Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quest for Epic Loot first reactions

So, I was selected for a beta key for The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, the newest game from Ubisoft. I've been slow on playing it for two reasons. First, it involves Uplay, which makes my skin crawl. Second, even though the game doesn't look particularly complex, it eats my graphics card and there is a worry of it overheating and causing my computer to hard-crash, something that I normally only have to worry about with cut-rate games from the early 2000s that don't understand the concept of a frame rate.

Oh, dear, I've started bitching already. That's, um... that's kind of the sort of review it's going to be. Sorry.

I actually don't think I can put much of the blame on the Ubisoftians for the things I don't like about this game. It's clear that what they've created is simply something that isn't aimed at me. In fact, it's aimed at all the things that piss me off. It's essentially casualified Diablo III mixed with Farmville.

My first real annoyance is that their cash shop is pretty much fucking your ear from the first screen. I'm not kidding: the character select screen is two generic white guys, or a third generic white guy for cash. And every loading screen comes pre-equipped with an ad and a shortcut key for their cash shop. And their preloader/patcher contains ads for their cash shop. Before the game even begins, you've been subjected to three screens demanding money. And, of course, nearly every other screen in the game also informs you that you could be spending money to just win this shit without slogging through the treadmill.

I guess maybe that's the way of things these days, but it gives the whole thing a cheap and chintzy feel. I would only be moderately annoyed by it except for one detail: THIS IS A CLOSED BETA. It's a closed beta, and their cash shop is already demanding your coin. Moreover, beta testers don't get any kind of cash shop bonus so they can beta test the cash shop stuff... it's just so... grasping.

The second major problem with the game is one I've already alluded to. You get to pick one of two generic white guys or buy a third generic white guy, at which point a generic white guy narrates a story and then another generic white guy sells you castle and takes you through a tutorial. The first non-generic-non-white guy you meet is a goblin.

The whole game is deeply uncreative and anchored in super-safe vanilla fantasies. There are no women, no black people, no children - just endless rows of white guys killing safely and cheerfully inhuman monsters such as chickens, skeletons, and goblins renamed to something so you won't call them out for complete uncreativity.

Some of the monster designs are kind of fun at times, but even they feel super generic because they take place within the scaffold of the game's battle system... which is super generic.

It's a bit like Diablo if you really dumbed it down. The skill system is painfully bland, the "stats" are more or less nonexistent... gear pours in, but there's not really any deciding to do, it cheerfully tells you which piece of armor is the best and expects that you'll just equip optimally constantly.

The fighting is a bit like Diablo in that you click to move, click to shoot, click to use special powers... but the tactics involved in a game of Diablo are completely muted. You can tell the instant the game starts that it's going to mute the tactics, because the camera is about four feet above your head. You can't see enough terrain to use the terrain. The archer's range is approximately nine feet, with the total view range maybe being 12.

It's not completely brainless, but it is very casual. And, of course, loot piles up and you grab it. The dungeons might get creative later, I don't know, but in the beginning they are strictly one-room encounters where there's some arbitrary combination of traps and enemies and you just deal with it strictly inside that one room. The Diablo equivalent of Call of Duty's regenerate-between-every-skirmish design.

Your castle serves as a modular home base, but there's not as much depth to it as you might hope. Most of your base serves to host generic shops that you have to place - not sure why. There's absolutely nothing interesting or significant about how you can place them or use them. You might as well just hop down to a shopping district.

You can build a variety of modules for making money or fighting off adventurers, which is where the game starts to feel like a Farmville clone. Of course, whenever you buy anything, it reminds you that you could be buying it using real money instead of gold... and after you've bought it, it builds nice and slow so as to prod you to pay some real money to have it skip the construction delay.

There may be some complexity to the base building, I don't know. I haven't gotten far enough into it to be sure. But I would be a bit surprised, because there's really no creativity or complexity anywhere else in the game.

But... here's the thing: I think it'll do fine. It's exactly the sort of bland, repackaged casual garbage I've come to expect from casual games, but dolled up in a package of ADVENTURING! So I expect a large number of people will be happy to sink their teeth into this dolled-up casual game and pretend they are eating meat instead of chugging soda.

"It's not a casual game! It's got a preloader and doesn't run in the browser and has 3D graphics!"

Well, it's too casual for my taste.

We need more base construction games, but this seems to distract the player with shiny baubles and mirrors rather than offering actual play. It's doubly poisoned by its omnipresent cash shop.

Theoretically, it could radically pick up in the later game. That really seems kind of unlikely, but even if it's true, the first few hours are full of predictable blandness and a very loud cash shop.

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