Apotheosis X is a total conversion featuring 24 massive levels of carnage brought to life with entirely reimagined sprites and textures, high frame rate animations, 16 bit audio and an original soundtrack.
The campaign features engaging combat that scales with player skill and aggression, with a roster of new enemies and weaponry that complements the original games' nuance and high skill ceiling.
Key updates for 1.1:
An extensive list of updates is available in the download.
This is basically a whole new game, and it’s of professional quality. Everything has been changed; the graphics, weapons, monsters, sounds, everything.
The new graphics look great. There’s a new main menu screen, new chapter art, and interesting terminal art. There’s a lot of variety with the new textures; players will explore derelict human starships, bizarre alien worlds, and surreal underground ruins. Sparks will fly out of smashed computer consoles, burning embers will rise from magma lakes, and fog will blanket the horizon on a desolate planet. It’s breathtaking.
The player also gets an entirely new arsenal of weapons. All of the weapons serve a purpose; none of them are useless. For example, one new gun is a mining drill called the “Vel,” which has a high amount of accuracy and can shoot through multiple targets in a line. It’s great for taking out enemy snipers at long range, or putting the hurt down on a horde of monsters coming towards you in a narrow corridor. However, the Vel needs to be charged up before each shot, meaning that it’s a very poor choice for close range combat when the slow rate of fire can prove to be liability. All of the new guns look great and handle really well.
There’s a wide variety of enemies in Apotheosis X. Although you’re fighting the Pfhor, all of the Pfhor have a new look, and in some cases new combat capabilities as well. For example, the new Pfhor hunters not only look like total badasses, they now have a melee attack and make electronically distorted activation sounds reminiscent of the hunter howls from Marathon 1. There are also some completely new non-Pfhor enemies, such as a tough swamp-dwelling monster that can spit acid at the player. The quality of the sprite animations is high.
The campaign also has its own unique music track. It mostly consists of unobtrusive ambience that helps to set the stage for what’s going on in the campaign. For example, when you first land on the alien planet Fenris you’re treated to a music track that includes gusts of wind, which syncs with a landscape of grasslands, and ephemera of dust being blown across Fenris’s windswept battlefields; it’s really quite a touching introduction to the planet. The music is also dynamic; sometimes when a major battle breaks out the unobtrusive ambience will be replaced with more fast-paced action-oriented tunes. My favorite music track was “Zero Point Ordinance.”
Level design is top notch. I very seldom got lost, and the terminals did a good job of keeping me informed about what I needed to be doing. Many terminals included useful maps. Many of the different levels had an architectural theme to them. For example, the Fenris wilderness levels had lots of hexagonal ledges that were evocative of real world salt flats. The underground alien ruins often had some crazy surreal designs that used the Aleph One game engine in ways that its makers never could have envisaged; it’s really amazing what the devs were able to accomplish using so-called “5D space,” and I’ll note some specific examples in my level-by-level analysis below. The human levels had a theme of functionality; just looking at the automap it was obvious that one area was a cargo bay, another area was a computer core, ect. The levels must have been meticulously planned; certainly looking at the automap after fully exploring a level will highlight some really impressive architectural designs.
Level notes: Cracks in the Pleasuredome: The part where the Pfhor boarding party blew open the ship’s hull was really cool! The Pfhor boarding craft had a neat design — basically you can see its exterior by looking out the nearby window, but you also get to see its interior next to the hull breach. The ominous music, ferocious firefights between humans and aliens, blaring alarms, and the destroyed state of the ship all lent itself to a sense of being part of the last line of defense; I loved it!
Upon reaching the Darya terminal I was unexpectedly teleported to the next level, which was mildly annoying, because I hadn’t fully finished exploring the current level. So I had to go back to a previous save and lost several minutes of progress. Yes, there was a pattern buffer literally on the opposite side of the Darya terminal that might have helped with that, but the player is invariably going to see the Darya terminal first, and thus won’t get a chance to save their game if they get unexpectedly pushed to the next level. My opinion is that terminals that are about to inter-level teleport the player should give forewarning. It should be a message like, “Prepare to teleport. Press ESC to abort.” Certainly all the Darya terminals should have this. The only exception might be the surreal Noah terminals, where such a lucid message might be immersion breaking. But even then, there could be some kind of signposting about imminent teleportation that might be given to the player.
