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Impressions After 100 Hours of Play

Salutations to the developers at Eleventh Hour Games and my fellow players,

After clocking in over 100 hours of Last Epoch’s 0.7.10 patch on Steam, I am ready to give my first round of feedback. I will be painting my impressions of the game with broad strokes, beginning with a list of bulleted points, and then elaborating on each one individually.

So far I have leveled three characters to their mid-seventies, with each new character being a smoother experience than the last. In the order I created them, I have played:

  • Beastmaster~Primalist (Poison DoT)
  • Sorcerer~Mage (Shock & Critical Lightning)
  • Spellblade~Mage (Ignite/Fire Aura DoT)

In my time playing, I have been blown away by the game’s strengths. What it does well, it does better than the rest. Where it is weak, well, we’re still in beta. Though I do not see myself putting thousands of hours into the game with its current level of depth, I do expect my hours spent will be the most satisfying of any ARPG I have ever played.

Last Epoch is, in my mind, a game with a shelf life, and that is okay. Not every game needs to be designed to be played forever. I take issue with Last Epoch’s business model and its clear intention to be a direct competitor to Path of Exile. I worry about the game’s longevity post-launch, but I save those thoughts for my section on monetization.

Alright then, let’s get to it:

~The Good~

  • Itemization
  • Visual Clarity
  • Core Gameplay Loop
  • Mechanics

~The Bad~

  • Monetization
  • Writing
  • Cross-Mastery Synergies
  • Skill Diversity

~Itemization~

Let me start with what is undoubtedly Last Epoch’s greatest strength—an absolute triumph of modern ARPG design. There is a tremendous wealth of mods for each item category, ranging from utilitarian (life, resistances, % increased damages ) to build-defining oddballs (class-specific mods such as % chance to cast Fire Aura on kill)

The decision to limit items to 4 affixes (written succinctly in one or two lines each) makes reading loot infinitely more palatable. Every mod has the same number of tiers, counting up the same way. This makes eyeballing the relative power of an item as simple as counting its total tiers of mods.

Offensive/Defensive mods are distributed well across prefixes and suffixes alike, creating real and interesting choices for gearing. There may end up being a “best practice” for the distribution of mods on gear, but so far I have felt an exhilarating level of freedom with my choices.

The crafting system is an absolute godsend after playing Path of Exile for thousands of hours—there are accessible options for every item slot beyond basic defenses, and it is perfectly within my ability to create powerful items with the mods of my choosing. This is a massive advantage over the aforementioned industry leader, where settling on an item with life and resists is often the best you can do, even if the item has open affix slots.

~~ I will note that crafting does seem to lack a bit of the punchiness that other games can have. Other than the occasional critical success, crafting can only really go wrong for the player (or very wrong). In Last Epoch’s case, the high level of determinism in its crafting is both its greatest strength and perhaps its greatest weakness. Though I am without any suggestions for what can be improved, I am against increasing the overall randomness of crafting to make it more exciting.

~Visual Clarity~

A common failing of traditional ARPGs is visual clutter. Some games struggle with this more than others, but here is the second place where Last Epoch truly shines.

I have cognitive issues that render me overwhelmed by excessive sensory stimuli. (This makes me rather bad at most action games.) Despite my natural limitations, I find the action in Last Epoch to be far more digestible than any other game in the genre (other than Wolcen, which also nails its visual clarity).

~~ Among my sensory limitations is minor photosensitivity. While I am not prone to seizures, bright/flashing lights can daze me for hours. I will note that while I have been more resilient to these stupors in recent weeks, Last Epoch’s lack of accessibility options may eventually limit my ability to play the game at all.

In particular, flashing effects such as Lightning Blast’s chaining or Elemental Nova’s flurry of reds/yellows/blues are likely to create problems for me with continued exposure.

~Core Gameplay Loop

Most loot-based ARPGs can be boiled down to “Kill monster, get loot, gear up, repeat.” Last Epoch iterates on this well, with a long (as-yet incomplete) story and what will hopefully be a wealth of endgame activities. This is currently one of the game’s lesser strengths, but it is a strength nonetheless. Even in the beta’s relatively barebones endgame of Monolith and Arena, we see a host of interesting rewards to chase and reasons to repeat content. I have some suggestions for fleshing out the Timeless Monolith, but I will save those for a different time.

