Judging by the recent release of Anarcute and the current buzz surrounding Okhlos, we are either heading towards a weird trend of angry mob-based gameplay, a revival of Katamari Damacy-style mechanics or possibly both. Since we reviewed Anarcute quite recently, it’s time to look at the other game spearheading this potential movement, Okhlos. An action/strategy game set in ancient Greece, Okhlos looks to deliver a nice chunk of fast-paced, chaotic anarchy as well, if the impressions of the new gameplay demo are any indication.
Plot-wise, the Greek gods are basically being dicks (as they were), so it’s up to the philosophers to lead the people to rebel against them and strike them down. Not exactly much, but it’s all we need in this case. So for this, you control both a philosopher and a giant mob, one ordering the other around, controlling one with a keyboard and the other with a mouse (or dual-stick controls). It works quite well, and issuing commands is great indeed, with the only snafus being the occasional citizen who gets caught on a piece of scenery.
Before we proceed, I should add a disclaimer saying that for some odd reason, the demo of Okhlos had no sound on my end, coming through completely mute. I haven’t heard any other issues with similar demos of the game as well, though, so it may just be something wrong with my computer. No matter, because it didn’t affect the gameplay much (if at all), and unless it actually causes ears to bleed, the music shouldn’t be an issue. Moving to the graphics, though, the unique style of pixelated sprites moving along like cutouts was nicely done (not to mention the large enemies and massive bosses), along with the highly-detailed scenery and backgrounds, even containing some nice doses of humor at times. The wit is particularly nice, if a tad repetitive at times (prepare for more than a few 300 jokes).
Oddly enough, given its pixelated art style, Okhlos actually comes off as having a touch of beat-’em-up influences at times. You advance through a series of levels, wailing on all of the bad guys in the area, smash scenery up for food, then get a signal to advance when you’re done, and where death takes you back to the very beginning when you run out of lives. The combat also requires you to string together a series of successful combos in order to build up your mob’s meter and make them more effective, which requires defeating enemies as quickly as possible.
This approach, however, has the side effect of making the game feel a tad button-mashy at times (or mouse-clicky, whatever you prefer). Not that things aren’t fun, Okhlos is still enjoyable (and the occasional button-masher is still welcome), but it’s just that the game does have a strategy side to it as well, which may sadly get ignored. You have to manage the different types of troops that join your mob, such as warriors, civilians, other philosophers to take your place if you die and act as lives, et cetera. And each one has their own unique function, like being able to attack harder or carry items. You can also trade in your citizens for different kinds of troops, or legendary heroes that give your team stat bonuses. You also have to command what your mob’s current action is at the right time, and put them in the right formations to advance around obstacles and traps (the level design being nicely done as well).
But if a good chunk of the game can be beaten simply by having your group hit an enemy endlessly, some of that strategy can feel overshadowed a bit. Of course, the demo only had the first four levels available, so it’s quite likely that a button-mashing approach will begin to falter the more you advance (indeed, the fourth boss made short work of me). So if the end game is to make things accessible while requiring the player to master all of their skills, then things will just turn out absolutely fine here.
In short, despite a few bumps that could still stand to be smoothed out, Okhlos is still an enjoyable bit of ancient anarchy, suggesting that Devolver Digital and Coffee Powered Machine have a possible hit on their hands. Maybe it might not be enough to help get the entire “angry mob” trend going, but it’s safe to say that more games like it would still be welcome. What can you say, destroying countless villages and Greek legends is quite a hoot indeed.