The citizens of Greece are fed up with the abusive Olympian gods, so they rally forth like an angry mob taking down everyone and everything standing in their way, no matter the size or deadly mystical abilities their enemies may possess.
Okhlos is best described as a mob simulator with roguelike elements. You control both the mob as one and its leader at the same time. The leader is controlled by the keyboard or left thumb stick and the rest of the crowd with the mouse or right thumb stick. A philosopher always leads the group. When a philosopher dies, another takes his place. Basically, the number of philosophers in your party equates to the number of lives you possess. When all of the philosophers have died, its game over. We are spoiled by games that give us unlimited respawns so I was quite surprised the first time I found myself back at the beginning.
Your angry mob consists of around 30 members, depending on your max-unit stats and how many have fallen in battle. Wandering replacements are everywhere so it’s easy to replace fallen members, although you risk losing the unique stats of the higher ranked units. Throughout each level, there are shop fronts where you can cash in certain types of members for others (e.g. trade five slaves for one hero who will boost your stats). I found the game quite challenging so I took as many philosophers as I could get. The citizens who join the mob are quite varied. Slaves, warriors, philosophers, women, cats, dogs, pigs and chickens. Thankfully animal companions don’t count towards the unit limit.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is shallow. There are only two useful commands: attack and block. Block is useless against everything but projectiles. The enemy’s melee attacks are so fast, and the mob responds so slow that there’s barely any time to alternate between blocking and attacking. I would attack all the time and just hope there were units nearby to replenish my numbers. Not the most efficient strategy, but tedious otherwise. There are also some basic formation commands such as spread out and reform, but I always found that the enemies would congregate in one place, so I never needed to separate the group.
Controlling 30 odd units at once can get messy. The levels are not appropriately designed to manoeuvre a group this large through the environments. If a building blocks your way, no problem, order the mob to attack and destroy it. Although when you try to squeeze everyone around traps such as spikes and poison, they often wander directly into them, thus casualties are inevitable.
Each level is set in a distinct environment, but the similarities between buildings and checkpoints leave them feeling very familiar. The later levels are more distinct although I haven’t reached the end. I admit the game was too challenging for me. The level progression screen has an excellent old school arcade feel, and each level is topped off by a giant boss who resembles a well-known god from Greek mythology. Each boss possesses unique magical abilities and a large health bar. They spawn common enemies just to annoy you. Some incorporate more strategy but it still equates to destroying something (e.g. a force field generator).
OKhlos shows promise. It’s an interesting premise with a fun sense of humour, but the gameplay lacks the structure needed for the player to incorporate any strategy which is odd because, at its core, Okhlos is a strategy game. Controlling a powerful mob can be fun, and the game is fun early on. But when the difficulty spikes, frustration sets in and you will be left wanting tighter gameplay.
Michael Vane is a freelance journalist and co-editor of PN2. He’s on Twitter @DrVane