~~ One of the big things I am hoping for in 1.0 or sooner is the ability to skip the story on a new character. With how long it takes to get a new character to the end of 0.7.10’s story (which I have done on all three for the idol slots and skill points), I would welcome an opportunity to skip the fluff and dive straight into an alternate leveling method.

I can understand saving such a feature for when the campaign is fully implemented. I would also understand if new characters must start at level 1 (so as not to overwhelm newer/returning players), but I would very much appreciate a way to jump into the thick of things without being forced to run through the story after the first time.

Such a feature does not take away from players who enjoy leveling through the campaign (they can opt out), nor does it diminish the skill of players who can speedrun to the story’s conclusion in record time on a solo/fresh start character. Please, eventually, give us this option.

It could be as simple as loading a fresh character in the End of Time with access to a low-level Monolith area which rewards you with your idol slots and quest passive points as you level.

~Mechanics~

Last Epoch provides a fresh take on many genre staples such as ailments and resistances. I have particularly enjoyed the active, in-your-face playstyle of ailment stacking with high attack/cast speeds.

The scaling behind the newly implemented resistance system is fascinating, and I am eager to find out if Last Epoch finally bucks the longstanding gear tax that punishes newer/less knowledgeable players for not capping their resists. How essential are resistances in Last Epoch? Can the right build be correct in prioritizing other defenses over maxed resists?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Monetization

Last Epoch’s monetization waves a massive red flag. Promising a large-scale microtransaction model in addition to charging a box price screams potential abuse of its players.

Despite all of my praises for the game, this one feature has the potential to ruin my good faith in the product, and it is the single reason why my friends refuse to give the game a try.

I have seen many arguments on these forums defending the implementation of a PoE-style monetization as being necessary, but I have one example to, in my eyes, prove these defenses fallacious: Slime Rancher.

Slime Rancher is an offline, single-player experience with a fixed box price and exactly one paid DLC. The game was developed with the attitudes of live service games despite its simpler nature, and since its release in January 2016 it has sold over 3 million copies. This was not an overnight success. Slime Rancher’s persistent growth and eventual sales can be attributed squarely to Monomi Park’s persistence and dedication to quality at a fair price.

Source: Monomi Park’s CEO gives a GDC talk explaining Slime Rancher’s perpetual development.

If you, the developers at Eleventh Hour Games, truly believe that your product has room for years of continued development, I ask that you charge what your game is worth upfront and let your continued sales sustain you.

For every feature you strip out of the game to sell later — non-combat companions, appealing cosmetics, etc. — you make your core game a weaker experience.

I came to Last Epoch because I have become disillusioned with Path of Exile’s increasing levels of FOMO-induced burnout (Fear of Missing Out) and its rampant microtransaction production. Mitigating burnout has become a common topic for discussion amongst its players.

With Last Epoch looking like it’s trying to be The Next Big Thing, I fear that it too will prey upon its players with unreasonable demands to keep up with its content.

Between fears of FOMO and its ties to potebtially predatory monetization, I ask those of you at EHG to please reconsider your current plans on the matter.

~Writing~

Traditional ARPGs are historically poor mediums for storytelling (People don’t want to slow their play to read dialogue or watch cutscenes), and the stories presented in these games are largely forgettable as a result.

Last Epoch’s story currently struggles in much the same way. Most pressing, its character dialogue is riddled with comma splices and other editing mistakes.

The lack of any lore beyond said dialogue leaves the world feeling flat. I hope that there are plans to expand the game’s story in ways other than the conclusion of its campaign.

Though it may be difficult to work in, environmental storytelling could be used to great effect in deepening the world without slowing players down. Sprinkling details into the scenery and characters (including the enemies you fight by the thousands) can potentially give astute observers a far clearer view of your setting than the snippets of dialogue they may decide to skip.

~Cross-Mastery Synergies~

The skill trees of characters I’ve played do not offer a satisfyingly consistent amount of crossover synergy. While my Spellblade might want to go midway through the Sorcerer tree for fire penetration and ignite scaling, there is almost zero incentive for my Sorcerer to dip into Spellblade. Likewise, I felt largely disinclined to invest my Beastmaster’s points into the Shaman’s passives or the Druid’s. I do not have any particular suggestions at the moment to fix this, but I do believe it is important to create appealing options for cross-mastery investment. You could also, perhaps, disable the passive trees of the other masteries entirely, but I would rather have more options than fewer when possible.

