First Impressions 3.13.14: The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot and Nosgoth
Posted by Marc Morrison on 03.13.2014
411mania's Marc Morrison gives his thoughts on two free to play games with Epic Loot and Nosgoth. See his views inside!
Where to begin? I was nominated to do a review for The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot, currently in an open beta on Steam, and to do a preview for Nosgoth, currently in closed beta on Steam. Both games are free to play affairs; Epic Loot is Diablo-like, while Nosgoth is a third person team-based shooter. Both games suffer from similar problems, but in different ways, so I'm going to combine the two and just talk about them in a roundabout way. My view isn't a review on either game, as both are partially unfinished, it's more about me talking about them just with my opinion on playing them, nothing more, nothing less.
The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot is a game that on the most surface level possible, actually manages to look pretty decent. The game is split into essentially two games, the Diablo section (Attack) and a tower defense/dungeon builder mash-up (Defense). You start off with picking a class, Mage, Knight or Archer, and go from there. During the attack sections you move your character through various levels, using spells/abilities to kill enemies, avoiding traps, and collecting the copious amounts of loot (some may call it epic) that drops from slain enemies. It's all very straightforward, and if you've played Diablo or Torchlight, or any of the other derivative games, you'll get the feel within 5 minutes.
It was the defend aspect of the game that really befuddled me. You start off with a basic castle, a power core (heart of the castle) as well as various shops/buildings to upgrade your castle and what you can do. There's a summoning portal (to summon monsters/traps) a research lab (upgrade monsters/traps), a blacksmith (buy weapons/armor), potion brewery (buy potions) and "Cornelius' Emporium" where you use the paid currency to buy special items. You plop monsters and traps around your dungeon, construct mines (which net you money/life crystals) and so on. Other players can attack your castle to get your money/life crystals (which you use to summon stuff) and for experience. The goal is to try to make a difficult castle so it will be tough on players to complete, but not impossible. You actually have to play the castle and complete it for it to be "validated" and on the castle select screen for others to try.
Nosgoth is on the opposite end of the spectrum. As said above, it's a team-based third-person shooter, where the teams are humans vs. vampires. There are three classes to play on each side, the human classes are divided into the Scout (with a bow), an Alchemist (grenade launcher) and a Hunter (rapid fire crossbow). The vampire also has three classes: the Reaver (he can pounce), the Tyrant (has a charge ability) and the Sentinel (who has wings and can drop people from the air). Each class has different abilities they can use/equip, as well as a new daily perk that is different for each side. You begin the match on one faction and when the round is over you switch to the other faction and do it again. Whoever has the most points when the round is over is the winner. It's fairly basic stuff at present with nothing being different other than how vampires work.
Here's the good I'll mention about each game:
Epic Loot's "attack" game is really simple, but actually fine. You don't get a lot of attacks or spells, but it can be fun to just roll through a dungeon killing everything in sight. The game does have a lot of loot in it (hence the title), so you do feel like you get something out of the various dungeon runs you complete. The art style and graphics are simple and cartoonish, but there is a really good lighting and shadow system in the game. When you pass by a wall the shadow will curve around your character's view, which I actually noticed and appreciated. The game also has a slightly weird sense of humor that can occasionally work well.
Nosgoth's good side is a little more hidden. The game sees only about 65 or 70 percent done, overall. Everything works to a basic degree but that's about it. The Alchemist (grenade guy) on the human side seems vastly overpowered compared to the other two classes. I went on a 10 player killing spree with him in one match. The vampires all are interesting to play. They have a lot more maneuverability to them, the Reaver is fun to pounce around with, and so on. The in-game store also has a lot of gear you can buy with either in-game currency or "Runestones"(which you buy with real money), which actually works well. Nosgoth does tend to emphasize some team behavior, especially with humans, given how frail they are. You can't really "lone wolf" it with either team in the game which does make it slightly unique.
I mentioned the carrot, and now here is the stick with each game, talking about some of the problems I encountered:
Epic Loot continues to befuddle me to this day. The Defense aspect simply doesn't work. It is fine laying buildings down and upgrading them but the game gave me no incentive to actually care if people could enter my castle or not. As such, I have a lame two monster castle that anyone could beat. I ran into a fun bug where the game kept telling me if I pressed ALT when a creature is selected I could move around their "awareness circle" (aggro field) to better notice other players. The problem was that pressing ALT, or even holding it, did nothing. I could not get this feature of the game to work at all. It's also moot since I later read on a forum that the awareness circle is somehow tied to when other monsters wake up and now about how close you are to them, although I'm not sure if this is actually true.
Upgrading the castle seems fine but there is no creativity in actually how the castle is built. It all seems randomized, like everyone's castle is made from 15 prefab parts and the game just slapped them together. Also, castle size is way too small for any serious player. If you get very high level the castles get bigger but nothing approaching Diablo 3 or even Torchlight 2's levels.
