• Currently 5/5 Stars.

A Phenomenal Total Conversion

MurgenROoF on Sep 15th, 2023, Version 1.1

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!

Apotheosis X

hypersleep on 01/12/2023

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.

3,949 downloads, 12 reviews, 13 screenshots, 4.3 rating