~Skill Diversity~

Currently, the Primalist and Mage are in an awkward place for me in terms of their skills. I find myself wanting to use certain skills in every iteration of my characters, no matter how radically I respec them. Also, I find myself wanting to spec certain skills the same way across multiple builds.

Please take these particular comments with a grain of salt. I must reiterate having only played three characters. I have my biases as a player, and I am still learning the game.

~Conclusion/tl;dr~

Last Epoch is shaping up to be a stellar title. Its character/skill/item customization is fantastic, though not deep enough in its current form to keep me playing indefinitely, (and that’s okay). What the game does well, it does better than its competitors, and where it’s weak, it still has room to grow.

Attempts to encapsulate a wide range of price points through long-term microtransaction sales run in direct opposition to the game’s upfront box price. Other games doing it first does not justify the idea or make it any fairer to its players.

My greatest fears for LE are that it reaches too deeply into the pockets of its playerbase and that it later begins to employ FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to encourage constant, fanatical engagement to the detriment of its players, and the longevity of the game.

Cheers, folks. Thanks for listening.

(Edited for clarity and tone.)

2 Likes

3… I’m okay with cosmetics mtx.

Well… They call it Mastery for a reason and not “Jack of all Trades”. Why do you think there should be more points in otherr trees other classes benefit from? Primalists are the best example. I think it’s bad design that a Druid spends a lot of points in beastmaster because the points you can spend there are almost as good as the 50+ points in the Druid passive tree.
I look at it the other way arround… the not mastery trees should only offer some statstick stuff early on and nothing outstanding.

Everything else… well… Yeah that’s right :). Nice feedback anyway.

There are at least three skills in each mastery’s passive tree gated off by point investment. Being taxed with unhelpful passives to unlock a cross-mastery active skill isn’t fun.

If the passives of these other masteries are not meant to be useful, then why are we allowed to take them other than these arbitrary skill gates? Is it ever worth it?

I ask you the opposite question: What purpose is there in each character having access to four separate passive trees when they will never want to invest in more than two?

That entirely depends on the masteries. As a void knight I can get decent use out of quite a few passive nodes on both pally and forge guard masteries. The forge guard and pally will similarly be able to make decent use of several of each other’s passives while the void knight’s passives are a bit more situational.

The sorcerer/spellblade masteries have less overlap with each other though since one is significantly more spell focussed and the other more melee focused.

IMO, it would be nice if the bottom half of each mastery was a bit more generic so that the other masteries could use enough passives to get most of the way up to the half way point without feeling like they’ve just wasted 10-20 points.

And being pedantic, the number of skills locked behind each masteries varies but is either 2 or 3. Pally/forge guard only have 2 (Judgement/Holy Aura and Forge Strike/Smelter’s Wrath respectively) while the Void Knight has 3. In fact, the Shaman and Druid only have 1 skill each locked behind the mastery, though they will probably get more.

Thank you for correcting me on the skills locked in each mastery. I am prone to making assumptions based on incomplete data, and I based those numbers off of the Beastmaster, Sorcerer, and Spellblade trees. (Which, now that I think about it, doesn’t Beastmaster have 4?)

Making the shallower ends of each tree more generic could be a fine solution. It allows you to dip for skill unlocks without being punished and better enables further investment if your build happens to have a use for it. (e.g. my Spellblade dipping 20 points into the Sorcerer’s tree for access to the fire penetration / leech nodes)

I don’t think this is a good example at all. Slime Rancher is a single player experience, with no servers to maintain and no cyclical leagues to develop for within a certain time frame. It’s also a team of only 18 people (and I believe it was far smaller than that when it was under development). Microtransactions aren’t ideal, even when they’re just cosmetics, and it would be great if an online game like this one could do without while also not implementing something like a subscription system or paid expansions. But I think of the options currently out there, an MTX system that is only cosmetics (not even QoL like stash tabs) is easily the best option to keep the servers online and the game profitable while not alienating players who can’t afford to pay more than the box price.

