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How Last Epoch Breaks The Casual vs Hardcore ARPG Mold

Kanishka Thakur Posted:
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One of the biggest challenges that live service games face is that they can get stagnant rather quickly. If you are a fan of the ARPG genre, Last Epoch finds the perfect middle ground between Path of Exile’s complexity and Diablo 4’s accessibility. It has been over ten years since the release of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, and there have been some fantastic new ARPG releases and content updates since then. During the past ten years, we’ve seen games like The Ascent and Grim Dawn become fairly successful while Diablo’s biggest competitor, Path of Exile, continued to evolve. 

Last month, Last Epoch, a game by developer Eleventh Hour Games came out of its five-year early access, and it has experienced a very successful launch. Last Epoch does not have the same kind of polish you would find in a game of Diablo 4’s production quality, but there are quality-of-life aspects and gameplay elements that make it stand out. If you have not tried it out, here are our thoughts on the new ARPG and why we think it finds the perfect balance between the casual and hardcore ARPG fanbase.

Hardcore vs Casual: Why Not Both?

Last Epoch

One of the biggest gripes I have with Diablo 4’s skill tree is that there are not many ways to change how your skills function. Most of the skill tree in Diablo exists to buff your damage, and when you consider the fact that some classes have very limited endgame build options, you don’t get a lot of freedom. 

Path of Exile on the other hand is meant for the hardcore audience and it can push newer players away. This point has been brought up by countless others but Last Epoch finds a middle ground between both games and offers an approachable experience to ARPG newcomers and enough depth for boomer ARPG fans like myself. 

To me, the power fantasy of ARPGs is what draws me to the genre. I want to be able to make cool builds and do cool stuff. There are classes, passive trees, and masteries (subclasses) that allow you to customize your builds to your liking. 

The quality-of-life features in the game make the game very enjoyable. The loot filter in Last Epoch feels better than any third-party add-ons I’ve seen for Path of Exile. There also does not seem to be a limit on the number of stash tabs that you can get so you can hoard freely. 

The crafting system is also an instant hit. You do not need to run to a vendor halfway across the map to craft an item. You can craft whatever you want anywhere you want. You can change any suffix you want and don’t have to rely on heavy RNG to get upgrades. Instead, there is a chance to get lucky and get double the payoff on your stat rerolls instead. 

While there are over 100 affixes to dilute the affix pool, being able to change all affixes is a huge deal for a lot of players. Some weeks have gone by with no upgrades in Diablo 4 and sometimes even if I do get a higher power unique item in Blizzard’s ARPG, there’s no guarantee that the affixes will be any better. It feels terrible and Last Epoch has done an excellent job by allowing players to get what they want. 

The Endgame Experience

Last Epoch has multiple endgame modes where you can stress test your builds. Dungeons with daily quests are the easiest to approach. They are rerolled every 24 hours and you can complete some of your daily quests in them. 

Arena of Champion is your go-to survival mode with 40 waves of enemies and the standard Arena features endless waves of enemies. Finally, we have the Empowered Monoliths, the core part of the gear chase in Last Epoch. You get better loot as you progress through tougher and tougher Monoliths and they can be fairly challenging. I am fairly new to the endgame and so far the endgame experience has been fun. Hopefully, new gear and endgame modes will be added to keep things fresh in future updates.

The Game Still Has Room For Improvement

Last Epoch

Outside of the high expectations I have for the content updates, there is definitely room for improvement. There are two key areas where the game feels lacking to me - polish and combat. The game is by no means of the same AAA standards as Diablo 4. It was created with a much smaller budget and it shows. The impact of your attacks and combat SFX don’t feel as meaty as throwing a Bone Spear into a large group of enemies in Diablo 4.

The campaign is mediocre as well and it’s the endgame loop and progression that keeps the game feeling fresh. If you are looking for a well-written story, Last Epoch will not blow you over. The developers have listened to a lot of feedback from the beta period and things like the in-game tutorials have seen massive improvements at launch. 

Will Last Epoch Have Diablo or Path of Exile’s Staying Power?

This is a question that no one can answer. While the Eleventh Hour Games has a winner on its hands, we don’t have the foresight to know if Last Epoch will have the same kind of staying power as Path of Exile. The game has already beaten Path of Exile’s all-time peak player count on Steam and if the game can get the live-service model right, it might become a lot of people’s go-to ARPG long-term. 

Improvements to the story, optimizing the “feel” of combat and better tutorials for newcomers can greatly improve the experience. Seasonal content and balancing will ultimately dictate if players continue to stay engaged with the game. But even if you are not in it for the long haul, the game is worth checking out and it can easily get you dozens of hours of enjoyment while you wait for the next Diablo 4 season or Path of Exile 2’s release.


Kanishka Thakur