PAX South 2016: Going Greek with Devolver’s Chaotic Okhlos
A top-down, twin-stick action game? Not that unusual. A Pikmin-esque game in which the player controls an ever-growing mob inspired by the culture of ancient Greece? That’s a new one. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got my hands on Devolver Digital’s Okhlos on the PAX South show floor, but the madness of mob violence quickly won me over.
Okhlos shares some common factors with other games published by Devolver, like a quirky attitude and a pixelated art style. Where it differs from most titles of its ilk is that the main character doesn’t do any damage of his own. In the procedurally-generated roguelike, you control your hero with one thumbstick, and as he wanders from city to city he picks up warriors, philosophers, slaves, and heroes from Greek mythology. These hangers-on, each kind with its own abilities, form a mob that does the actual attacking and defending. Even local animals aren’t safe, as you can recruit livestock to add some cute to the group.
Controlling a single character and a wild mob simultaneously can be tricky, as I soon discovered. As you progress through Grecian environments, enemies will attempt to kill or poison your followers, or even turn the mob against you. At times there was so much going on onscreen that I didn’t know where to direct the mob, and lost members in the confusion. A Devolver rep told me that there’s strategy involved to staying in control of the pack, but I certainly didn’t grasp it during my 15-20 minutes of playtime. Instead, I wildly sent the mob rushing toward anything that moved, hoping for the best.
Finding the balance in your group is another important aspect, as you’re limited in the number of followers you have can; this number goes up over time, but there are still only so many slots to fill. An entire group of philosophers won’t be much help when you’re under attack. Warriors are strong but lack healing power. Even the rare Greek heroes, which can be recruited in exchange for a few lowly peons, represent different special abilities meant to add strategy and balance to the game. For such a seemingly simple concept, it’s a lot to handle.
The chaos doesn’t mean Okhlos isn’t fun, though. In fact, I had a smile on my face the whole time I was playing, giggling as my gaggle of Greeks toppled buildings, knocked down foes, and added new members to its ranks. Roguelikes aren’t typically my jam, but Okhlos never takes itself too seriously and that attitude is infectious. I was warned there would be “absolute chaos” and found that claim to be accurate, but that’s just part of the game’s charm. Perhaps an extended playtime will help me better understand Okhlos’ subtle strategies later this year.
Okhlos is due out on the PC this spring.