Kicking down doors, taking a sword to a gang of monsters, then pocketing their shiny riches has been a staple of computer gaming since smiley faced ASCII characters planted their first footprints in the ancient roguelike dungeons of yore. This tradition has been picked up and continued by the modern action RPG in games like Diablo and Torchlight. One aspect at the heart of the tabletop role-playing game experience has been missing from many of these games, however: the sadistic pleasure of populating a dungeon with devious traps and vicious fiends and making players run the gauntlet to within their last hit point to earn their gold. Ubisoft is attempting to bring some of the whole tabletop experience back into play with their new game “The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot”. It is a free-to-play dungeon crawler that lets you pick a class, choose your powers, kill some beasts then loot their treasure. The twist is you can then hop behind the dungeon master’s screen and design dungeons that other players can run. Does the game capture the old school fun from both sides of the table? Read on to find out.
Every facet of this game is carefully designed to create a whimsical, self-referential humorous and accessible nod to the fun and silly core concept of the gameplay. The story is bare but told in colorfully rendered still cutscenes with a cartoon aesthetic and a great sense of humor in the voice acting. The character and monster designs are created with the same cartoonish sensibility in mind, and each character has a variety of funny one-liners that they deliver depending on the circumstances. Overall, the game feels like an independent game developed by a small team, especially since it relies a lot on player created content to attract ongoing interest. The animation, character designs, and voice acting, however, are of the highest quality; they all feel very lush and thoughtfully produced.
Those players who are familiar with the action RPG genre will feel perfectly at home here. For those who aren’t, the gameplay for attacking is fairly simple: your character is moved across the screen by clicking, and basic attacks are performed by clicking on a target. There are a variety of special attacks that are gained through levelling, which can be mapped to the right mouse button and number keys. In this game, however that only makes up half of the picture.
As your character levels up, you can reinvest the gold and crystals gained into levelling up your own castle and turn it into a hero-killing money-making murder factory. The dungeon building tools are intuitive and easy to use, and make a good pair with the relatively simple mechanics of the action RPG side of the game. You buy monsters (who can also be gradually levelled up) and traps, then try to find arrangements that will thwart other players attacking your castle in 3 key areas: time taken, survival rate, and resources looted.
There are several excellent mechanics that keep players checking in every day and upgrading their castle defenses. For the first few logins, there are daily login rewards, which are a little ham-fisted as far as incentives go but a nice perk. Better, though, is the satisfaction of going into your castles and looting the bodies of any adventurers who got killed while running your dungeon. They appear as tiny smoldering tombstones which you can click on to collect cash. It’s very satisfying to reap tangible benefits of your success and a great motivation to generate more and more devious dungeons.
There are also two excellent features related to the online component of the game: replays and revenge. When another player manages to get through your carefully planned deathtrap, you can watch a replay of their play though to see where your deadly machinations fell apart. It’s a great tool for learning and improving. The revenge button on the battlelog is not a very deep idea, but is a satisfying quick punch back at people who have gotten all three stars on your castle. Of course, if it takes you a couple of runs they might get the opportunity to laugh at your expense.
The action RPG side of the game is competent but much simpler than the other heavy hitters of the genre on the market today. It lacks the customizability of powers and abilities of games like Path of Exile, but there is some selection of abilities and the opportunity to experiment with different combinations. Blending in the tower defense side of the game, however, takes The Mighty Quest to the next level.
One of the problems that game developers run into is creating enough content to keep their players satisfied for long periods of time. Especially in ever-evolving online games, where keeping players engaged over the long haul is crucial, sometimes developers struggle to keep up. Games like Diablo and Torchlight use randomly generated dungeons to keep things fresh, but Mighty Quest relies on the cleverness, nastiness and creativity of players to keep each other entertained.
This brilliant combination actually harkens back to the roots of the tabletop RPG genre, coming from the same mind set that brought us classic Dungeons & Dragons modules like S1 Tomb of Horrors. Being as evil, deadly and cutthroat as possible is really fun and satisfying. Touches like the replay feature and the revenge button blend the different elements of the game and make the experience feel fresh and new.
The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot is currently listed as being in open beta, but it's one of "those" open betas. From the outside, there appears to be a nice level of polish and the cash shop is open for business and glad to take your money. It could very well be that the developers have a list of bugs and balance issues they would like to shorten before taking down the open beta sign, but once the doors to the cash shop are open it's important to evaluate and see what customers are getting in exchange for their hard-earned dollars.
The good news is that even in open beta, The Mighty Quest is in a highly polished state. There are just a couple of quibbles that could be bugs or could just be limitations of the system as it is implemented today. Thankfully they only exist at the cost of a few extra clicks here and there.
First, when at the screen where the player chooses which castle to raid, it is important to seek out player made dungeons which haven't been hit in a while because they yield the greatest amounts of loot. Castles that have been freshly looted show a shield icon next to the name plate, which is a nice and quick visual indicator that these castles are lower priority. During peak gameplay hours, the shield icon might not appear until after you double click to get more information about the castle you're interested in, likely caused by someone hitting that castle before the system had time to refresh your available selection. It's not a deal breaker by any stretch, but it can be frustrating to have what appears to be a rich, open field of sweet, sweet loot turn out to be less than expected.
Targeting and movement in this genre have become a trademark feature taking the emphasis off of mastering complex control and putting it more on tactical and situational awareness. Generally, movement and basic attacks are handled by moving the mouse pointer over either where you want to move or what you want to kill, then left clicking. It's not clear if Ubisoft is intentionally trying to tweak the established paradigm or if the targeting system is a little buggy, but something is different. Frequently if there are melee attackers in close range and a ranged attacker who is further away, even if you mouse over the ranged character and try to fire a basic attack the attack will continue to target the closer monster. Special attacks don't seem to suffer from this problem, and again it's nothing game breaking, but it can be frustrating when you want to do one thing and the game insists on doing something else.