Noise Flies High: The huge cannon looked really impressive! The gameplay idea of pressing a button to release friendly drones to attack the enemy was inspired. The exploding barrels added an additional dimension to the firefights; they are a danger to the player, but an opportunity when the bad guys walk next to them. One thing that was really neat was at the end, in the control room, when I looked out the window to a spectacular view. I could see outer space, the cannons, and two previous rooms that I had visited earlier in the level!
Lost Behind the Stars: As mentioned earlier, the alien planet showcases hexagon-based ridges. Imagine my surprise then, when, upon fully exploring the level, I realized the whole level basically encompasses one giant hexagon! I thought that was a nice touch. One other thing that I really liked, and which is a recurring event in Apotheosis X, is that the player is constantly revisiting places they have already been, but often from a different angle or elevation. Bringing the player back to familiar territory in this way helps to establish a sense of place, and is a hallmark of professional level design.
Ghost Hardware: The new swamp monsters were fun to fight.
One More Fluorescent Rush: This level is focused on a river, and the player will be fighting in the water, on the riverbanks, and on a series of escarpments next to the river. Again, there is a theme of doubling back, as the player crisscrosses the map to reach the end; it’s very well made. I liked the smoke rising from the fires; I understand that making such effects in the Aleph One engine is difficult and few people have even attempted it, but here the devs were able to make it work and look good.
Final Credits: The most combat intensive level yet, and the challenge was welcome! There were three arenas to fight in, and I liked that the player got to initiate the fights by hitting a switch; this allowed the player to reconnoiter the arenas first and plot their defense. The new Apotheosis juggernaut makes its appearance here and it doesn’t disappoint; it proves to be quite a threat! The terminal art picture of the hunters on the attack looked beautiful; it’s my favorite piece of art in the campaign. The aesthetics of this level were superb; shattered walls and piled up debris really lent themselves to the idea of a highly contested battlefield.
Don’t Step on the Mome Raths: After the hectic fighting of the previous level, this one starts out with no combat. Or music. Just a lot of ominous foreshadowing that something bad is about to happen. The player must explore a darkness-shrouded underground facility, and it seems every time the lights come on they reveal the grisly scene of dead humans, or perhaps a brief glimpse of a new type of enemy. I thought it was a great build up and introduction for the new enemy type! The final part of the level, where the player sees a bunch of bad guys in a non-combat situation, and behind them on the horizon a huge Pfhor battle fleet, well…let’s just say it was visually stunning.
All Things Uncertain: Normally I’m not a fan of Rebellion levels, but this one isn’t so bad, largely because you get your stuff back pretty quickly. We get to see some neat looking Pfhor textures, and the level itself definitely looks and feels like a Pfhor prison ought to.
After the Flood: This is another map which is based upon…you guessed it, a giant hexagon design! In this case it’s a deep hexagonal pit surrounded by ridges, and as a central hub it works well, with lots of opportunities for firefights against enemies at different elevations. When the player starts completing mission objectives they are rewarded with a visual treat in the form of giant beams of light. Telling players they are making a difference is all good and well, but it’s even better when the player can actually see that their actions are having an effect; basically, I loved the giant lightbeam graphics! I also liked the majestic view of the mountain vista.
Omega Devices for Dummies: This is a very short level, but notable for two visual effects. Firstly, the player actually starts on the opposite side of the giant chasm from the previous level, which I thought was neat. Secondly, the portal at the end of the level actually looks different when viewed from four different directions! This is a really innovative use of the Aleph One engine using 5D space; I’ve never seen anything like this before, and it does a good job of highlighting the narrative/idea that you’re messing with bizarre alien technology that’s literally and figuratively out of this world.
No Assembly Required: The fight on the huge bridge was intense and fun.
Saturn Devouring His Son: By this point in the story the player is getting a lot of mission objectives from an artificial intelligence that’s under alien influence, and what better way to show that than to have disjointed messages, with much of the information given in the form of poetry? I thought it was well done.
