a much better state than it was in Early Access, but it still suffers from some core issues with its gameplay mechanics.