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Last Epoch review


What is it? A Diablo-like action RPG with an emphasis on items.
Expect to pay: $35/£30
Developer: Eleventh Hour Games
Publisher: Eleventh Hour Games
Reviewed on: Windows 11, Intel Core i9, 32GB RAM, Nvidia RTX 4060
Multiplayer? Yes
Link: Official site

The first thing most people hear about Last Epoch is that it’s an action RPG with a clever trading system. And that’s true, it does have smart mechanics for bartering gear and ranking up your affiliation with the Merchant’s Guild to equip better purchased goods, which prevents you from making some canny deals and immediately walking off in endgame armor. But the thing that’s really clever is that you can opt out entirely.

When you reach the point where you’re presented with the chance to join the Merchant’s Guild, you can just say, “Nah, that’s not for me, dog.” In that case, you get to join the Circle of Fortune, receiving an increase to item drops so you can find better gear out in the world by killing people and taking their stuff like God and Gary Gygax intended.

As someone who could not care less about auction houses in RPGs, this is ideal. I’m not here to play the medieval stock market, and feeling forced into one to keep up in a game like Lost Ark sucks. Last Epoch’s approach to trading is smart, and it’s one of many smart decisions it makes about items. Another is the loot filter, which doesn’t just let you make common-rarity gear invisible beyond a certain point, but lets you get real fine-grained about which gear affixes you care about and want to see or not see when piles of stuff pinata out of the last spiky rat or gross bird you killed.

Crafting is another system with more thought than usual put into it. You can upgrade the bonuses gear has, add new ones, or remove them. The limits are each item’s “forging potential” and whether you have enough affix shards for the relevant bonuses. If you’re not hitting hard enough, you up a piece of gear’s damage bonus, and if you want some more poison resistance you add that. It’s straightforward, and lets you do what you want to your gear without hassle.

These good ideas are emblematic of a game designed with a lot of community feedback over the course of its time in early access. Last Epoch’s the kind of game that goes out of its way to fix things that annoy people when they’re playing a Diablo or a Path of Exile. If you find Diablo too simple and Path of Exile too complicated, Last Epoch has successfully carved out a niche between the two. I just wish some of the effort that went into the crafting had gone into the combat.

Slay a while

When a skeleton takes damage in Last Epoch they flinch by calmly stretching their shoulders back like they’re enjoying a leisurely yawn. When I fire a glowing magic arrow or swing a blade that crackles with lightning, it often looks like I’ve minorly inconvenienced my target. It makes me miss the dramatic clang and spray of blood you get when you hit a zombie in Grim Dawn. There’s no oomph or impact. When I die it’s almost always a surprise, because I had no idea I was even taking damage.

Meanwhile, my rogue’s effort grunts when using abilities are so loud and pained I often check my health because I used her dash or something only to see I’m completely unhurt. It’s not just a lack of feedback, but an imbalance of it. It doesn’t help that the viewpoint will sometimes get completely blocked by a cliff or other obstruction and there’s no highlight on characters when they’re behind walls, leaving me to guess what’s happening based on sound effects that aren’t great at communicating on their own.

Combat’s a little more enjoyable when I play a primalist, a class that’s half-petmaster, half-Viking. He has a wolf companion but later can be accompanied by storm crows, a bear, or, with the right magic helmet, an army of squirrels. It’s still lacking a certain meatiness, though, that prime-rib solidity you want from a hack-and-slasher. And it’s a shame the classes are gender-locked, which feels like “Diablo 2 was the last good Diablo and it must be copied as much as possible” thinking. (Even the monsters resemble Diablo 2’s, only here the Quill Rats are called Quill Hogs and the Blood Hawk Nests are Venomwing Nests.)

Last Epoch only lets you map five abilities at a time, which seems limiting at first. Even more than other action RPGs, it really wants you to stick to the same handful of powers. As you level up you can specialize in skills, though not many of them, and discover that each one has a node of unlockable options to enhance or reflavor it. Want to add some poison damage, or a cheeky backflip? Want to swap fire damage for ice, or a chance to stun? There are plenty of choices, but you only earn points for an ability’s internal skill tree while you’re specialized in it. Respec and you have to start over with a handful of points, which encourages sticking with the same ones as much as possible. You choose a damaging attack, a movement skill, and some kind of crowd-control ability and can then pretty much ignore everything else on your list because they won’t be getting a look-in.

Time is a construct

The thing I expect an action RPG to skimp on is the story, and Last Epoch doesn’t break the mold in that respect. There’s a powerful artifact called the Epoch and if you already guessed it was going to be split into shards that need collecting you win this week’s edition of Fantasy Nonsense Bingo.

The Epoch makes time travel possible, which lets you revisit areas at different periods, like a brightly lit jungle full of dinosaurs or the ruins of a fallen empire, and sets up an endgame of redoing quests in alternate timelines where they involve different enemies and various modifiers. It’s all a bit Chrono Trigger and—even as someone who normally pays attention to narrative and despairs when other players admit they don’t follow it—I completely tuned it out in the opening hours.

Which is par for the course in this genre and not really a knock on Last Epoch in particular. I was more bothered by the map being blank every time you return to an area, even a town, and that whether enemy health bars appear or not is a crapshoot.

The focus is clearly on the item mechanics, which means that loot hounds and build theorycrafters will have a great time poring over the difference between a bonus to Critical Strike Chance and a bonus to Increased Critical Strike Chance, or whether it’s better to have a quiver with Increased Stun Chance or one with Increased Bow Stun Chance. If you come to action RPGs for the action, however, you’ll find Last Epoch lacking.

The Verdict


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Last Epoch

With its emphasis on crafting and trading rather than action, Last Epoch puts the cart before the horse.

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