It has been a month since Dark Point Games took action RPG Achilles: Legends Untold out of Steam Early Access and into full release. Dark Point Games claims that you should “Prepare for a legendary action RPG with intense souls-like combat.” Like most souls-likes, you will find a health, stamina, and fury bar in Achilles: Legends Untold, but the similarities stop there. With unbalanced combat and limited loot mechanics, Achilles: Legends Untold is more ho-hum than legendary.
The Untold Story Of Achilles
We all know the story of Achilles. Brad Pitt played him in the movie Troy. Before that, Homer wrote about him in the Illiad. He was the greatest warrior in Greece and fought in the Trojan War. Nearly immortal, Achilles’ only weakness was his heel, which Paris used to bring about his demise. Untold fantasy football seasons have also been ruined by this affliction, ensuring that the story of Achilles’ Heel will never be lost to the sands of time.
The tutorial in Achilles: Untold Legends takes us back to this fateful time. Not the fantasy football part, but the moments leading up to Achilles’ death at the hands of Paris. And that is where most stories about Achilles end, but not this one.
With the tutorial over, our Achilles awakens a decade after his death, unsure of what has transpired in Greece since he died. In fact, he has no recollection of anything after his death. How and why is he back alive? What will he do next? That is the real story of Achilles: Legends Untold, so I won’t spoil it here.
What I can tell you is that Achilles: Legends Untold has a fairly linear storyline contained within a semi-open world map. There are plenty of areas to explore on the open map, all filled with various enemies to defeat. You are free to explore however you see fit, but the story will take you to most of the places on the map all on its own.
There are a handful of side quests to complete, but nowhere near what you would expect to find in most modern ARPGs. There are other secrets to unveil - small cellars just waiting to be plundered, rifts full of enemies to seal, secret areas to find, and plenty of achievements to unlock. I find it hard to follow the dotted line from story point to story point, but even with plenty of backtracking to get back to the primary path, it only took me 20 hours to complete the main story, all side quests, and uncover about 90% of the map. Those dedicated to the main story could complete Achilles a few hours faster, while those looking to fully uncover the map and complete all of the single playthrough challenges will probably take a few hours longer.
As far as post-story gameplay, you are able to continue exploring the map to completion. There is also a New Game+ option that allows you to replay the game with your current level, skills, and gear intact. Replayability is mostly hindered by combat balance and the limited loot system, both of which we will discuss in a little bit.
A Challenge Mode can also be played solo or in co-op mode. As you complete major points in the story campaign, you will unlock small maps for Challenge Mode. Each of these maps has one of two objectives: defeat all enemies or survive wave after wave of enemies until the timer runs out. You can achieve gold, silver, or bronze ratings depending on how many secondary objectives you complete. Challenge Mode has its own currency, obls, that can be used to purchase gear that you’ve unlocked during the story mode. Any gear you purchase, experience, and skill points carry over to the story mode, so Challenge Mode can be a quick way to grind up a level or two if needed.
Building Your Legendary Hero Isn’t Very Legendary
The skill tree is based on a celestial map with a constellation representing Achilles in the center. Branching out from there are multiple constellations, with each star pertaining to a passive stat or active skill. Each constellation is focused on a specific stat or skill, making it easy to apply skill points toward whatever attributes you deem important without wasting a bunch of points reaching distant nodes.
When it comes to equipping your hero, you have two weapon slots and four weapon types to choose from. Single-handed swords and axes can be wielded with a shield or as dual weapons. A two-handed great sword fills both slots and deals out maximum damage at the cost of a high stamina drain. The final weapon type is a spear, which can be paired with a shield. Oddly missing is a primary ranged weapon, though your shield and craftable darts offer a limited ranged attack.
Although each weapon type has its own cadence, range, and stamina drain, all of their light and heavy attacks share similar animations. Since many of the special abilities you can equip can be used across multiple weapon types, there is very little need to change to a different weapon group unless you want to deal a specific damage type (physical, divine, dark, burn, poison, and bleed) that you don’t have that available in your preferred weapon type.
Speaking of special abilities, Achilles: Legends Untold once again sticks to the tried and true. You get your shield throw early on, and I found a healing circle skill that never left my loadout. Other than that, I found all the other skills to be unnecessary: a foot stomp, spear thrust, and other weapon attacks were available, but I just didn’t need them. Ever.
