Lost Epic is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG so good that you might wonder if the relatively unknown publisher/developer chose the title to make light of the fact that this game might fall under the radar.
Well, probably not, but I’ll let you in a little secret, dear reader, this seemingly non-descript title is certainly one of the good ones – it’s a hidden gem in the making.
As a new recruited knight in a world where gods use the majority of the population as an entree, you must become humanity’s liberator, taking on the 6 oppressive gods while also uncovering the mystery of the fantasy world known as Sanctum and the story of the Elder God.
The narrative is a subtle template for the action and RPG upgrading which takes on the lion’s share of the game, but the few side quest characters and the grave undertones of your actions – that the enemies wax lyrical about – is an interesting breadcrumb trail that you follow as you make your way through the world.
After creating your character from a modest selection of options, you are introduced to Lost Epic‘s bread and butter – the super satisfying hack-and-slack gameplay – with light and heavy combo attacks possible both mid-air and on the ground. This is all very standard for a 2D action game, but what gives Lost Epic its edge, is the unveiling of an impressively large weapon and skill system at a pace that keeps the gameplay both exciting and intriguing as to what is yet to come.
With two primary and secondary weapons (from one-handed swords, two-handed swords, and bows) and ten shortcut slots for abilities (called ‘Divine Skills’), there’s variety for however you wish to fight. Whether it’s long combos that launch enemies into the air, attacking with a bow from a distance or one-hit killing enemies with heavy slogs, there are countless combos and strategies you can employ to lead the enemy on their death march.
Just as gratifying is the way you accumulate skills and weapons with each weapon having its own assigned divine skill, and once used a set number of times, can be used by any assigned weapon of the same type (out of one-handed swords, two-handed swords, or bows). It’s a great gameplay loop that has you attempting to get every possible weapon for the skills they offer and then constantly experimenting with them to find the most effective combos not just for that specific weapon or a host of enemies, but also combinations with both of your weapons – bow and sword – that you’ll need during boss battles.
Anima, dropped by enemies, is the money that makes the game’s upgrade world go round (including offering it to Elder God statues for character skill points for increased stats), but – similar to a Soulsborne game – is at risk of being lost if you die twice without picking it back up (at the site of your first death). Thankfully, the difficulty of the game doesn’t particularly hit Soulsborne levels apart from a two-header boss battle near the end of the game that you’ll need to grind for before giving it a serious challenge – though that didn’t stop me from losing two evenings trying to avoid it nonetheless!
The 2D linear map is divided into sections and is Metroidvania-esque in its exploration with switches and keys opening doors to further sections, and numerous checkpoints act as mini bases that you can regroup at (healing you automatically and providing a very convenient witch who can create any number of items) as well as being able to warp to and from them.
With beautiful and varied layered backgrounds, the environment does a great job conveying a colorful world with humanity’s influence slowly draining from it. Whether it’s the flowers that sprout from the energy from the deceased, the architecture that is draped with organisms that symbolize its creator’s subjugation, or the ability to farm and fish in the calm and wonderfully animated waters, this world, while not narratively deep, has a visual vitality that breathes life into every section and represents environmental storytelling achieved well above its station.
The same goes for the soundtrack which is able to appropriately match the tension of each small section to the difficulty of the enemies within it, making each area feel totally unique.
So despite the gameplay loop being largely repetitive, the sizeable assortment of enemies, the progression through the personality-filled environment, and the excitement of the action leaves an indelible impression that makes you want to return to the game again and again.
The main draw is the single-player action, but it is also possible to host online multiplayer action through a feature that allows you to ‘request support’ on your current game file which inserts players onto your map and is certainly handy for some of the more difficult bosses.
Interestingly though, as awesome as the huge bosses look, and as epic as defeating them should feel, as I see another fall I realize that it’s not the promise of another boss fight that pulls me along on this ride, it is the very satisfying explosion of minor enemies, the epicness of the sound effect of my huge sword swinging at the enemy, and then hearing the sound of the dropped anima like coins dropping on a wooden table. It’s addictive and moreish audio at its best and is a brilliant coming together of audio and visual presentation, and for me, boils this game down to one glorious moment that you get to experience over and over – what more could you want from a game of this kind?
One criticism of the game that I have is that the game doesn’t do a great job explaining some of the finer points of the upgrade system (especially weapon creation and item drop rates) and really requires you to figure it out yourself. A lack of hand-holding can be considered a positive at times, of course, but with some features having little to no explanation as to what they do, even when you actually attempt to use them, is a little frustrating.
This is where the negatives begin and end though, as apart from a few features that could do with a bit more explanation, there is a brilliantly efficient and tight circularity to Lost Epic‘s systems with nearly every inclusion having meaning but also feeding back into them. A vast array of unlockables and quests that add to your skillsets and to the world without dragging out the experience makes the new game+ mode and the ability to experience multiple endings very appealing indeed, ultimately resulting in a 40+ hour playthrough that constantly beckons you back.
With the addictiveness of a beat ’em up, great visuals, and fun RPG upgrades, Lost Epic reaches the hallowed and revered heights that many an action game would wish to reach, with a core mechanic so pure and refined that you can’t help but admire it. Anyone that even remotely enjoys a good 2D actioner owes it to themselves to play this.