Hellish creatures. Occult symbols. Catacombs as dark as your room where the computer screen is the only source of light. All that in low resolution. The muffled voice of a local priest shouting exorcisms from behind the locked door. Ah, the nostalgia...
What I'm about to say about Apocryph will make me look bad, but this game has become the 4th of the elite group that in different times made me smash my hardware, which is quite an accomplishment. Is it a good game then? Yes... And no. While it's true that the game was nostalgic and fun to play, one cannot remain oblivious to all the botchery done to this title, which makes it also an awful disappointment for what the Steam Store charges for a copy.Please, don't refresh your browsers. This is actual footage of one and the same game!
Though let's give Apocryph its due first. Its full title features the suffix "an old-school shooter" and it's for the most part delivered. The gameplay is fairly intense and has many times thrown me back to the loading screen even on the second lowest difficulty level. The weapon selection is quite exotic for a first person shooter since your ammo is mana in three different colors, which you can use to power magical gear including staffs, gauntlets, daggers and swords and while you'd expect most of these weapons to enable some sort of melee combat, in fact only the sword actually does. Despite a minor confusion in the first run, I had my fun shooting up hordes of undead creatures with magic pulses coming from my character's outstretched fists, however, if you have a more orthodox approach than I do, you might be disappointed that you can't stuff these monsters with good, old-fashioned bullets. I mentioned earlier that the game's visuals are all in low resolution, however that's only partially true. By default, Apocryph serves us standard, modern, albeit completely unimpressing 3D graphics you can find in most games these days. Although, if you take your time to tinker with the options, you'll discover a graphical effect called "pixelize" (sic!) which does exactly what its name says - distorts the image by decreasing the number and increasing the size of pixels. I've had this option switched on for almost entire playtime since nostalgia hit me mercilessly bringing back to my memory games like Diablo and Postal (and yes, I know these weren't first person shooters). On the other hand, you can crank all the graphical processing power you can from your PC and play on the max detail settings, with max range of view and motion blur, which I want to believe isn't just a cheap trick to mask the unremarkable quality of hostile creatures' models. Finally, you can end up swinging somwhere in between, having all options on and squeezing a whole another original ambience out of Apocryph. That would be actually an astonishingly fun addition to have in the game if it could on its own duly satisfy the expectations of a modern age player. Sadly, that's not the case.The fact that such high-pitched voices come out of such corpulent bodies is in a way both hilarious and bloodcurdling.
Take away both pixelize and motion blur and the game not only doesn't increase in performance, but also reveals how laughable looking the enemies are. The font selection for most of the text has prioritized fanciness over readability. Destructible crates lay there blended with the environment until you discover one of them by accident. Some collectibles are just points of faint light which take a huntsman's vision to spot in the background full of spooky decorations. All this doesn't yet ultimately spoil the game's overall playability though - its audio does. The in-game music has no consistency whatsoever between each and every track. All they have in common is that they all give headache - the record holder is the main menu theme which manages to do that in first two notes, making you want to click Exit and never play this game again. Getting attacked by a swarm of giant ghouls comes with a switch to a brutal metal or metal-dubstep combination kind of music, which you can disable in options and you'll most likely do it immediately on the first level and that's only provided that you haven't already zeroed down the music volume to just play your personal playlist instead. Good thing the devs have even made this possible - almost like they knew their soundtrack is only good to be muted. I was positively suprised with the fact that the guys from Bigzur Games don't treat a player like an idiot at least in this matter and provide us with a range of options appropriate for a game that claims to be "old-school". Shockingly, you can even change the controls - Monster Couch, watch and take notes. Too bad that for one thing done by the book, Apocryph has everything else monumentally messed up.Congratulations, you have beaten the level! Was that a perfect run? Who cares?
The hostile creatures are certainly powerful, but they're by no means smart. Anything you'll encounter in the world of Apocryph, maybe except the bosses, can be tricked into getting stuck walking against an obstacle. Because of this, the gameplay is only as challenging as I said two paragraphs earlier, if you don't deliberately exploit this glitch. Some graphical settings combined together can render the game basically unplayable by blending all objects into a black emptiness. Stats shown after beating every level usually say that I've slain "74/72" monsters or similar and by that completely defeat the purpose of the right-hand number. It would be nice to have a tutorial or at least some sort of quick reference which would for instance explain what the mysterious "blood mode" is for. Finally, the story feels like it starts somewhere in the middle and ends before the actual ending. After beating the supposedly last level, I was served with a text board suggesting that there's still evil to eradicate out there, but no continue button available to click, which led me to a conclusion that the game is straight up unfinished. Put that together with the ubiquitous mediocrity and unoriginality and you'll come to a realization that the first impression of nostalgia you might have had after clicking New Game is no more there, having been replaced by the suspicion that "paying respect to all old school shooters" actually means "piggybacking on their success", finally leaving you wondering if that 13 hours of nothing special mass murder of the undead is really all that your money could get you, which was for the record, cause there couldn't be a Yat's review without mentioning it, exactly 14.99 American dollars. If any DLCs are ever released for this game, I won't be suprised and even though I was lucky to be given a reviewer's copy of Apocryph without paying for it, my budget of trust in Bigzur's good intentions is already cut short.Pros:
+ Absorbing, fast-paced combat.
+ Wide, by today's standards, range of options to modify.Cons:
- High system requirements for what is ineptly hidden under blurring effects.
- A couple of little shortcomings which could be easily fixed given enough attention.
- All in all the game's content is basically a demo released at a full price.Graphics:
Bigzur Games' management seems to forget that they're not EA - there's no way they can get away with cutting content by three quarters and still charging a full price for it. Though if they ever decide to finish Apocryph and not charge extra for that, go ahead and buy it. If.