The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Ubisoft
Developer:Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date:2015-02-05
Genre:
  • Action,Role-Playing
Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Hack-and-slash games are enjoying a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of years, with the likes of Diablo III, Torchlight 2, Path of Exile, Grim Dawn and many more making appearances. Into this fray comes Ubisoft's interesting free-to-play take on the action-RPG formula, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. Currently in closed beta, I was able to spend some time with the game recently, in order to report on how the game is shaping up.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, as its name indicates, is not meant to be a serious take on the genre. The setup for the game is simple: in the fantasy land of Opulencia, a place of near-infinite wealth, rich rival families and entrepreneurs employ adventurers, vassals and other servants to wage eternal war on other moneybags-sorts, with the express purpose of capturing their competitors' wealth - in the game, this takes the form of gold, life force (crystals) and gems (the premium "real money" currency). This "greed and capitalism taken to comedic extremes" angle isn't one that I've really seen before, and in a way it's fitting for a hack-and-slash loot treadmill kind of game.

Unfortunately, though, not much is actually done with this theme. There's very little story to speak of beyond the tutorials (not that the story there is especially great to begin with), and in practice the game looks and feels completely unremarkable. This is apparent in the game's visual direction, which is a grab-bag of influences (most notably Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield Heroes) with little identity of its own, to its soundtrack, a small set of the most generic "epic" and upbeat orchestral tracks that you'll quickly want to switch off.  Sure, the "generic" style is kind of the point, but I don't think the game is clever enough to get away with it; The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot quickly becomes exactly what it is parodying: uninspired and bland.

The big gimmick with The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is that the dungeons you're exploring are actually created by other players, and indeed, you must create your own for other players to enjoy. Your dungeon serves as your home base and can be customized quite extensively, with dozens of different types of rooms, enemies, traps and so on all available for your configuration. I admit, this is a great idea - it solves the problem of repetitive pre-designed dungeons, or boring randomly-generated ones, and gives the game an additional level to it. To keep things balanced, the game auto-scales everything available to you based on your level and locks higher-level dungeon pieces and monsters behind multiple upgrade tiers, all which must have gold or life force invested into them. Though you're restricted on how much you can actually do, being able to take on your friends' dungeons while they go after your own has potential for a lot of friendly competition - there's even a replay feature to watch how other players defeated your minions, but sadly I couldn't find any option to actually play PvP or fight off dungeon invaders personally.

Once you get into the nitty-gritty of playing the game, however, it becomes extremely simplistic and, to be blunt, somewhat boring. You pick from one of three character classes - Knight, Archer and Mage, which have about as much personality and originality to them as their names imply. As I was only able to pick one character class, I went with the Mage thinking it'd be the most impressive and interesting - that may be true, but I found the Mage in The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot to be pretty standard. Fireballs, life leech, chain lightning and other similar spells await you; certainly nothing you wouldn't find in any other game.

I could live with the generic character classes and abilities if the actual gameplay and character advancement in The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot were more interesting. Leveling up consists of nothing more than spending some coins and experience at your Hero Trainer building; there's no attributes to assign points to, just passive preset bonuses. Like Diablo III, you unlock abilities when you hit a certain level, and can only have a certain number available at once, which can't be changed when you're inside a dungeon. Theoretically this could make planning and character builds important - but the lack of meaningful choice, like in Diablo III, also hurts your sense of ownership over your character and the mostly linear progression isn't too engaging.

The loot you find when defeating enemies in battle tends to be lower in quality and uninteresting - it'll get you by, but I found the best loot by far was the stuff available for crafting. It's expensive, but once I saved up enough gold to get the recommended gear for my level, I found I didn't need to change it out for anything for a very long time, and nothing I found myself even remotely approached the quality of the crafted stuff. This ultimately means that your gear progression is going to be mostly limited to the crafting system if you choose to partake in it, unless drop rates of usable equipment increase later on; somewhat perplexing for a game with "epic loot" in its title.

Last, I hate to say it, but the combat, at least in the closed beta, is just not very good. The first problem is that it's extremely slow, especially character movement, which makes things like positioning near-impossible to really exploit properly - you just enter a room, enemies run up to you, you bash them over the head and they die. At most, you can take a few steps back to give yourself some room if you're playing a ranged character, but kiting enemies - a key part of many hack-and-slash games - is all but impossible. What's more, the difficulty is very much "on" or "off". Although some of the enemy designs are creative, generally speaking a dungeon will go one of two ways: either you steamroll it with no effort whatsoever, or it'll completely crush you. Thus, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot reveals its biggest gameplay flaw at this time - there is a low skill ceiling to it, and the only way to really get better at the game is to grind lower-level dungeons until you level up, or get enough money to buy new gear.

There's a big stigma surrounding free-to-play games, one which isn't entirely undeserved, but which is often used to judge games prematurely and rather unfairly.  While it's hard to judge just yet, The Might Quest for Epic Loot could go either way. One thing I noticed in particular is that there are lengthy timers associated with almost all things (income, building new upgrades, etc.), which seems to exist solely to motivate players to pay real money to skip the wait. In a genre about leveling up and getting better gear to take on bigger challenges, to lock much of it behind a "soft" pay wall somewhat overrules the entire point of the game.  But, if such features are entirely optional and the benefits of paying aren't too great, then it might be able to straddle the line well enough to not drive away free players, or turn them into food for the paying users.

Overall, at this time I'm not especially optimistic about The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. The fact is that while it does have a novel idea which could make for a fantastic game, the execution at this stage didn't do it for me. As I've said, I don't have anything against free-to-play games themselves, but The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot draws more comparisons to Farmville than it does to, say, Path of Exile. The great benefit of a heavily online-focused title is that the developers are free to make changes not just before release but after it as well, and it may well be that the late-game content I didn't have access to will bring the depth that fans of this genre demand. We'll have to wait and see how things turn out once the game goes live.