LOST EPIC on Nintendo Switch
As gaming genres fall in and out of vogue, we are treated to a myriad of interpretations on a formula to see what sticks. Though FPS and gacha mobile titles continue to rule the roost, the ubiquitous Souls-like game is always sure to draw intrigue.
Typified by steep difficulty and dire consequences for poorly timed deaths, these are the game of choice for the discerning player seeking a challenge. Typically, the 3D realm is where these mean mofo’s come to play, but every now and then, we see a side-scrolling contender throw their hat in the ring.
Today, that hat is a delightful trilby. It offers no statistical benefit, but gosh, it makes you feel pretty, doesn’t it?
LOST EPIC, the hack-and-slash adventure game from One or Eight and Team EARTH WARS, has been available across Steam and the PlayStation consoles for some time now, landing on the latter platforms in mid-2022. At last, it has made its way to Nintendo’s plucky little device, the Switch. How will it fare in its newest form, and could this potentially be the best home possible?
In a strange world known as the Sanctum, humanity has fallen out of favour with the gods. Taking the role of a fledgling knight known only as the God Slayer, you must traverse its various biomes, dispatching of creatures great and small as you grow in power and status. Your ultimate goal, as the moniker of God Slayer would suggest, is to go toe-to-toe with these oppressive deities, bringing them to their knees and restoring balance to the planet.
The game map is set out in an intuitive Metroidvania-style fashion, with each screen having the potential for multiple exit points to navigate. Standing in your way are a variety of monsters that range from alien-like soldiers to lumbering behemoths with intimidating weaponry and crusty dispositions.
It may seem daunting at first, but the combat system of LOST EPIC is crisp, rich and gratifying. You will find yourself linking together combos, darting in and out of trouble with dodging and blocking mechanics, before striking your foe down with a gratifying finishing blow. Even if you never quite get to grips with all of its tools, there is a lot on offer that can make the most overwhelmed player feel competent.
Your zeal is measured by a stamina bar that you must monitor to avoid becoming temporarily fatigued, but unless you are excessively rolling around as if you were putting out an invisible fire, you likely won’t even notice an issue within the first hour or so. Larger enemies telegraph their strong attacks with a visual cue: a red exclamation mark means you’d best get out of the way, while a yellow one can be countered with a well-timed Divine Skill.
These skills come in the form of various special techniques, such as a bladed uppercut or a spinning aerial dive. You will gain more as you progress, serving not only as effective damage dealers, but also assisting with manoeuvring your character out of a sticky situation.
Once you’ve got a better understanding of their attack patterns, you’ll end up fearing very little amongst the minions, with only negative status effects such as a slowing paralysis throwing off your sense of flow.
Every encounter will net you red gems known as Anima, which can be exchanged for item creation, weapon crafting, and even levelling up your character. Falling in battle will rob you of your Anima, with only the lone opportunity to return to the place of your demise to retrieve it.
It’s all standard Souls stuff, but it is pulled off with such a panache that you’ll feel engaged, and maybe even a little smug at your rapidly consolidating skillset. Inevitably, you’ll likely start making your way in the vague direction of the first god marked on your map, passing shrines that act as landmarks to recover and establish your progress. There are some roadblocks such as hefty stones that you need a certain technique to shatter, but for the most part, travel is at the user’s discretion.
Sure enough, you’ll eventually decide to turn tail and return to the safety of the starting area once those enemy levels begin scaling, settling on the familiar lowbie cannon fodder in an effort to amass Anima. There is a lot of screen clearing to be done, and if an enemy is nearby you will not be able to move between sections of the map or interact with treasure chests or other lootable items.
The freedom with which your character darts about the screen can prove something of a double-edged sword on the challenge scaling front; though there are scripted moments where you will have to fend off enemy hordes before moving onward, it better behooves you to return to the preceding shrine to get a free heal and recon your items, then doubling back from whence you came, dancing through the air to avoid enemy contact.
