Early Access is an interesting program that has allowed many games to thrive. Putting just a fraction of the game into the world, it incorporates your biggest critics and most ardent supporters into your vision for the game. In this sense, Achilles: Legends Untold, with so much potential and a few too many bugs, is the absolute perfect Early Access title.
Playing as the titular Achilles, you take over in the middle of a big battle, only to be carelessly slain at the hands of Paris, Helen's Lover. Luckily for those whose fate is grander than their death, you are offered a path back from Tartarus. In return for your freedom, Hades has a few tasks for you.
Life After Death
Though simple, this setup is a pretty good entry into the universe. You are left with a debt to Hades - one that allows you to resurrect again and again. Achilles: Legends Untold calls itself a souls-like on the Steam page and this is a pretty apt description. You can use resources farmed from enemies to level up at small shrines throughout the map and setting up your build affords you much easier combat. With a focus on stamina management, heavy swings, and timed blocks, you can take on most enemies early on if you're patient enough.
This patience is often rewarded with resources, healing items, and much more that you can use to make the next adventure a little easier. Grinding is something Achilles rewards heavily
Unfortunately, combat isn't quite as smooth as I would have liked. Swings are clunky and the semi-top down view can make your targets a little hard to see. Perspective often makes it hard to fully judge where and when your swing will hit. Dodge mechanics are split up into a side step when tapped and roll when double-tapped, allowing a greater level of accuracy with movement. Unfortunately, the lacking combat lets down the more well-balanced traversal mechanics.
As well as this, Achilles: Legends Untold is in need of plenty of Quality of Life changes. The lock-on camera is flimsy and inconsistent, occasionally refusing to move off a bad guy onto another one. Oftentimes, it was easier and more consistent to disengage the lock-on, adjust the position of the character, and try it again just to get it to change view more efficiently. As well as all this, tricky environmental hazards and glitches occasionally ruined the best dodges. Stairs are unclimbable half the time, requiring an entire workaround, and Achilles has found himself into a wall or tree more than once.
What does it do right?
This all being said, there is plenty to like here. The quest system works well together, having a small trail pop up at the press of a button that points you in the right direction. Environments can be quite interesting and the enemy designs are varied enough to add some depth to the way you go about combat. Where skeletons and cyclops are lumbering and strong, human enemies are much quicker and more erratic. When you combine an archer with a more heavy creature, the back and forth you have to take them both down can be rather exhilarating. They can also synergize off each other with special combo moves - a nice sight in the flow of combat.
It helps that the skill tree is pretty good. Instead of having a Dark Souls like open stat system, you instead spend your points on constellations, accepting whatever stat or skill may come with that choice. Where one side of the tree may focus on health and stamina, another focuses on strength. You then have to commit more to a build in order to unlock that playstyle's best skills.
Where Achilles: Legends Untold feels at its best is when you start unlocking new skills to try out, still have one more path you want to look down and you have finally started to take down enemies with ease. It thrives at that moment where it's not quite easy just yet but you feel tough enough to get cocky. Your obstacles no longer feel insurmountable.
Unfortunately, the game can be a little easy to get lost in. While some areas of the map are quite interesting, the lack of UI outside of that and samey feeling paths can lead to the whole thing feeling disorienting. You can generally find your way onto the next area easily enough but exploring a new route in somewhere you've already been is difficult enough to deter you entirely. The punishment from these games should always be in your own mistakes, not its design.
Achilles: Legends Untold Verdict
Achilles: Legends Untold has enough to really add to the souls-like genre but it's not there yet. The enemy design is interesting, leveling systems fun enough to keep you going, and the general aesthetic is fairly unique but rudimentary design flaws and bugs hold it back from what it could be. Although I came away from this experience a little frustrated, I can't wait to see where it ends up.
TechRaptor previewed Achilles: Legends Untold on PC with a code provided by the publisher. It is currently available in Early Access.