Epoch (PC) review
"The components of this construct do not a good PC game make."
I was going to return to this one, because it was a departure from the usual fare of what was available for my 4th Gen iPod Touch. I say departure, but I really mean it had potential. Mobile games do not transition well to PC for a number of reasons: Microtransactions that distort otherwise logical mechanics, graphics that donít scale well or gameplay that is stunted by the change in input hardware. Epochís flaws, however, are much more fundamental in nature.
The premise is simple, and borrows from scenarios we know well: Our nameless hero is a robot assigned to guard a princess, and during a revolution that has two armies of robots fighting amongst each other, you are collateral damage. That is to say, youíre the robot, and the opening scene has you recovering the memory of your primary directive, but nothing else.
Then your cousins show up to try and stop you from achieving that goal. As stories go, Epoch is as bland as the title suggests, and about as well focused. Volumes of flavour and world building text serve to form the picture of what led to your situation. Were you discarded? Forgotten? Or merelyÖ well, thatís the problem: It really doesnít matter, and I'll address why shortly.
Granted the point of an on rails shooter isnít to get lost in the story, but Uppercut Games makes a respectable effort in that regard. The lore of Epoch is just deep enough to give you a sense of why things have gone to scrap, and to motivate you to fight the next wave of robots relentlessly trying to reduce you to component pieces. Each mission is rewarded with messages from characters that flesh out the story as you progress. Thatís the good stuff.
Combat isn't flush with polish, but it does feel more fluid than its previous touch screen incarnation simply because your fingers just arenít in the way. What is a perk quickly becomes a detriment when you see the extent to which Uppercut Games adapted the port to suit PC capabilities. That is to say, they didnít.
There was a time when Minecraft Portable Edition could only create limited size worlds, a consequence of low power hardware. This was later improved so that MCPE worlds could meet the nine-times-larger-than-Earth default, but most games never broke free from their small box chains. Given that Epoch was developed with the venerable Crysis Engine, ostensibly a few software switches are all it would have taken to decrease the proximity of texture blur that occurs whenever a texture is further than a stoneís throw from the protagonist. This is especially noticeable in cutscenes.
Why they didnít, I wonder, but it does seem to be summed up in the single line premise as described by the Epoch Steam Store page: ďPost-apocalyptic Robot CombatĒ, just as it reads. No punctuation, even. Uppercut phoned this one in, and itís not attractive to behold. The things I would forgive on a mobile device become glaring issues on my multi-core monster box PC. For instance, why not remaster it?
What Epoch gets right seems to be offset by what it could have done better. Small tweaks, like palette swaps of armour and gear repeated for the sake of space saving would have done a lot to reduce my ire at their absurd prices. Donít get me wrong, but where is this robot buying this stuff from, anyway? Thereís a missed opportunity for an integrated story mechanic, literally! The game isnít even supported by mirotransactions, which isnít a bad thing, but the equipment system doesnít fit into the game's narrative or mechanics, even though itís an essential part of gameplay.
Might I suggest that another scavenger robot could be hiding in your shadow while they collect parts and take trades in the scraps that you acquire? Not to go too far off the beaten path here, but thatís something that would have made Epoch more interesting to play. Fatigue rears its head early on, and it's not long before I get tired of losing and move on to something else. The components of this construct do not a good PC game make.
As much as the breadcrumb method of storytelling indulges my curiosity, you can repeat missions to acquire more data, which makes me wonder if I can unravel the entire story before completing all of the missions. Unfortunately its combat doesnít compel me to find out. You see, while everything is pretty snappy, itís also incredibly same-y. Literally: Once youíve seen a grenadier, youíve seen them all. Laser wielding robots are always yellow and donít vary at all in texture design.
Early onset boredom does more damage to this gameís playability than the wire-thin tutorial system, which is hardly necessary anyway. Now that youíve paid for the thing, why isnít it any fun? Perhaps because thereís not much ďflowĒ to speak of. At some point during gun play you forget youíre pressing buttons and the controls become an extension of yourself. In my time with Epoch, I have yet to experience that sensation with any degree of emotional satisfaction.
Is it because movement is broken down for a touch screen interface? Swipe left or right, roll to one of three blocks of cover; at furthest left or right, swipe up to leap to the other end of the screen. Thatís actually pretty neat, because it uses the protagonists jet pack to get around, but it does clash Ė again Ė with the story. If our hero has a jet pack, why hunker down and shoot it out with these flunkies? Hello priorities, how do you... where are you going?
Itís logical breaks like this that mar what appears to be a hard science story. No one knows why the two corporate controlled robot armies are at war with each other, but if you play along, youíre destined to find out. In any other scenario, thatís enough, but again the lack of character voice leaves me with no motivation.
Iíll put it like this. It is expressly implied that Gordon Freeman wants to save the day. The expectation is as plain as the face you canít see, but our nameless hero in Epoch has no such prop to stand on. A supporting character, such as my fictional back-up mechanic, who could easily have been human, could have served that expositional purpose.
If youíre looking for a dumb shooter, Epoch canít seem to decide if it wants to be that, or a tale of heroism amid impossible odds. Graphically it is underserved by a lack of any attempt to adapt it to more capable hardware. Its audio is competent but not much better than stock. Animations are smooth, but detail is omitted: Donít expect to see any ripping or tearing of electronics here. If itís going to be gritty, letís have some of that, shall we?
At $10 (CDN) youíre getting what you pay for in the form of a short lived experience, but there isnít much to take from it. This is not a timeless classic, nor is it very memorable. At the end of the day Iíd call it a frentic time waster, and thatís likely what the goal was. In my opinion, you would be better served by another game in the genre, especially if youíre looking for a long term investment.
Community review by hastypixels (August 11, 2017)
At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.
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