3 Likes

Funny because I play PoE every league and I haven’t spent a dollar on that game in maybe 2 years now. I like the game but refuse to finance them unless its a monthly paid fee…I honestly just let people like you float the game now as I supported them during the ‘indie company’ days

I have all my stash/features/MTX and im not supporting a Chinese backed company unless im forced to. I would rather PoE is $20/month paid fee, gets rid of all the botters as well

on that note too, I am not spending a single extra dollar on this game either for MTX or whatever

Yup fine. Just don’t pretend Chinese backed company has anything to do with it.

Perhaps the scale of the development costs are not comparable, but would selling an average of 750,000 copies of Last Epoch at $35 USD on Steam each year would not be enough to keep the game afloat? I legitimately don’t have a sense for the costs at play.

If Last Epoch made its money exclusively off of game purchases with no mtx, how many copies would EHG need to sell for the game to be considered a success? 750,000 copies is surely overkill. Would 100,000 copies be sufficient? For a game with such high ambitions, this sounds like a reasonable goal to me.

I’m going to try to stay out of further discussions on mtx and allowing players to pay arbitrarily large amounts of money. This is a hill I will surely someday die on and I don’t need that day to be today. I will do my best to respect other opinions, but I will likely not be swayed. I firmly hold that games which charge a box price have no business employing F2P microtransaction models.

I am trying my best not to sound standoffish, but I fear my tone is slipping at times. I was raised with a nasty elitist streak, and I am doing my best to unlearn some toxic habits. Please let me know if my behavior becomes problematic during my stay in the forums. I would like to continue to develop my thoughts in future threads as I play more, and I would like to do so civilly, with the game’s continued improvements at heart.

1 Like

Hello! Welcome!

I just want to say I completely get where you’re coming from. And I might agree that may be no right or wrong answer in the business model.

Unfortunately in this case I do think EHG’s hands are tied. There are already quite a number of individuals who supported with thousands of dollars based on the mtx model and I would assume it’s going to be difficult to backtrack on that.

Aside from this, just also want to add that I in particular agree with your observation that LE’s crafting system is both their greatest strength and weakness. This is an area I’m watching closely to see how the devs refine the system further :slight_smile:

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I don’t believe this is asking the right question in regards to MTX. For that, we would need to know what it would take to fund operational costs and continued development plus maintain profitability. Neither of us know the answer to this question, but for a game that has stated it wants to run for more than 10 years with constant development in the form of multiplayer leagues, its safe to say that they’ll need a steady cash flow that can’t be accounted for with initial game sales. We could bicker about what model is best suited to accommodate such a model (mtx, expansions, subscriptions, etc.) but regardless, relying only on initial sales is unlikely to keep a “game as a service” afloat. We could also argue whether the game as a service model is necessary, and you even stated that you think this game should have a shelf life:

But the majority of players disagree with you, and PoE’s success is largely attributed to the fact that it is playable indefinitely, and creates reasons for players to come back and reengage every few months. EHG has embraced a similar model, and so monetization will be chosen that supports such a model. I, personally, think EHG’s model is one of the most consumer friendly in the industry. The only place I take a bit of exception is when they raised the box price at launch from $15 to $35. I do feel that asking $35 plus having MTX is a bit harder to swallow, but the alternative options (i.e. stash tabs in PoE) would cost considerably more than the $35 box price, and that $35 covers all of the content in the game, now and in the future.

I do understand your concern with MTX, as I myself have a bit of a reputation for lambasting other games with exploitative monetization schemes. However, I also know that a fair MTX system is possible, and I believe EHG is capable of pulling it off as long as they keep the MTX prices at a reasonable level and stick to their word of never charging more than the $35 price tag for all of the content in the game.

2 Likes

When I say that LE has a shelf life, what I mean is I believe it lacks the depth to be infinitely replayable. Path of Exile has key strengths that facilitate its replayability — strengths which Last Epoch currently lacks.

PoE’s passive tree is far more modular than any single class’s passives in Last Epoch. And while LE may eventually rival PoE in terms of active skills for players to build around, PoE’s absolute greatest strength is the systemic nature of its skills.

Last Epoch’s trees for skill customization for active skills are fun, but they lack the expandability of Path of Exile’s systemic tags and behavioral modifiers (the support skill gems). Where Last Epoch may have to go back and rework old skills to better support new ones, PoE’s skill system allows its new skills and supports to be implicitly intertwined with every skill that came before it.