The Great Fen: The name of this level confused me at first, because it’s clearly not a fen (wetland), but rather a giant lava lake. All became clear upon reading the terminals however. As for the level itself, it’s a tall tower surrounded by a moat of lava. Just getting into the tower was difficult, because there were a ton of enemy fighters and enforcers sniping at me from higher elevations. Frustratingly, often the difference in elevation was so great that the enemy could shoot at me, but I couldn’t angle my gun up enough to return fire. Thus, the only thing to do was to run forward and hope for the best. I thought the battles inside the tower itself were much more fun, and the tower design was architecturally impressive. However, I did not realize the elevator at the top of the tower could stop at multiple floors, which caused me some confusion for a few minutes until I figured it out.
The Salt Pile: The plot revelations on this level were pretty much the climax of the Apotheosis storyline for me, and the music track that starts playing when you gain entrance to the central tower was appropriately poignant for the backstory that was being presented. For these reasons, this was my favorite level of Apotheosis X.
Ascension Day: It’s a short, combat heavy arena level. After all the exploration levels that came before this, it was a nice change of pace.
Sky Burial: Vacuum levels exist in Marathon, but they’re not generally fun because the player is not in any danger of death by suffocation as long as they make regular trips to the nearest oxygen recharge station. So, there’s no real threat, just a lot of tedious backtracking. Sky Burial mixes things up a bit because it includes a really cool innovation — you can “swim” through the low gravity environment to reach higher elevations, and in fact doing so is necessary to complete the level. The design of the ship is a mixed bag. Architecturally, it looks impressive, exactly as a gutted starship should look, with busted-up doors, floating debris, and malfunctioning equipment. But the ship was so dark I found it easy to get lost. Getting lost in a normal Marathon map is bad enough, but the fact that you have to float through the ship means now you can get lost at multiple elevations, which is even worse. Thankfully, the level was also short. I did like the part at the end where the player enters an airlock, and thus is no longer subject to vacuum conditions.
Calm Horizons: I thought the mission objective of activating an “umbilical” to gain access to a Pfhor starship was really cool. The starship itself looked amazing when viewed through the spaceport windows. Upon activating the umbilical I thought the level was over, but no, you actually get to travel up into the starship you saw earlier, which is the height of awesome level design.
Velvet Ashes of Dreams: The ambush in the cargo bay: Hells YES, it was executed so beautifully!
Dinosaur Adventure 3D: The level is notable for a lengthy elevator fight, in which the player will be attacked by multiple waves of baddies coming from multiple angles. I liked it. The player also finally acquires the last weapon of their by now considerable arsenal, but it is definitely worth the wait, due to how cool it is.
Wireless Messiah: This level is notable for its good aesthetics. There’s a great view to be had looking out the station’s window at the level start. The attention to detail, where even just eye candy is meticulously constructed, is all really impressive.
Beaver Skin & Fishing Line: Story-wise, the Darya terminal at the end hit pretty hard. The fight in the darkened shuttle bay was fun. The ending of the level, where reality itself seems torn asunder, was visually awesome.
Arch of Time: The combat of the final level was suitably intense, especially the ending battle when the player is basically on a timer and being attacked by enemy hordes coming from all directions. What a rush!
MINOR SECRET LEVEL SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Tony Hawk’s Moving Castle: It’s highly likely the player is going to get killed very soon after entering this secret level; so…a pattern buffer feels extremely warranted at the level start! As far as the level itself, the combat was by far the most difficult in the entire campaign. I liked the challenge, and there were several areas where I really needed to consider my tactics in order to persevere. There were three chips in this level. Only one needed to be found to open up the level exit, but if you find all three it will open up an optional extra hard area to play through.
Gravin Threndor: In this second secret level I was wowed by the pretty lighting effects. END MINOR SECRET LEVEL SPOILERS!!!
Overall, Apotheosis X is a great campaign and definitely worth your time. Thank you, devs, for taking me on a memorable adventure across strange, surreal, alien worlds!
Although Apotheosis is "technically" a Total Conversion mod for Marathon/Aleph One engine, the quality and work put into it (graphics overhaul, new weapon/enemies + tweaks to existing ones to make gameplay punchier, full game's worth of levels) make it much more than just a mod for Marathon and more like an entirely professional indie game.
For anyone who is a fan of Boomer/retro shooters, I absolutely recommend to check it, even if you aren't a fan of original Marathon games. Like the og Marathon games, it is completely free to download and play and IMHO, its a lot more enjoyable than a good deal of retro FPSes out there.
