At this point, those following my series of BIG Festival Previews might think it’s weird I haven’t talked about a winner yet. Fear not, because the winner for Best Gameplay, Okhlos, just couldn’t be left behind; not because I was afraid of some reckless Greek mob, but because these ordinary people really have what it takes to overthrow the gods of Olympus with their own hands. Okhlos is referred to as a rogue-like-like game by its developer, Coffee Powered Machine, which gives some idea of what to expect.
Seeking revenge against the old gods after a divine punishment, the ancient Greeks start a rebellion by gathering as many citizens as possible to outnumber them. The narrative more or less serves as a brief excuse to give meaning to the game’s goal. Once the mob is gathered, a furious rampage starts with the intent to literally bring the city down to its foundations, leaving nothing but shattered stones, bricks, and guardian corpses in its wake.
The main goal is to gather this mob by bumping into other people in the city and leading them to victory through the beautiful 3D environments. This is achieved by defeating all the enemies in each city area and destroying 12 gigantic Olympian gods. Like most games, regular stages alternate with boss stages, and the former appears more frequently. All stages are procedurally generated to make each playthrough unique. The graphics are presented in high resolution pixel art, which gives it both a modern and retro look at the same time, which harmonizes well with the 3D aesthetic presented.
The mob consists of people assigned to different colors depending on their future roles, such as red for warriors and white for philosophers. Once the mob was gathered, I could give them orders, like spread or unite, attack or defend. These first two commands can be mixed with the other two, making it possible to defend from enemy strikes on a small area, or start a chaotic frenzy over the city’s guardians and buildings that are almost fully destructible.
Every character in the mob has their own role, with personal health gauges and attack functions. Some can trigger special effects on themselves, the enemies, or the group as a whole. As I progressed and passed through one of the city’s many gates, I could exchange a part of my mob for a smaller number of more powerful and useful citizens of the same color as them, like fifteen soldiers for five warriors or a skilled cleric that would heal a small amount of each character’s life whenever a monster was defeated. Soon after, other useful characters like carriers (maybe slaves?) that could grab special items that could heal or boost the mob’s stats started to show up. What was also shown in the time I played were passive skills, such as bonus HP for all characters, stronger attacks, status healing effects and increased mob capacity. At a certain point, even powerful heroes could be unlocked.
At first I was a bit confused about the attack orders, so I had to get near opponents to hurt them. Although, from videos and gifs I’ve seen since, it seems there was an explanation board I accidentally skipped during the tutorial. I would love to see these boards more well positioned on the game’s tutorial stage to avoid these kinds of mistakes for new players.
Spreading out the mob can be a useful tactic when struck with diseases or other negative status effects, while keeping the mob together when one of the characters is infected makes the status spread to others. Concentrating the mob also helps when taking out strong enemies or defending against a single character. Every mob function makes sense and has a use even in the early stages of the game. I thought I would never really have to use the defense option, but it was essential for surviving against the first god.
Okhlos boasts some innovative gameplay, and showed me how much I’ve always wanted to bring an ancient Greek city down with a mega chaotic mob. Although some better positioned instructions would be appreciated for the final version, the game is already great as it is. It is expected to release in the near future for PC, Mac, and Linux through Steam Greenlight, and can be pre-ordered for $9.99 from the studio’s website.
Don’t forget to check out more of our BIG Festival previews!