Forget everything you knew about ancient Greece. Hellenica’s alternate history take adds Steampunk and magic into the mix. After an industrial revolution, the country is in turmoil and faces countless threats from without and within. Luddites ravage Athens and Persians threaten to invade. Diona, a reclusive loner, gets appointed to be the champion of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, and to save Greece. Which is easier said than done if you don’t really know where to begin.
Hellenica is a turn-based tactics RPG with branching story paths and interesting combat mechanics. It eschews grinding in favor of high replayability. Due to the branching storyline, you’ll only see a tiny fraction of everything the game has to offer in your first playthrough, which will probably take you between three and five hours.
Characters don’t earn individual experience and levels, which puts the focus squarely on the tactics part. Every stage feels like a puzzle to be solved, and always relying on the same strategies won’t get you anywhere. Character progression is handled by fulfilling certain requirements in each stage: “kill three enemies with fall damage”, “cause XX points of damage in a round”, and so on. This gets you rare ability points that can be spent on exactly one new skill for one of your characters. Hellenica really wants you to work with the few skills you got.
And what a bunch of skills those are! Diona can turn into a bear for a short while, but she’s not special by any means. Every character plays differently, with a very specific set of talents you need to master. Ranged and magical attacks, stealthy backstabbing, even steam-powered mech piloting want to be used to your advantage.
Speaking of advantages, you also get to exploit the environment. Throwing enemies down a cliff, or slamming them against walls (or each other) is ever so satisfying. Some battlefields even have moving platforms you can use to quickly flank your foes, or decorations you can employ to your advantage. Bopping an enemy on the head with a giant marble statue never gets old.
In terms of storytelling, Hellenica can roughly be divided into nine chapters, each of which offers at least two very different paths forward. That makes for a mind-boggling number of possible ways to beat the game. There’s a kind of core cast of playable characters you’ll meet along the way – even if under different circumstances, depending on which paths you take – and a bunch of supporting characters you may or may not encounter.
All of this is incredibly well done. This is not a game you can replay, it is a game you’ll want to replay. However, it can be a bit too wordy for ist own sake, shoving long-winded exposition down your throat. I reckon that’s the price of including all these references to Greek mythology. Still, the writing is pretty funny, with likeable characters, light-hearted banter, and a bunch of neat twists on classical motifs.
You can purchase Hellenica from itch.io and Steam for $19.99 (with an additional release discount of 25% if you hurry). For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developer The Dragonloft on Twitter.