Levels are incredibly weird in the game. Once you get past the first boss, you're tasked with leveling up to face an eventual boss. Each different area is split into five levels. There were about three levels that the game offered and that was it. There were 20 levels listed but only three from the actual developers. The other 17 levels were from the Defense aspect of the game. Yes, they have effectively crowd-sourced level design in the game, but it is so shallow that you won't like it. The developer levels are all fairly big with no time rush. The player-made levels have three goals associated with them: beat it without dying (easy), kill the mines in the level (easy) and beat it under the average time. This makes the player just bolt through the level as quick as possible, avoiding enemies, just to find the mines and activate the door. It kills the momentum of the game entirely because you should want to kill the monsters because it's fun, not kill them because they are a hassle. Also, you get extra gold for rating levels, which while kind of fun in Assassin's Creed 4, due to it being slightly sarcastic, just feels incredibly dirty in this game. You also have to pay in-game gold to get new levels, because you can only get the end level treasure chests once, then they lock out.
The attacking and money system isn't much better. You only can take four abilities with you on any given map (and four potions). You could have 100 potions in your inventory, but you can only carry 4 into the level. You can't swap out your abilities mid-level either. Let's say you try out a new spell and it sucks, you have to either complete the level or die to swap it out. Same goes for any gear that drops in a level, you can't swap out gear mid-level, you have to complete it to try it out. The money system is completely weird; the currency is "Blings" which you can use to buy temporary boosts to your character or cosmetic items: castle themes or costumes for your hero. That is it. Or at least that I've found. I might actually pay money to be able to carry more potions into a level, or another action slot, but not that. As part of playing the game, I was given a small amount of real currency to spend, but I literally still don't know what I'm supposed to do with it.
Also, on a technical side, it is kind of messy. The tutorials (like above) don't quite match to what the game is now. The launcher can take forever to load, and there isn't any option for me to save my uPlay password, despite the launcher just being a re-skin of the uPlay one. The validation to even get the play button to show up also takes a fairly long time, and I'm not sure why. At least the game did run fine though, once you were in it, which isn't something I can really say for Nosgoth.
Nosgoth's issues at present are mostly technical but also slightly philosophical. Remember that 10 round kill-streak match I did? I got nothing out of it. Why? Because when the sides switched over, I hit a massive lag spike and the game disconnected me.
The game needs two things to make it better currently: an actual match browser and the ability to play with fewer people on a team. The game is set up to be 4 vs. 4 and that is it. When you boot it up, there are two options, Team Deathmtch and basically "Newbie" Team Deatchmatch. I selected Newbie TeamDM and waited in their queue for 15 minutes as the game tried and failed to find a match with seven other people in it. Finally, the game tried to start me in a room, a few people would join, wait a few minutes, and leave. I tried this at least three days, at different times, with the same results.
Selecting normal Team Deathmatch can usually net you into actually getting a match but you won't really know how to play. I'm really hoping a tutorial comes along in the final version, because while the humans are fairly straightforward, the vampires are not, especially the Sentinel class. I tried and failed to pull off the aerial grab maneuver and just cannot get the timing down. This is partially due to the server instability, but also because the game never told me how to actually do it.
Along with not telling you how to play, the game also doesn't really tell you what the abilities and perks are either. It does if you dive into it, about three menu's deep, but that is too much. You should be able to highlight the Hunter class and it say "It has a crossbow, an exploding shot and a bolo" and this is how you use all of these things.
The philosophical issues are less concrete but I kept thinking of them. As I played Nosgoth I just kept thinking to myself "Why does this game exist?", "Who does this game serve?", "What market are they trying to cater to?" These shouldn't be your first thoughts 10 minutes into the first game. If you do remember Legacy of Kain, this game is only likely to make you depressed over what has happened to that series. If you liked third-person class/team based games, there are better ones out there: Super Monday Night Combat and Loadout to name two. Also, where/how exactly does this game tie into the Legacy of Kain series? Outside of vampires obviously, and a few passing mentions to Kain, it doesn't seem to. If they mentioned Selene a few times, this could easily be an Underworld game instead, or any number of another different vampire properties. There doesn't seem to be anything unique to this game to actually tie it to the Legacy of Kain/Soul Reaver franchise.
Ultimately, I had a mixed time with both games. Epic Loot appears to have depth but the shallowness of both sides of the gameplay become apparent within the first hour. Issues of scope, usability and what you're even supposed to be doing come up quickly and only compound each other the further you get into the game, if you can manage that long. Nosgoth's issues can somewhat be drawn to the beta period, but it still has some trouble. My biggest worry is that there isn't enough of a draw in this game to get people interested to actually play it. If there's no one to actually play the game, it doesn't matter if it's good or not. But the lack of player information and character imbalance are noticeable once you play long enough.