Although its story is linked to Marathon games (it's story acts as a side story), you don't need to play Marathon to get into the story. And the story itself isn't all the necessary to enjoy it either. The gameplay makes up for it.
As for my specific experience with Apotheosis, I can say that the few gripes I had with original Marathon's gameplay are no longer an issue here. The levels here pretty complex looking, but yet pretty straightforward in terms of progression as I seldom got lost at where I needed to go. And the maps made great usage of incidental and setpiece based combat situations.
Another issue I had (with Marathon 2 specifically) was the over abundance of swimming and water based combat. Thankfully no boring water melee combat in Apotheosis. Instead Apotheosis uses the vaccum/oxygen mechanic to create arguably one of the most memorable levels in the form of "Sky Burial" where we carefully traverse in the dark semi-destroyed space station at low gravity.
About the only thing that comes close to being less than excellent is the storyline, which seems like a rehash of Marathon 2's story. But it's still well done overall.
A solid 5/5
here i was, all excited to play this new and amazing looking marathon conversion. installed it just the way it told me to by dragging a executable into the folder. but since the folder doesn't have a scenario the game goes into the ''select a scenario screen''. i cant find one as apotheosis doesn't come with which aleph one recognizes as a legitimate one.
it just ends with ''please be sure the files Map, Images and Sounds are correctly installed and try again.''
long story short, the file is incomplete.
but hey; the screenshots look dope. so there's something :D
I haven't played much of Marathon in a long time but picked this up after a binge of other old-school shooters. In the last month I've played Unreal, Dark Forces, all of the Half-lifes, and then this, and I can safely say I liked Apotheosis the most! It's amazing how well the core Marathon gameplay holds up. I still think I miss a bit of the punchieness of the original arsenal though. Extra praise for aesthetics and level design. The story was alright, but felt a bit like a retread of Marathon 2 from what I remember of that. But I'd much rather play this than go back to Durandal.
So far I've been extremely impressed with everything here - really feels like a brand new game.
I was thinking it looked like Phoenix but then that it looked like Rubicon and then I went "screw it" and realize it's its own thing.
UPDATE: I forget I'm playing a Marathon scenario at times. It'd be a good game to promote independently of the trilogy.
This update definitely addresses many of the issues I had experienced in the previous release. Admittedly, the second time playing a game tends to be easier than the first because you're now more familiar with it and know more where to go. But this time there was a much better amount of ammo for the fighting. The challenge was still there, but it was MUCH more manageable this time to fight what you had to. I also took advantage of the exploding barrels especially if there were any Hunters nearby.
There weren't any instances being like "Well what the heck do I use now?? There's nothing left!" (Especially on All Things Uncertain). I'm really thankful that you chose to not have the last level make you lose all your stuff anymore, that was really infuriating last time. Said level still being a vacuum is still kind of annoying, but I didn't die once from running out of oxygen, so I guess I can't complain all that much. The race up the stairs was still tough, but more manageable.
Everything had much more of a balanced feel to it, and that helps gameplay tremendously. The updated sound effects especially for the power-ups and the grenade detonations are a lot better.
Maybe the only thing that still sounds "off" is when the Troopers fire the grenades. It doesn't sound much like a firing sounds but more like a "release of steam" for lack of a better term. The sound also I think sounds too much like part of The Great Fen's soundtrack (which is already known that I dislike a lot) and it kind of makes me look around because I think something is being fired at me. I guess if the track is to stay, I can just shut the music off during that level if I play the scenario again.
I would say that in All Things Uncertain, the starting area needs to be looked at more. When you rise out of the pit, and you move away from the Enforcer about to fire on you, he goes inactive, so then the two things that teleport in to help you, just teleport out immediately instead, and you don't really have anything to take him out. While the level itself is MUCH better compared to the previous version, I would still say it could use maybe just a "tad" more ammo only because of those fast scythe-wielding (whatever they're called) monsters that are used in it, and the one that drops in near the end where there's that Enforcer waiting by the terminal I feel is a bit of a cheap shot.
