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:
- Visual Clarity
- Core Gameplay Loop
- Cross-Mastery Synergies
- Skill Diversity
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.
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.
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?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)