Okhlos Early Impressions: #OccupyAncientGreece

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Sometime around 399 BC, the great Greek philosopher Socrates was accused by the Athenian council of refusing to recognize the state gods and for “corrupting the youth.” Legend has it he chose a self-inflicted death by hemlock over the council’s sentence of eternal banishment, and civilization is left with his teachings (recorded by Plato) to try to figure out what kind of guy he was.

In Okhlos, a game currently in development by Argentine developer Coffee Powered Machine, the assumption is that he really didn’t like the gods and really did like corrupting the youth: inspiring the people to take up arms against the ruling class and basically level everything in sight.

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(the Greek word for “mob”) has you control a philosopher character with the WASD keys. You run around a city looking for “students,” who wind up following your commands by flocking toward your mouse cursor. Hitting the left mouse button commands them to attack, and the right mouse button has them block. You amass quite a crowd, and the more followers you have in your horde, the quicker work they make of structures, guards, priests, monsters, and eventually, the gods themselves. As the philosopher, you’ll want to stand safely out of the way while the mob sets to, but they’ll lose motivation if they’re kept too far from you for too long.

This is no super-serious Occupy version of God of War, though. Nothing in Okhlos is taken particularly seriously – the goddess Hera is introduced by some flavor text that reads “We hate her too much to do a proper entry about her.” But there are a ton of deep references to Greek antiquity, as you’ll eventually be able to trade run-of-the-mill citizens for stat-buffing historical and literary figures – Geometrician Pythagoras and the Iliad’s Menelaus were two I ran into on one run. There’s also a lively bouzouki soundtrack to keep things moving along.

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You’ll also gather “lives” in the form of fellow philosophers, who will take over as the main player character in the event you wander too close to an enemy’s xiphos. But run out of philosophers and it’s game over – Okhlos is a semi-roguelike and death is of the permanent variety.

It’s a hectic game, and moving multiple entities around the screen at once gets confusing sometimes – especially since your philosopher character can easily get lost in a 30-citizen strong pixel art mob – but it has a very weird and distinct charm that makes the fact that its being published by Devolver Digital completely unsurprising.

Look for Okhlos on Steam later this spring.