This is more of a personal opinion, but I still wish there were more 2X rechargers, instead of just that one on the second to last level. Admittedly I'm not as hard about that as I was last time, since ammo amounts and cheap monster spawns were taken care of now and really changed the gameplay, but I still feel for some of the scenario's mid to later levels, I really feel the player deserves them. Not all rechargers of course, but some here and there.
But overall, this was definitely an improvement over the previous release, and I had a much more positive time playing it.
It's great, I'm not done yet, but I think I'm near the end and I'm loving it. The level design, the ambience. I love it.
May contain spoilers
After playing the original scenario earlier this year, I was pretty glad to give this a try once I heard of its release. I would say for the first two levels, it started out pretty strong, from then on though? I’d say that’s where the annoyances began. In my opinion, I feel like this scenario has the same problem that some others had too; it wasn’t tested much on Total Carnage, and this review reflects that difficulty.
For a majority of the scenario, it really feels like ammo is severely lacking. There are just too many instances where you’re trying to fight against a tough group of monsters, and you keep running out. I get it, it’s Total Carnage, it’s supposed to be a challenging difficulty. But there’s a difference between challenging, and annoying. I know some people have argued that you shouldn’t just have an insane boatload of ammo, and to a point, I understand where they are coming from. But at the same time, it’s not exactly carnage if you can’t fire much of your weapons because there’s no ammo for them! Especially if you are gonna have many instances of a large (more like insane in some instances) groups of Troopers or Hunters coming at you, you seriously need to consider giving more than it currently does. In All Things Uncertain, I literally just had to run to the end the best I could because I had next to nothing left to fight the insane amount of Troopers and Enforcers that were appearing, and attempting to would be fruitless. Kind of like Irons said, sometimes secrets were a necessity if you wanted to have a fighting chance, if that, in some areas. Some of these instances made me consider quitting the scenario without finishing it. But I kept at it because the review wouldn’t be very fair/accurate if I took that route.
And on that point, seriously, make some of the rechargers 2X. Not right at the beginning of course, but later on like most of the Marathon levels do. I know there’s canisters and such, but again, for how many groups of monsters some of these levels seem get, you should really consider giving a little more for the player to actually be able to stay alive.
Another thing Irons had mentioned was the sounds. While they weren’t bad by any means, they just seem to...I guess blend in too well and not stand out much. Like he said, it’s kind of hard to tell what’s going on in the environments. I also think the sounds for picking up a power up should be different from ammo, but maybe I’m just used to that. The sounds for the grenade detonations though just seems.....really off.
In a lot of the levels, the whole thing of all these hexagonal polygons for a majority of said levels seems cool at first, but it gets overused and pretty old very fast. I was hoping to see more variety in regards to that, but at least not all levels are like that. Once you get past The Salt Pile, this is where the scenario starts to pick up I think, but of course by that point, you’re a majority of the way through. The amount of ammo and such feels way more appropriate. But I gotta say, making the last level have you lose all your items, and the insane amount of monsters that appear on the stairs while you’re trying to beat the rising lava? Just no. Especially with how far back you have to go if you die, unless there was some pattern buffer I missed, which I don’t think I did.
Some other things here which have no effect on my rating. The soundtrack for The Great Fen? Horribly annoying. I’d really consider changing that. The sounds for what would be S’pht Doors I’m pretty sure are backwards, but that’s probably because of that whole thing with the 8 bit and 16 bit sounds. Simple fix anyway. Some platforms that should be ambient, aren’t. But that’s just a pet peeve of mine, and I know some can be easily missed. And some delays for some platforms are WAY too short. As soon as it stops, you have like less than a second to get off before it goes down again. I’m assuming that was done to allow the player to get on it since the engine sometimes will make the platform go up before the player fully gets on if it is not level with the floor. If I’m honest, I know it’s done for aesthetic purposes, but I really would just have platforms be level with the floor when down so that problem does not happen, and you can have a more reasonable delay.
All that being said, I will certainly give credit where credit is due. The smoother animations on the monsters is very impressive. Definitely the smoothest I have seen for this engine, especially for the Juggernauts when they go from their normal to dying animation. That really caught my eye. Most of the spaceship/space station levels are absolutely beautifully designed. In fact one of them is in the third image of this submission, and I really enjoyed that level. And for Sky Burial? Wow…..that really impressed me. For those familiar with Marathon, it’s easy to see what was done here for the space walking and such, but it really looks, feels, sounds, and plays like it is a damaged ship open to space. For someone who generally heavily dislikes vacuum levels, this is probably the best one I have ever seen. Admittedly that could also be because your oxygen level goes down at a reasonable pace, and you can easily refill when you need to. Too bad Acme Station wasn’t as nice in that regard.