Here is where I will love for EHG to prove me wrong. I am open to being shown I misunderstand the Last Epoch’s depth. Ten years from now, I hope I can celebrate what Last Epoch has become.

Now that I’m nearing 2k hours into the game, I believe you’ll find that the skills trees don’t create the shelf life that you’re worried about, but I guess we’ll know for certain in time :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Uhm… LE skilltrees do the same while beeing not artificaly bloated and overcomplicated to cater the illusion of beeing something skill and brain is involved to make it good. LE is on a nice middelground from my point of view and I realy think devs should NOT cater to an overdramatic diva system like PoE.
On top of that we miss some classes and skills and there is more basic stuff still in the pipeline like dual wield for example. I think we’ll see some more stuff and I’m pretty sure some existing stuff will be revisited and spiced up a notch.

overall I thinl LE is in a good spot and just needs some tweaking here and there and the additions that will change the status quo we have right now.

Agree. But I’m not sure when you started playing POE. When POE first launch their closed beta support packs and signally their intent for POE to be played forever, the game ended at Act 2 (i.e Vaal oversoul). So LE actually has more content at a similar point of development.

I take your point about the skill trees in LE though. LE skill trees ensures supporting customisation can be tailored for each skill but it’s difficult to see how to expand on that without making the trees huge and unwieldy. Most of us are looking towards idol and unque affixes as avenues for future creative skill customisations.

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It’s actually only 2 for the beastmaster (summon raptor & flanking strike). The Necro has 3 (summon wraith, abomination and dread shade) while the other masteries have 2 (except the Void Knight, Shaman and Druid as previously mentioned). IMO it’s good for each mastery to have ~3 locked skills as well as the more powerful and (potentially) interesting passives above the half way line.

As a pedantic accountant, it is entirely possible to keep a company going for x years solely off the initial box sales, this is essentially how a pension works. All that matters is how much cash they get initially, their burn rate, the rate of inflation (which would be similar to the discounting rate they would use in any long term forecasts) and the interest rate they’d get on the invested cash. Getting all the cash upfront would make their accountants (and probably Judd) more stressed as they try to manage it, not to mention the current state of affairs may not be the best to invest right now (though I’m sure that’ll change when things get back to normal).

Having a constant cashflow makes things simpler, it’s not necessarily better and it means you can get away with being less successful initially.

My “concerns” about a shelf-life are more centred around the limited number of skills each mastery has as I prefer to make new classes centred around different skills & if EHG aren’t going to add new skills (after they’ve finished off each class’ roster of skills), that static number of skills is, effectively, a shelf-life (for me).

I don’t agree with the bad “Cross-Mastery Synergies and Skill Diversity” arguments, but there is always room for improvement.
As for the monetization, I don’t have a problem with MTX (unless it’s a visual masterpiece, I don’t have plans to acquire).
For me, the worse in this game is by far the writing. No wonder a player created a post trying to understand “what the heck is the game history about” because it’s very confusing and for the post parts, the players don’t pay attention.
One thing for me that I also don’t like in the game and wasn’t mentioned is maps that are just transitional (pass the map as quickly as you can to reach a more important map, that has side-quests or is for the main history to progress). For me, they could “cut” those maps or at least put some side-quests in them (make them more interesting).

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Yeah sure, it’s “possible”. I think that’s a given. The question really should be centered around how likely it is and how realistic it is for a game with these parameters to assume they could be successful for ten years that way. I don’t see this as being a particularly realistic strategy, and the more successful the game is at retaining players, the less realistic it becomes.

Yeah, this would definitely be a shelf-life, and it would be a terrible long term decision on EHG’s part. I think it’s safe to say new skills, and probably even new classes and masteries, will be added to the game after 1.0.

Retaining existing players doesn’t hurt future sales of the game. They have already bought it, yes, but an active playerbase is more inviting for new players—and convincing new players to buy the game is how sales continue over time.

I took that to mean that having a large on-going player base means you need more servers & support which costs money so you burn through your big pile of cash quicker than if you have a smaller player base.

Yes, that would be the long tail, which is unlikely to extend things for much longer (my impression, not supported by any numerical analysis or industry knowledge.

I would hope they introduce more skills (or more ways to use the skills that already exist) rather than adding new classes. But yes, I assume they would add more “player-stuff” in addition to PoE-like leagues.

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