After spending about eleven hours playing the closed beta of the Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, I can safely say that I don’t recommend jumping in. At this stage players are getting access to what is supposedly an unfinished product, but it’s still a product that Ubisoft are asking you to pay for on Steam and one that seems to have issues built right into its design philosophy.
The one good thing I can say about Mighty Quest is that I’m running into very few bugs or issues. I’ve had annoyances where alt-tabbing crashes the game (which is particularly annoying seeing as accessing the in-game store actually takes you to an out of game website… And crashes the game) and where sound just disappears, but these have been infrequent. Content has worked as advertised, I’ve been able to log on and play every time I wanted to (or didn’t) and multiplayer functionality seems to be working as intended.
So what is the Mighty Quest for Epic Loot? Well, first of all the name is entirely misleading. This is a game where you go on hundreds of mini quests in order to gain sub-par loot. Obviously Mini Quests for Sub Par Loot isn’t the most appealing of titles, but there is something to say for truth in advertising. Of course it is still early days, the game is in pre-release and things could change. It’s foreseeable that loot could be improved (though problems with the system go quite deep), however the micro quests are inherent to the design.
The premise of the game is a mix of Diablo-esque dungeon crawler and a pseudo-tower defence game. It’s a game of two halves where you build a personal castle and storm the castles of other players. The idea is that the super rich fled into the sky and have hidden their riches away in trap ridden forts. You are given a castle of your own to defend and the ability to attempt to siege the castles of others.
It’s an interesting set up, but it leads to a lot of issues that seem flawed on a design level. The most egregious of these is that the game is built in such a way as to encourage irritating level design. You want to protect your castle and if people manage to storm it they can steal your riches, therefore your aim is to design something people can’t complete. The end result of this is a community of user generated content built around irritation and frustration rather than fun. Imagine a LittleBigPlanet game where everybody was trying to make levels you can’t complete rather than fun levels, it doesn’t make for the best player experience.
The game’s campaign is built up of a number of worlds, each with a different level range. Each world has a number of developer made levels (the first world is all developer made, later worlds have only a few) and a whole bunch of user created dungeons. Hover your mouse over a castle and you can find out its level, defence rating, number of traps, reward, how many heroes have failed and a bit more. It’s useful information that’s well presented. The castles themselves suffer from a lack of variety though, and from being purposefully annoying. Storming a castle is rarely fun as the creator usually just puts enemy types together in the most irritating way in order to try and stop you. After all, why wouldn’t they? There’s not enough incentive to put together a well made dungeon, or to make it fun to play. You have the ability to rate the creation afterwards, but a castle is a way of protecting your stash so getting good reviews has no impact.
At this stage the assets are very limited. Every castle is basically the same, you fight the same enemies in the same environment over and over again. Each siege only lasts about five minutes and no siege feels at all distinct. You can slightly change how your castle looks, but you can still only choose from a limited amount of pieces. There aren’t that many options and it’s not really possible to do anything interesting or inventive (or even distinct). This is something that will hopefully be improved on before release, but drastic changes are needed. At this stage playing through the game is incredibly annoying and soul crushingly repetitive.
The repetition is further increased by the loot.
Here is my knight at level 1:
Here he is at level 9:
And level 14:
Visual variety is something they will hopefully improve – as loot is incredibly unexciting – but there are further problems. The simplicity of the mechanics also really gets in the way. You have no choices when you level up, you just unlock skills at certain levels. This means there is no stat picking or any real choice in terms of progression. This isn’t inherently problematic, but it has knock on effects. Loot is super boring for example, there are pretty much no unique elements to loot as there are too few variables in play. Armour has magic resists, physical resist and can occasionally boost health, boost health pick up effectiveness or reflect some damage back. Weapons have limited criteria also, this means you get loot that is obviously an improvement but no loot that is particularly exciting. It’s just a random upgrade every now and then, and due to loot drops progressing pretty well you just feel the same throughout. You get better gear, but the gear never shines, it’s just necessary upgrades.
The free to play structure also gets in the way of things. It means that everything just takes too long and that the game is constantly road blocking you. This would be OK, but even if you put a decent amount of money in you are still stuck in this situation. The annoying thing is that this isn’t just affecting the competitive element, the structure gets in the way of your single player experience too much and it’s something you can’t really get around. Putting in money gets you some in game currency which allows you to speed up upgrades and building, but this doesn’t help with some of the systems. Levelling up is handled in a annoying way, you max out your XP for a level and then pay to level up. Until you do this you get no more XP and the building you level up through has to be upgraded every few levels, which is more costly. On top of this, some of the upgrades for this building rely on you upgrading your castle heart, and to do that you have to keep upgrading your chests so you can store enough currency. The sheer amount of interdependent systems just get in the way and make things arduous at every point. Yes you can pay to speed them up, but you still have to grind out materials to afford these upgrades, and the frequency of upgrades means there are are more things wanting your money (otherwise the waits are ridiculous).
At this stage you just shouldn’t play the Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. Unless things drastically change before release the game is a frustrating mess that isn’t worth your time, never mind your money. I recognise that it’s still in beta, but to access this beta on steam you need to pay $20 (you can even pay $99!). The game is simply not worth this amount of money at this stage, in fact even if you get in for free I would not recommend playing this game.
I will be revisiting the game after release to give a proper review, until then… Avoid it.