Apsulov: End of Gods is a horror game developed by Angry Demon Studio. It’s been out on Steam since 2019, but they’ve recently been able to bring it to consoles alongside a neat physical release of the game.
Strangely enough – despite loving both Norse mythology and horror games, this one’s never gotten on my radar before. I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss it – although we certainly have plenty of Norse-inspired games now, that hasn’t always been the case. Apsulov is a futuristic horror in the vein of Dead Space, and, yes, to a certain extent, DOOM – set in a research facility that’s accidentally unleashed hell upon the world. So there are smatterings of the sci-fi horror we all know and love – plenty of tense, Alien-esque encounters with ventilation shafts and slavering beasts.
Alongside this familiarity there’s a generous infusion of Norse mythology, which gives Apsulov a pretty substantial foundation to build upon. Evil Future Science Incorporated have delved too deep, uncovering the roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasil itself. Now Midgard – and all of the worlds between the tree’s branches – are falling to chaos, with the haunted facility in the middle of it. This theming, and Apsulov‘s utter dedication to it, is what makes the game stand apart from all the other “perfectly fine” indie horror games you can buy on Steam.
Besides the usual running, crouching and hiding, you’ve got a couple of tools at your disposal. First – granted at the very beginning – is Odin’s Sight, an extra vision mode you can use to find secrets hidden in the environment. Odin’s Sight makes it easier to see enemies, points out hidden puzzle solutions, and helps you navigate dark corridors. This is the only way you have to illuminate dark rooms – there’s no torches or lighters – but it’s not on a massively unpleasant cooldown, so you can leave it toggled on most of the time.
The atmosphere is brilliantly rendered with a few rough edges. The environmental graphics are actually fairly impressive on the whole, but character models aren’t quite as refined, sticking out like a sore thumb in places. It seems like much of Apsulov‘s perpetual gloom is actually just to mask the graphical wrinkles – like somebody on the team got really hung up on it having good graphics despite budgetary constraints. Apsulov‘s experience would have been just as well served by simpler visuals – it has atmosphere in spades, leaning on the Norse mythology just enough to create horror without relying on it entirely.
In general, Apsulov‘s difficulty demands that you give most enemies a wide berth. They can make pretty short work of you if they catch up, but the AI isn’t complex enough to give you a real run for your money. I once had one of the antlered loonies chase me to an elevator that needed to be called and then unlocked with a keypad. I assumed the game would lock me out of entering the keycode with an enemy breathing down my neck, or leave me wide open for attack. Neither of those things happened. When I reached the elevator, I put in the code at breakneck pace. Backing out of the animation, I expected to meet my end – but the enemy had simply vanished.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one-off. Most of the enemies you face in Apsulov are scary, sure, but they’re just not bright enough to feel like a threat you can’t beat. Especially once you get your weapon- a gauntlet that lets you fight back against the monstrous hordes every now and then. It’s slow to charge, and can’t be spammed, which is in a way the ideal weapon for a horror game. It’s not enough to change gameplay flow entirely, but it does give you more options. This is a game about Norse mythology, and it’d be practically sinful not to have the option to die in battle.
Apsulov: End Of Gods overall thoughts
Apsulov: End of Gods is a decent horror game with an excellent theme, and what it lacks in polish it makes up for in atmosphere. There’s a lot of genuinely unsettling moments, and although the narrative seems to exist just to get you from one scare to the next, the world is solid. Is it a polished, refined horror game on par with the greats? No. But it does use its Norse theming to brilliant effect, and oozes character and charm.
If you love Norse mythology and want to see it explored in the same vein as Dead Space, this is a really sincere effort to bring that to life. If you can forgive some clunkiness and perpetually darkened corridors, Apsulov is a really rewarding experience.