Developer: Nick Everlith
Publisher: Nick Everlith / Ryzal Games
Released For: PC (Windows)
Reviewing: PC (Windows)
DRM Versions Available
Released On: May 18th, 2016
MSRP: $14.99 Steam Link
Review Copy Received By Developer
Welcome to the world of Epoch, where the game seems destined to fall under the comparison of ‘It’s like Zelda but with Dark Souls stuff’ and we’ll get into that comparison later. You play as a random generic hero with generic goal #1025 of saving a dying world. You create your character from a barebones set of races, hair options, color and charge your way forward through a vast, yet somehow still claustrophobic world. In the game you’ll explore dungeons, caves, the lack of a menu with a quit button (What is it with pixel-style games not having quit buttons on the main menu? First Bit Dungeon II, now this?) and some castles as you wonder to yourself why you chose the worst possible class in the game, all the while still unable to fully grasp why there’s no control support to game that clearly would benefit with it, and why there’s a magic element to the game when magic is clearly the weakest type of combat style. Have you played Dark Souls, meaning Dark Souls III, not the other ‘From Software’ games? Congrats, you’ve discovered about 90% of the inspiration for the game. At least, that’s what it seems every other review in existence would like to tell you. In actuality, it takes far more inspiration from the recent comeback of rogue and roguelike games. Combat is slow, you’ll often rely on a shield that seems rather determined to never actually block what it’s supposed to block, all the while relying on an axe (at least, that’s what we relied on) that seems to only hit enemies like spiders when it feels like it. You can even leave messages for other players like you can in Dark Souls, and trust us, it’s worth reading some of them if you get stuck.
Despite some of these grips with the combat, it was okay enough. We liked the multitude of different types of armor, weapons, gems (things you use to add magical abilities to your weapons/armor), and the ability to level up different perks without any of the perks being locked behind a certain level. You as a player can also only carry so much in terms of armor and weapons, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead why style of fighter you want to be. You’ll fight a fair variety of enemies as well, but none of them have the consistency or cohesive style to them. In example, you’ll fight these giant robot like guardians in the first castle you’ll find. The problem is that the characters are sized up, making them look blurry and rather ‘meh’ as to what they actually were. If we weren’t blatantly told what they were, we’re not sure it would have been clear. Same goes for many of the other enemies. Along the way, players will find ‘essence’. These are the equal to finding lost souls. The premise is that in order to save the world, you need to unlock this huge tower, because all the essence-souls are trapped in the world, and can’t ascend up. This is basically your leveling up system. Every time you find an essence, you get a point to spend either leveling up your gear, or leveling up your character through a selection of perks.
The game is also by no means a short game. We played for 9 hours before we felt comfortable giving an opinion, and you could easily pool over 30 hours into the game.
We should also briefly mention it’s the developers first published game. It doesn’t change our review, just thought some may be interested in that fact.
As you explore the world, you’ll end up dying. Oh yes, you’ll die quite a lot in Epoch. Rather than using hard saves specifically, you find save checkpoints you can use. When you die, you drop your gold and you spawn at the last point you saved at with all your gear. That’s more typical with the continuing in popularity ‘roguelike’ genre of games, but it works fine. Some enemies are too difficult however, and because there’s no way to resource the tips and moves the game gives you unless you just happen to remember literal dozens of text dumps, you’ll often forget many of the things your character can do.
Speaking of difficulty, the game prides itself on being a learning experience through death, but we’re not sure it’s really “tough but fair” so much as “really cheap deaths, glitches, and things we had no idea where possible” death. For example, we were stuck on a portion of the game for a full hour, just trying to figure out what we were doing wrong, only to find out that we can apparently jump like rabbits over the big, huge crevasses that no one with any imagination could even dream of being the solution. Yes, it’s made clear you can jump and leap, but over 50ft+ black voids that aren’t completely clear are voids to begin with? Again as previously mentioned, the sword and shield sometimes would just arbitrarily not work, even with full stamina and when you drop all of your gold doing this, it gets really tedious doing the same thing twelve times because the game decided to attach you on a wall until your stamina ran out, thereby falling into an abyss you had no right to fall in.
On a better note, the characters you’ll come across are interesting, and some even got a smirk out of us. Some feel very out-of-place, but they were at least funny. While the story falls onto the side of generic, boring and meh, we still enjoyed going through the world.
Visually, it’s off. Certain sections of the map won’t appear until you’re close enough (presumably to avoid just using the bow and arrow on enemies a thousand miles away), but it really makes the game look janky, which is a pity because some of the visual ideas look nice, and the use of color (take note roguelikes and FromSoftware ) is well done and makes the game look like they actually know more than just different shades of brown. The problem is that the field of vision isn’t active, and is more ‘once you’re in this area, this area is visible’ rather it just being a big circle around the player. It also seems to have some issues with the framerate, and we’ll take a guess the frame rate is tied to the movement speed of the character. That’s our guess anyway.
Audio wise, it’s nice. The music is well presented, orchestrated, and fits well with the game. Some of the transitions are a bit too drastic, but nothing one couldn’t glance over.
As for controls, well, we already covered that. It needs controller support. It’s nice it has rebindable keys, but visual and audio settings are sorely lacking.
The question then comes down to this, do we like Epoch? From a concept perspective, yes. From a critical perspective? Not really. It just feels far too much like a very long roguelike with no real way to die. It was enjoyable enough, but we wonder if “enjoyable enough” and “okay combat” is truly enough to suggest a game asking $14.99 with meh visuals and a combat system that only works when it stops going into the liquor cabinet, after it’s already drunk all the expensive wines. It is long and if one can look past the issues, we’d suggest the game more at a discount than at full retail price. If it fixed the issues with the visuals, we’d be much more inclined to be more on the side of a recommendation, so until they improve the visual errors and some of the bugs, just consider it a “buy at a discount” from us.
- Great soundtrack
- Fairly diverse level and enemy design
- Combat is okay
- Having a way to reference abilities you have would be nice
- Some characters are interesting, but some feel out-of-place
- Really dumb AI
- The visual and graphical oddities
- The minor glitches and bugs present