By Jamie Ross
Epoch’s Journey follows a young warrior as he investigates a series of malfunctions in local machines. Set in alternative steam-punk version of Arthur’s Camelot, the game’s world is populated with mechanical wolves and sword wielding engineers. With a huge number of single player levels, as well as a cross-platform PvP option, the game really does have steam-powered legs.
Gameplay can be described as something between a traditional collectable card game and chess. Players build a deck from various characters and upgrade cards, and set out on quests in order to level up, earn in-game currency and generally save kingdom. Levels are played out on a grid-based map, with various pieces of terrain set up to block movement and create choke points. This simple yet effective set up encourages replay of earlier levels, with no mission ever turning out exactly the same as the last time you played it. The addition of a Hard Mode, for those who really like a challenge, also adds flavour.
The AI in the single player mode of the game manages to challenge even the relatively experienced strategic thinkers. It knows to target certain cards, in a particular order, to open a gap in your line. It also knows to target your leader card, effectively your King, to carry on the comparison with chess.
The quirky cartoon graphics and amusing card texts and a lot of flavour. The relatively simple card interface allows you to quickly pick up which cards have which abilities without massive amounts of reading and head scratching. The simple nature of each ability does not seem to detract from the strategic nature of the game. For example, the ability to attack along a diagonal makes the comparatively weak Sow card a useful addition despite its low attack power. Additional abilities can be added by equipping various pieces of equipment, such as a bow to allow your knights to attack at range.
Despite the fairly impressive initial game play experience, some of the functionality of the game left a lot to be desired. For example, the card upgrade system, which allows players to sacrifice multiples of a card in their collection on order to improve the overall stats, was very buggy, resulting in a number of game crashes before I eventually gave up. Furthermore, the initial tutorial mission, whilst giving a very simple overview of the turn sequence, does not offer much more. I was left, lost and alone in the cog-infested wilderness, attempting to mash monsters on my own.
And attempt is perhaps the best word. The accuracy system for combat resulted in far more misses than seemed likely. And 80% accuracy rating on a card would lead you to believe it hits 80% of the time, right? Well, unless I suffered a serious string of bad luck, it seems that it is quite common for three or four characters to miss all their attacks for a number of turns running. This would often lead to me losing a game, purely because all my mighty warriors seemed to close their eyes when swinging a sword.
All in all, the game could certainly give players a good few hours of amusement on a long train journey. It offers some seriously tactical gameplay, and a lot of scope to revisit previously completed adventures. However the frustrating high miss rate on your characters, and the small but irritating bugs good well result in some tantrums from budding Knights of the Cog Table. With the release of Hearthstone on Android tablets by the end of the year, and doubtlessly a mobile version not far behind, the PvP aspect of the game is likely to dry up fairly quickly. And with a £5.99 price tag, you will be wanting to get as much out of this game as possible.
Game and Images supplied by Publisher