Legendary Combat That Isn’t All That Legendary
Achilles has all types of mythical beasts, from simple skeletons to deadly chimeras. You’ll also encounter animated statues, a minotaur, and other iconic humans and creatures from Greek mythology. Yet in the end, the most fearsome encounters I could find during my entire playthrough were some of the most mundane.
Packs of wolves and lions can repeatedly knock you down with their lunge attacks, but even they were more of an annoyance than a deadly foe. The hardest encounter I found was plain old groups of soldiers with shields. These are usually just cannon fodder in the ARPG genre, but in Achilles: Legends Untold, they are literally the hardest enemies I faced, even harder than any boss fight. Still, even these encounters could be cheesed by continually running and performing light attacks. This combo would cause Achilles to repeatedly perform a 360-degree spin attack that can wipe out entire groups of enemies. This single attack served me for my entire playthrough, including bosses.
And what about the bosses, you ask? Even though a few of the bosses looked cool and had some special abilities that slowed down the pace of combat while you dodged and defended, the same “run in, swing, and dodge away” attack that I used on regular creatures was enough to finish any boss fight without the need for special abilities.
Needless to say, balance is a major issue for Achilles: Legends Untold. I never worried about what type of damage I was dealing, because no matter what, it was enough to overcome any resistance the enemies had. I rarely had to use consumables to heal or deal extra damage, and my stamina regenerated so fast that when I ran out I would just roll out of combat, wait a second, and then dive right back into the action. All said and done, I died a total of three times during my playthrough, and I account for all of those due to a lack of concentration more than difficult combat.
Even with my concerns about combat, my biggest complaint about Achilles: Legends Untold is the loot. ARPGs are usually all about the loot explosions with gold and new gear dropping with each enemy you kill. I have often found myself complaining about how loot explosions could be toned down just a tad, but Achilles takes this too far. Creatures you kill can drop some goodies, including gold, crafting resources, and consumables, but weapon drops are reserved for chests and boss fights. Each chest or fight has a unique drop as the reward. Since each item is unique, there’s no worrying about getting bad rolls on stats, but it does make for a fairly limited weapon selection. I didn’t completely scour the map for chests during my playthrough, so there could be a few more weapons to find, but I finished with only a few dozen or so weapons and shields to choose from.
Armor is even more scarce. New armor is awarded as a set, and without individual pieces to acquire, you won’t be grinding to find the perfect stats or set bonuses. I only acquired a new armor set twice during my playthrough, each time after downing a major boss.
With such limited weapons and armor to find, you might think Achilles Untold Legends has a robust crafting and upgrading system. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of gear upgrades. Each weapon and armor set you find is unique, so their rarity and stat bonuses are already preset. Each piece can be upgraded multiple times, but doing so only increases the bonuses the weapon grants; there isn’t any way to improve the rarity or add additional damage types or resistances.
As I already mentioned, crafting consumables isn’t needed. Even if it was, the system is very rudimentary: gather the required components and hit craft. You can’t craft new weapons or combine multiple weapons to create a stronger version, and there isn’t a gem or rune system to add additional versatility.
Achilles: Legends Untold isn't innovative or exceptional in any way. That doesn’t make it a pile of garbage, though. After taking some time to digest the time I spent playing Achilles: Legends Untold, I wouldn’t say that I hated it. I am more disappointed than disgusted. Ultimately, I just want more than what Achilles: Legends Untold currently delivers.
The core gameplay is actually pretty good. Combat animations are smooth, and the creatures I battled looked cool and formidable. Frame rates were good throughout the playthrough, and I had a mostly bug-free experience. And there are plenty of quality-of-life conveniences that I expect to see in a modern ARPG - animation canceling and plenty of shrines to use as waypoints are a couple.
That said, Achilles: Legends Untold feels like an unfinished product still working through Early Access. Combat balance and the limited amount of loot would be at the top of my list that needs improvement. You could follow that up with a wider variety of boss fights, a deeper crafting experience, and the writing and voice acting are marginal at best; maybe double down on the writing staff and cut out the voiceover altogether if there isn’t enough budget to do both well.
Full Disclosure: This game was provided by PR for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PC.