If I were to rate this based on my overall enjoyability? It would have to be a 2 or a 2.5 (if that was possible for S7), but I am giving it a 3 because I know a lot of work went into this scenario, and I want to respect that. Sadly, I can’t say I finished this scenario on a positive note, but that’s just my experience. I’m not gonna say don’t play this, because it deserves a shot.
I can't add much to the positive reviews so far except for one comment. Apotheosis X loads incredibly fast on my iMac. This is in stark contrast to any other Marathon scenario I have ever played. It takes less than 10 seconds from the initial click to actually playing the game. That is amazing. Many other scenarios take upwards of 4 to 5 minutes to load and then when you quit playing, it takes another 4 - 5 minutes for the game to actually shutdown.
The gameplay is fast and smooth. The weapon systems feel right and are fun to use. I love how different the weapons are from previously published scenarios and how well they function in the game. I found myself using the pistol many times as it is actually very useful in this scenario. I really like the rocket launcher and main assault rifle with grenade launcher -- they felt different from other scenarios and yet were fun, functional, and felt right in game play.
The enemies are done well. They are far more interesting in how they react and fight you than in most scenarios I have played. There were enough differences to make them interesting and deadly if you did not take them as a serious threat.
This is truly an outstanding scenario to play. Definitely one of the best if not the best. I loved the map layouts, complexity, and sizes -- very interesting how the architecture always felt right for the sci-fi setting and I enjoyed the soundtrack playing in the background. I can't say enough good things about this scenario. Simply amazing to play.
My initial reaction upon starting this up and seeing the splash-art was pure giddiness, and then, "Wait, this is for free??!"
From the well made maps, to the nice graphics, and the cool scripted moments, this scenario was hard not to binge.
The atmosphere in every level is superb; probably the most immersive maps in Marathon, in my opinion. Even the simple things like the sound of a door whining open really grabs you and pulls you into the setting. The well made gun sprites really give Apotheosis X the edge over Rubicon X, which has pretty terrible and low-poly-esque sprites in my opinion.
The only issue I have, and it was something I pretty quickly got used to, is that the enemies are all a little bit too dark and colorless in appearance. It works well for the setting, but may impact gameplay and enemy recognition just a bit.
The story is pretty interesting too; about another long-forgotten Jjaro experimental species returning to glory and all that jazz. Neat. Personally I don't think the "noah" or the "angels" or whatever they are really got enough physical representation in the game. I would have liked to fight alongside or even against them a bit more, but usually when they appear they are walled off and intended to only be observed, so I didn't even fire a 'test shot' at them.
Oh! And the Pfhor Assassins! Marathon needs more fast, close-quarters enemies that really give you an adrenaline rush, and make you think twice about your next move. I loved their introduction in the original Apotheosis, and was so happy to see that big scary man go dashing across that hallway, silhouetted in the dark. That was the most memorable moment from the original.
Anyway, I loved every minute of this & I'd love to play anything else Hypersleep makes; these 25 maps are killer.
(btw I played on Major Damage, but will replay on Total Carnage eventually)
Apotheosis is worth playing for many reasons. The most obvious of these is how visually stunning it is. The architecture and textures look great and there are tons of incredible details everywhere. You can see in some of the screenshots where hypersleep has placed scenery objects with exactly the right lighting, at the right distance, to make them look like real wires or vines hanging down. In another instance, a huge turret object raises up at the edge of the ship. Objects like that in particular, such as the space ship from Infinity, can do more harm than good, but here hypersleep makes the most of them. Fires give off smoke and sparks; alien plants emit pollen. Even more amazingly, much of this is straight in the engine and could have been done in 1996. It's just never been done so well as in Apotheosis.
