Norse mythology is a trusted and much-loved theme used by developers the world over. Its mystical settings and variety of gods are awe-inspiring and allow your imagination to run wild. I admit that I love anything that utilises this theme, so when Apsulov: End of Gods landed on my desk I couldn’t wait to try it.
Developed by Angry Demon Studios and published by Digerati, this is a bizarre horror sci-fi puzzle adventure title. Played out from a first-person perspective, it relies heavily on jump scares moments of silence and terrifying creatures. Moreover, its haunting soundtrack, gruesome images and strange story make for an uncomfortable experience.
Apsulov: End of Gods uses a familiar plot.
I dislike it when games open with no explanation. Yet, Apsulov: End of Gods executes this idea perfectly. You control a tattoo laced female protagonist who awakens on a stone medical table. An odd entity hangs in the sky above her while barking orders. You are its latest experiment, and it wants to obey its instructions without question. Somehow, you anger it and all hell breaks loose! Here your horrific journey begins. You must crawl through tight spaces and escape lurking beasts that wish to rip your face off.
It’s not the most pleasant of titles, but I expect nothing less from a sci-fi-inspired horror title. The world tree Yggdrasil and the surrounding realms are overrun by unsightly creatures. The humans that took over these realms brought the problems upon themselves. They dug up the ancient artefacts which unleashed the ungodly entities. Only by travelling through the snake-like roots of the Yggdrasil tree and collecting all the artefacts can the beings be banished and the gateway closed.
A familiar story but a unique experience.
Originality in the horror genre is almost unheard of. Developers borrow ideas from each other, and there is a heavy reliance on clichéd methods. Apsulov: End of Gods uses every classic technique available. With its many claustrophobic spaces, fast-moving enemies and beings that hide around every corner, you are on edge throughout. You may worry that this would become tiresome, yet it never did. Thanks to the use of some clever theme-based mechanics, the game rolls along at a gradual pace and keeps you interested throughout.
You begin the game with a gift referred to as ‘The Sight’. This power enables you to see in the dark and to highlight hidden objects. It’s your tool to find clues and allows you to see any nasties hidden in plain sight. This limited timed ability beautifully creates suspense and tension, especially when it runs out at inopportune moments.
‘The Sight’ goes hand in hand (pardon the pun) with other key mechanics.
‘The Sight’ was an excellent navigation tool, yet this wasn’t its only use. The game’s sci-fi twist didn’t stop at the large futuristic world you explore. No, it extended to a cybernetic hand known as Jarngeipr! This elemental powered tool fires blasts of energy and is key to accessing every realm. It goes hand in hand (pardon the par) with ‘The Sight’ when you try to find switches or doors to unlock.
I loved how the mechanics were beautifully intertwined. The many puzzles and obstacles required both key components to proceed. It was a clever move from the developer as the ideas were simple to grasp and it didn’t overcomplicate the matter.
Each locked door was secured by one of nine rune symbols that are found as you explore each realm. This was an excellent way to ensure the story focussed on a linear path. Fans of open-world games may find the restrictive approach frustrating, yet I loved how it directed my attention and drove the story forward.
Death and a second chance.
I’ve come to terms with almost certain death when playing a horror game. However, I didn’t expect to die quite so many times! The horrendous demons and overlords of each realm don’t hold back and you will perish repeatedly.
Worry not, though, as every time you fail, you are given a second chance. You awaken in a small arena where two globes are hidden. You must collect them and place them on two switches to activate a portal. Sounds simple, right? It is until you realise you are being hunted by a demon. If you die here, it’s game over and you must reload or start a new game. This quickly became a bore, and I allowed myself to be caught repeatedly as save points are plentiful. It’s a shame, as theoretically it’s a great idea, yet in reality, it became repetitive very quickly.
Apsulov: End of Gods is vast, empty, and creepy.
Using the phrase empty to describe Apsulov: End of Gods stage design may seem critical, but it isn’t. The desolate and barren landscape enhances the creepy and horrific nature of this tale. The considerable moments of nothingness build suspense, and I was on edge, waiting for something to jump out on me. I adored the combination of futuristic buildings and technology with the ancient mythological structures. I also enjoyed how each realm had a unique style. However, this was balanced with the familiarity of crawl spaces and man-made structures.
A horror game is only as good as the tension it creates and Apsulov: End of Gods captured this with its excellent audio. The deafening silence was interrupted by creepy noises and demons wailing. The sound effects chill your blood and send shivers down your spine. It’s a nasty experience, yet it’s exactly what I want when I play a horror title. Alongside the exceptional audio, you’ll experience a well-defined script full of emotion and drama.
Some minor tweaks will improve the controls.
When stealth is a key mechanic to avoid your demonic foes, you’d expect the controls to have a high level of finesse. Sadly, this isn’t the case! The button layout is counterproductive and I couldn’t stand the crouching mechanic. Having to hold a button to complete an action is archaic and makes the controls fiddly.
The plot indeed plays out linearly, yet there are still exploration elements and secrets to find. The hidden collectables offer a small amount of replay value for any completionists. Therefore, this limits the reasons to return, and this impacts its longevity.
Apsulov: End of Gods combines old elements to create an interesting and creepy experience.
Apsulov: End of Gods use of well-trodden mechanics risked a tired performance. However, its unique storyline and combination of elements worked well. Subsequently, I enjoyed the dark and sinister futuristic story. It entertained me throughout and kept me on the edge of my seat. Its only downside is the fiddly controls and even these are serviceable. I loved its horrific ways and I recommend you to buy it here! Can you collect all the artefacts, or are you destined to not fulfil your potential?