Last Epoch review: Thank you, Reddit

Last Epoch review: Thank you, Reddit

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

21st Feb 2024 13:08

We all think we've got great ideas for games, don't we? I'm convinced a Destiny card game would be a great move, while my pals always tell me "all Nintendo needs to do is remake Pokemon Red and Blue on Switch and they'll sell millions".

Still, it's not often we put our money where our mouths are, and that's exactly what Eleventh Hour Games did. Coming together via a Reddit post looking to design their dream ARPG, Last Epoch was born and is now hitting version 1.0 after half a decade of incubating in early access.

With more eyes on the genre than ever before, thanks to the return of genre granddaddy Diablo last year, can Last Epoch stand toe-to-toe with the best in the business? You betcha.

GGRecon Verdict

For a small team to develop an ARPG as polished and as player-friendly as Last Epoch is astonishing. To do it with the complexity that the genre demands as a prerequisite is something else, and I'm truly, truly impressed by what's on offer at launch - and can't wait to see it grow.

Sincerest flattery

Combat in Last Epoch
Click to enlarge

Simply because of the nature of the game's genre, it's impossible not to mention not only Diablo, but free-to-play sensation Path of Exile, too. Both are excellent games in their own right, with the former arguably being more approachable (despite the price tag) and the latter requiring a deeper dive into mechanical nuance.

Thankfully, Last Epoch lands pretty squarely between the two, and that's a very good thing. It's full of as much complexity as any other dungeon-diving ARPG, but it's also very good at explaining pretty much every aspect. If you've bounced off of either of the others, you'll likely find it pretty refreshing.

Still, Last Epoch's story is unlikely to lead you by the nose through its world of Eterra. You're 'The Traveler', and the plot is about as generic as you'll find while lacking the spikiness and heavy-metal aesthetic of Diablo's Sanctuary.

Combat in Last Epoch
Click to enlarge

And yet, while searching for The Epoch, a Macguffin in every sense of the word, I couldn't help but feel a little relieved. I've put hundreds of hours into Diablo at this point, and it was nice to play an ARPG that didn't feel the need to bombard me with rotting corpses every two steps of every dungeon.

Sure, it's 'fantasy 101' in places with the usual biomes and attack fodder like spiders, skeletons, and the like, but Last Epoch looks good, and I mean, really good, in places.

If the plot is just a way to drag you through good-looking locales, whacking monsters as you go and snagging loot, then an ARPG has done its job - and for that, I'm grateful for the relatively basic narrative.

Caves feel dark and foreboding, forests are lush, and there's more visual variety in here than I've seen since I first started playing Lost Ark.

Class warfare

Last Epoch's skill trees
Click to enlarge

Of course, I'm not here for the story, characters, or pretty scenery. I'm here to smash things and get cool gear for it, and in that regard, Last Epoch will satiate your bloodthirst and then some.

As you may expect, it all starts with five base classes. The Primalist, Acolyte, Sentinel, Mage, and Rogue are all great fun to play as, filling familiar archetypes like tanky close-combat attackers, ranged damage-dealers, and sneaky, uh, Rogues.

They all feel viable throughout, but the most recently added class, the Primalist, is perhaps my favourite. It channels the energy of the world around it to summon animals, fire off spells, and get up close and personal when the time comes. It's a jack of all trades, but it doesn't take long to see that Last Epoch allows for some impressive build diversity.

Sadly, the same can't be said about cosmetic customisation, and characters are restricted to the template options found on the character select screen. It's a minor deal when you're going to be equipping armour and switching gear on the fly, and you're unlikely to see your character's face from the isometric perspective, but even gender-swappable options would have been nice.

If you found yourself leaning on Diablo 4 class guides (we've got a few for you) but ended up feeling like they were all a little too similar and homogenised, you'll likely be very interested in Last Epoch's excellent progression.

Skill tree in Last Epoch
Click to enlarge

You'll earn active and passive skill points with impressive regularity, and they can be socketed with ease. That lets you build up your character without feeling hamstrung by a lack of points, and you'll almost always be unlocking something useful for whichever build you're moving toward.

Then there are Masteries, which are accessed at a fairly early point in the campaign and allow you to further tailor your skills. For example, the Primalist can lean into a Beastmaster, Shaman, or Druid tree, each with its own abilities, passive buffs, and playstyles. Alas, you can't switch your Mastery once you've picked it, but here's hoping a respec option arrives in future.

For now, you get access to some skills from all three options, but can only go the whole hog with one. The good news is that each active skill has its own upgrades, meaning your Mage's fire spell can feel completely different to your friend's Mage's fire spell, and not just in a 'mine does a few per cent more damage' kind of way. Spells can change elemental types, become crowd-control or single-target big hitters, and add surprising new buffs (and in some cases, debuffs).

This is handled by using your abilities, and that means rotating your hotbar often to see what works. As someone guilty of settling into a rhythm in other ARPGs, I welcome this incentive to leave my comfort zone.

Sweet Swag

Combat in Last Epoch
Click to enlarge

As with any ARPG, loot is another driving force for character customisation - and Last Epoch has it in spades.

You'll be earning gear pretty rapidly, complete with a Diablo 2-style inventory system that lets you rotate items Tetris-style. Still, if that sounds daunting, you'll be pleased to know the game has a significant focus on crafting.

That means carrying a lot less junk, and since you can upgrade and craft on the go, you're only ever limited by the materials you have. And, with unlimited storage for said materials, it removes much of the tedium. That's great news because as much as I love an ARPG grind as much as the next Primalist, Last Epoch has struck a nice middle-ground that feels as though it respects my time while also daring me to keep hunting monsters well into the night.

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Thankfully, there's plenty to do to keep players engaged - even if it's not thanks to the story. ARPGs are so often defined by their endgame, and while I've barely scratched the surface there's definitely enough here to warrant the almost criminally low £29 asking price.

With a variety of modified story quests available through time travel, an arena for wave-based combat against foes with a leaderboard, and dungeons that offer the best loot (and some of the biggest challenges) I can see myself coming back to Last Epoch regularly - and that's without the promise of seasonal content and the chance to play with friends.

The Verdict

For a small team to develop an ARPG as polished and as player-friendly as Last Epoch is astonishing. To do it with the complexity that the genre demands as a prerequisite is something else, and I'm truly, truly impressed by what's on offer at launch - and can't wait to see it grow.

4/5

Reviewed on PC. Review code provided by the publisher.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.