Animations are also breathtaking. Hunters block your shots with their armor; MOAHs absorb them using a force field; enforcers raise their weapons with deliberation; giant bugs skitter around fluidly. Then you have boarding parties blasting through walls; you have sparking gouges in metal. The list goes on and on. You already know this is Marathon's most beautiful scenario and you have to see it firsthand to understand just how good it looks.
I like the soundtrack and the sounds as well, although I'll get into the latter shortly. The soundtrack is subtle enough not to ruin the immersion. The sounds are all very different from what we know and on their own sound really beautiful.
All of this creates a unique atmosphere. Maybe some of the similarities in palette make me say this, but I think the scenario that comes closest is Rubicon. There's a grit here that you don't really see in any other scenario - ironically, something you wouldn't get without the polish and care the Apotheosis team put into the game's presentation.
The gameplay itself is good, too. Levels, although they can feel huge, are fairly linear and hard to get lost in. When I say "linear" I don't mean it in a bad way. You know where you need to go, either because a terminal laid it out clearly or because the design is very intuitive. I feel a little bit like I'm on rails, but I can't complain too much about it. When I listen to a great record, I'm not going to whine that I didn't pick the track order myself.
There are some things that keep this from being a "perfect" game for me. Most of them involve the game's difficulty. I played on TC and so expected a difficult experience. I quit playing the original out of frustration, but it's not so extreme here. It's small things. For example, the weapons for the most part look utilitarian, reinforced, heavy-duty, but in a lot of cases feel just a little too weak. A lot of the time I feel like I've almost gotten my ass kicked by a gang of 3-4 hunters. This isn't my usual experience. Maybe if I weren't seeing "fighters," "hunters," "troopers," and the like, I would adjust my expectations. The large scrabbling bugs planetside don't make me feel this way.
Ammo is a bit scarce at the beginning, to the point that secrets are almost required. I had to get into the habit of walking into just about every corner so that I could snag the occasional single clip of whatever was there. This definitely isn't the end of the world, but it can be frustrating before you get used to it.
And maybe that's part of my problem: I still haven't gotten used to things. Believe it or not, the most frustrating example of all for me comes from the sounds. I've said I love the sound design, and that's true. The sounds are all great in isolation. But I've found it difficult to identify what exactly is going on in my environment when I can't see it. More than in a lot of other similar games, Marathon relies on this - which is why it works so well without music. I'm not sure what it is about the sounds in Apotheosis that give me such trouble. Are they all crowding a certain frequency? Does stereo or some similar effect throw off what is otherwise a point-based composite sound image? I don't know. I do know that I've been taken by surprise again and again when a huge volley of fire seemed to come out of nowhere, or when multiple enemies walked right up to me from the side while I was too occupied to look at the motion sensor. Item pickups are also hard to gauge. How much did I just grab? Did I just waste that health can by getting it too early? I think in this case I might be too accustomed to the earsplitting sounds from the original games, but maybe they seem louder because they stand out better from the mix and not because of their amplitude.
Finally, in the early ship sections, I had a lot of trouble getting stuck on architectural features. I tend to back up a lot, or slide along walls until I can sidle into an opening, while I dodge incoming fire. For some reason, this bit me in the ass quite a few times. I would end up in a corner or maybe would slide right into the aesthetic wall damage, getting stuck just long enough that I got killed. Either I adjusted or the levels stopped having this type of architecture. Just something to look out for.
Overall, Apotheosis is an amazing achievement. You might not have the same trouble I've outlined above, and I would be just fine with that. I never thought I would see a Marathon scenario that I could recommend just based on "superficial" elements, but I think Apotheosis offers an experience above and beyond that provided by a typical Marathon game. I stopped caring much about story long ago, and aside from the above quirks, it's been a pleasure getting to know Apotheosis. Will I play it again any time soon? Probably not. Was it worth doing once? Definitely. Try it out.
Full disclosure: I did sounds, scripting, and testing for this. Nonetheless, I feel safe in saying it may well set a new standard for Marathon scenarios. The original already ranked among the best conversions ever created for Marathon, and this surpasses it in every way. The design is astonishing, the gameplay is consistently superb, and the atmosphere is otherworldly. The rest of us are going to have to step up our game. With all luck, this will go down along the likes of Tempus Irae, Rubicon, Eternal, and Phoenix as one of the best Marathon scenarios of all time. What are you waiting for? Download it already.