Here’s the last game in my series of reviews of games on display at the indie pavilion at PAXAUS and I’ve more or less cheated on this last one. First of all, I was trying to review games from different mediums. Unfortunately, without owning an iPad or a 3DS, I was a little limited and decided to go with another phone game. Secondly, Epoch wasn’t technically on display at PAXAUS. It’s sequel, Epoch 2, was the game on display but they had a sale on for the first one. And with the new, modern power of a credit card and a very easy purchasing system employed by Google, Epoch is the subject of this review.
Epoch is the first game by Uppercut Games and has been developed using the Unreal Engine. This is already a good move as it gives the game that AAA feel. Epoch is a third-person, cover-based shooter set in post-apocalyptic, post-dystopian… post-everything future where you play a recently rebooted robot trying to complete his original directive. You battle it out in a city-scape wasteland, not a living thing to be found, fighting oppositional robots as you try to make your way to your final destination. Along the way you gain new types of weapons, grenades and missiles to help you reach your goal.
The most important thing to note about this game is that it’s not a third-person shooter with cover-based shooting. It’s a cover-based shooter from the third-person perspective. There’s a bit of criticism floating around concerning the whack-a-mole structure of cover-based shooting, and if you’re one of those critics, then this game is not for you. You have three positions to fire from and can move fluidly between all three. When you defeat all the machines, you automatically jump to the next area. It’s similar to the arcade shooters like Time Crisis although the shooting is automatic when a target is selected, ducking in and out of cover controlling whether you shoot or not. After completing a rough half a dozen of these areas, you complete the level and move onto the next. This style of game-play is a little repetitive which is only an issue if you don’t enjoy it, which I did. It’s engaging and fast-paced, constantly forcing you to move around as opposed to letting you stay under cover.
When you complete a level you acquire a random piece of armor/grenade/weapon/missile/special power, as well as intel that slowly comes together to explain what happened to make the world the way it is. You also acquire credits that can be used to purchase specific types of the above. When you complete the last level consisting of a boss fight, you find that your task is not complete and the game restarts on the next difficulty. It looks like Epoch has taken a page from Infinity Blade with enabling re-playability through a failed ending. Though it would have been nice if they had taken another page from Infinity Blade by making the restarting a little more tied-in with story. Like every restart could be a new robot with the same mission reactivating. as opposed to just restarting.
The game is good to look at with city-scape environments that are unnecessarily intricate and detailed (which just adds to the graphical fun). There are nice little touches every now and then in the remnants of a cyber-punk future such as still working electronic signs, crumbling skyscrapers and collapsed motor ways. There’s even some graffiti saying, “Asimov was wrong!!” And on that note, this game has a feel reminiscent of the old-school sci-fi writers such as Asimov and Phillip K. Dick. The game isn’t perfect with the obvious repetitive level of game-play and an initial lack of challenge. I didn’t die once until the final boss, but that was on my first and easiest playthrough, currently on my second harder playthrough. There’s still plenty of intel to find and my curiosity is driving me to play.
Epoch also takes advantage of one of the most important factors in phone gaming. Controls are paramount to any great phone game. You control the game with one finger, which is exactly what you need when you’re on the tram or train. Cargo Chaos was the exact same and so is Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja or any of the other phone-game giants. A lot of phone-game shooters came out 3 or 4 years ago which utilised the touch screen like a console controller, something completely in-practical when your thumbs have nothing to grip. But being able to hold a the phone in one hand and control the other is almost necessary in my opinion.
Epoch is worth the purchase, especially if you’re a fan of this style of game, or if you’re in a nostalgic mood for old-school sci-fi or arcade shooters.