In this way, boss areas can feel devalued, as you can strategically place yourself at their doorstep flush with potions and stat-boosting paraphernalia. This doesn’t go to say that they will be a pushover, however, and unsurprisingly the matchups against the gods are where LOST EPIC is at its best.
My all-offensive style of gameplay had to be scaled back to pick my spots against the first major boss, Heoxelia, lest she crush me with her brutal swiping combos. These gods are not only a blast to fight against, but they are visually stunning, and represent the apex of the game’s art direction.
The graphics are quite pretty for the most part, with lush environments and exquisite anime-style protagonists, though the animation for some of the lesser foes can prove rather basic. Models move with a kind of paper doll feeling, limbs often flailing back and forth in an unnatural manner. It’s nothing too detrimental, though once you see how richly and fluidly the larger sprites operate, you’ll certainly notice a difference.
One of the biggest drawbacks I had in my experience with LOST EPIC was a lack of interest in trying new things. There are various weapons that can be looted or crafted, each with their own timing and animation to make them unique from one another, but most of them were absent of the Divine Skills that had become a very necessary part of my repertoire. Upon upgrading, their use could become fleshed out, however the standard sword I came equipped with was familiar and safe, and for the most part, I didn’t bother experimenting with other playstyles.
Indeed, you will spend much of your time in this game farming for Anima to grind your slayer into someone who has a chance of survival, and once you’ve done that, you’ll otherwise be picking your spots and deciding which battles you’ll bother engaging with. Those aforementioned behemoths — the enormous, hooded Dimios — may be fun to fight at first, but once you’ve seen the second or third variant, you’ll be left wanting for something new.
Later sections of the map do offer underwater sections that can take some getting used to, while the core experience remains much the same. This may grow repetitive for some, however it cannot be understated just how many little optional wrinkles are in there, for those willing to explore. There are various side quests that task you with disposing of a certain number of a particular enemy, or collecting enough of a certain item. The best ones, the Kill List challenges, will spawn a special enemy type that proves a greater threat than what you’re used to.
There is also an absolute embarrassment of customisation options, including skill trees, cooking recipes, and crafting materials. I gave my God Slayer a moustache. It was functionally useless, but it delighted me that I could now see him mowing down enemies with a distinguished countenance.
It’s all presented in a very tidy package, with full Japanese voice acting and a suitably grand adventure-like soundtrack. The latter does tend to bleed into the background, upstaged by the lively voice lines of your hero (I chose the flamboyant, high pitched giggling voice, a la Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter). This can be offset with volume sliders, however, which is an excellent touch.
Due to the timing of my gameplay, I was unable to experiment with the game’s co-operative functionality, or its beacon feature that can send out a signal for help when you’re in a pinch, but I can only imagine they would add an extra layer of enjoyment to the proceedings. As I hinted at before, I could not picture a better place for LOST EPIC than the Nintendo Switch, with its pick-up-and-play nature. Its genesis may not have been as a handheld title, but this is perhaps its most complete form, and it comes as highly recommended as a result.
The things LOST EPIC does well, it does very well, offering a rich and tightly crafted gameplay loop that is intuitive and rewarding. Its moment-to-moment highlights stand on par with anything you’ll find in an equivalent AAA game, it’s just the in between that could use a little more refining.
Even after this article goes live, I will definitely be continuing to delve deeper into it for quite some time to come. Really, is that not the highest praise you can offer of a game you’re playing for a review? Before too long, I will bring those high-and-mighty numens to heel — woe betide any who stand before the dapper, moustachioed God Slayer!
REVIEW COPY PROVIDED BY PUBLISHER
Release Date: 20 April, 2023
Platform: Switch (also available on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4)
Developer: One or Eight, Team EARTH WARS
Publisher: One or Eight
LOST EPIC is a lovingly crafted experience that boasts spectacular, flowing combat and deep customisation options. You will grow to really admire your protagonist as they pivot around their hapless foes, while ultimately longing for just a bit more variety in the world in which things take place.
It’s absolutely worth sticking around to see what all the fuss is about in relation to the gods, however, as these boss battles are a taste of the genre at its absolute best. Truly, this game feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch.