I always appreciate titles taking swings at unique story ideas. Sure, Call of Duty and Super Mario are great, but they aren’t really trying anything too avant garde with their storytelling. I was excited to get Apsulov: End of Gods as part of a two for one review assignment from the chief editor (Dustwind being the other). While I was excited to try a game that was a Norse-based sci-fi title, that phrase also made me dry heave when I thought of Too Human from back in 2008.
Thankfully, Apsulov was not too bad, and was actually pretty good in a lot of ways.
Apsulov starts with a scene where a robotic voice that sounded like GLaDOS’s grouchy cousin is poking and prodding random bits of your character. The scene for me was also reminiscent of the only memorable moment in Quake 4. For those who don’t remember or who were smart and just skipped buying a bad game, it was a scene where your character had his legs cut off by a saw. The voice acting was great and really brought the characters to life. After that amazing start, the game slowly started to slide toward mediocrity.
Apsulov starts out well, with a straightforward plot with you climbing through a vent shaft and dodging deer-skull things that are trying to kill you. Fair enough of a beginning for a horror title. And audio logs you find help elaborate on the story, which involves Norse myths where the Yggdrasill entered Earth and started wreaking havoc. They explained all of these various disasters that were occurring and that giant creatures were marauding through the Earth. I stopped, looked at my wife and said, “Wow, I’d rather be playing that game.”
Anyway, it didn’t help that the story felt like a disjointed mess. I would get three minutes of story for every twenty minutes of walking around in identical-looking hallways. For example, I was super excited to adventure into the world of the frost giants, only to find that the entire chapter was only 20 minutes long. After that little romp, it was back to identical hallways. The story also seemed to drunkenly meander from one plot point to the next, like it was trying to touch on every Norse legend in a short amount of time.
Eventually, the game dragged on to the point where I just didn’t want to play anymore. It wasn’t one bad thing; it was just an accumulation of little things. Sure, seeing Thor’s two-story hammer was awesome, but not awesome enough for me to wander around for another hour to get a commercial break-length worth of new story.
The graphics in Apsulov are a major saving grace for the game. When they went all out to make a spectacle, they could do it. The aforementioned hammer comes to mind as well as the opening scene. However, eventually these become a slight nonfactor due to all the time spent in vent shafts and hallways. Yes, they looked pretty real, but once you have seen one non-descript vent shaft and government-building looking hallway, you have pretty much seen them all.
Another good point is that the game is currently priced at $29.99 so there is good value to be had there if you want to give Apsulov a try. It’s not a bad title. I just felt like there was another, better, and more exciting game going on out there in the same universe. The story and audio entries make illusions to this, but you never actually get to visit any of those cool places. Anyway, at the very least, this game is so much better than Agony, which was another horror title I helped to review with somewhat similar themes and gameplay. Agony’s developers can take some really strong notes from Apsulov and its gameplay. Neither title is perfect by any means, but Apsulov gets a lot more of the storytelling and horror elements right.
Apsulov: End of Gods earns 3 out of 5 GiN Gems, enough to get me to finally make that final push through the final third of the game. If you like horror or Norse legends, you could do worse than Apsulov. For horror game developers, which have really struggled lately, Apsulov is a step in the right direction. It’s got a lot of interesting elements, and just seems to have trouble stitching them all together.