In part 1 of our Last Epoch preview I discussed the story and setting of this action filled RPG, as well as the basics of the game’s mechanics, so if you missed it be sure to check it out. In Part 2 I will go over some of unique aspects of Last Epoch, things that I think set it apart from other ARPGs: Classes and Skills.
Last Epoch Preview – Part 2 – Classes and Skills
Last Epoch has an expansive Classes and Skills system, which I touched upon in Part 1 of this preview, but now it’s time to delve a little deeper. At first glance these aspects can actually feel a bit daunting because of the amount of choose. In this article I will break this down a bit, explain just how they work, so that you get an idea of how brilliant the system is without the overwhelm.
Skills & Abilities
Last Epoch’s detailed skill system is devised of two parts: Passive Abilities and Skills. The skills you choose will be displayed on the Skill Bar, and these will determine your play style. Whether you want to be a Sorcerer who stuns its enemies with lightning from range, or freezes them from point blank. Each class has a wide skill set, both AoE and single target, allowing for many different Builds within each class.
The Passive Grids shows the player four different quadrants containing nodes related to a particular play style. Depending on which nodes you wish to specialize in is where you spend your Axis Points. Axis Points are given through out the course of the game, as you defeat enemies, and can be spent along each of the axis lines. As you spend Axis Points a shape will develop, this shape will touch nodes and only then will you be able to spend points on them. This means as you progress further down one axis, you will gain access to more Passive Abilities. Players are free to progress each axis as they see fit. This allows for specialization in one axis, a more of a sweeping approach (whereby points are spread around), or anywhere in between.
Node points are gained every 5 levels, with a maximum of 20 node points (during the demo), which makes max character level currently 100. In the .gif below, the red axis line represents Combat, the green line represents Warding, blue represents Destruction and purple represents Wisdom. In this case I have increased Wisdom, which increases my passive health stats. Which axes you see will depend on your class choice. For example the axes of the Mage will be different from the Knight classes.
Skills begin to unlock as you level, and you will choose Skills from the different sets that are available for the class you’ve selected. There are a total of five skills that can be picked as your core set of skills and these are the same as the number of skills available on your skill bar (located in the bottom left of your screen). The benefit of specializing in a skill is that by doing so, you unlock augments in your skill tree. This not only strengthens the skill to make it more powerful but also adds a great deal of customization in play style. For example, you could increase the damage or even improve the mana efficiency of that skill by choosing those corresponding augments.
The system also allows you to “Despecialise” if you decide you no longer wish to level that skill and swap it out for something you’d rather spend your time on. If you choose to Despecialise a skill in order to pick another skill, you will need to start from Level 1, any progress you gained the previous skill will be gone. You will not gain the skill points back from the previous skill, instead you will need to level them again and play to gain skill points. The reason for this is to give gravity to your skill choices, you cannot simply swap skills between enemies, so skills have to be chosen wisely.
Players will need Skill Points to level these skills, which are gained not by leveling your character, but separately from experience you gain while playing. The game notifies you when you have Skill Points to spend as you progress, at which point you are free to spend it as you see fit. You could play the same class on two different characters and level different skills, making the gameplay and combat completely different each play through. This gives the game a high potential for replayability that many ARPGs strive for, but few often achieve.
Last Epoch has five classes to choose from. You start your adventure by selecting from the pre-made classes and the level of difficulty, “normal” or “hardcore mode”. Hardcore mode is not for the faint of heart, and it challenges the player with not only higher difficulty, but should your character perish, it will result in losing them permanently as well as all their progress. No second chances…
Classes in the Last Epoch fall into two categories, Base Classes and Mastery Classes. There are five base classes to choose from which include: Mage, Rogue, Primalist, Knight and Acolyte. After you have chosen your Base Class you will need to specify a Mastery Class, and each base class has two choices. The pre-alpha demo, at the time of this article, has three classes to test out: Sorcerer, Void Knight and Beastmaster, and you cannot specify the mastery class.
Melee-based combat. Choose from Paladin a Knight with the power of the light or Void Knight drawing power from the darkness.
The backstory to this knight is a troubled one, escaping from the horrors of the past, valor and courage is what you have heard only of in stories. Your faith dwindles as you think of the madness that has spread on the surface or the world. Yet you prevail, using the power of the light to lead you out of the darkest times as you become part of the the legend.
The void has become a part of you, a piece of darkness from the days of the Last Refuge has changed you. Feeding the from the sadness within, powered by your rage. Every swing leaves a trail of void in your path and you wonder if you any different from the monsters that inhabit what you once called home.
Choose from a range of magical powers, with Sorcerer master of arcane, lightning and meteors or Spellblade a battle-focused mage.
Master the arcane powers and no longer rely on ancient runes or ley-lines to guide you. Your source of power stems from the nexus of arcane. Use lighting or meteors to rain down on your enemies.
Since the Last Refuge you’ve become knowledgeable of magic in ways you could not even dream of. Armed with a sword engulfed in flame and shield bearing wards and orbs of power that intercept anyone in your path.
If you prefer to slash and dash your foes, try Bladedancer. A deadly “spin and sever” Rogue and an unpredictable yet graceful killer. Or Marksman, a bow and arrow based Rogue.
Your melee attacks are to spin and sever, graceful and unpredictable. Dodge your foes through leaping and weaving while piercing them with them with you blade. Make them pay while you dance and kill.
Bow and arrow are your trusted weapon, the first arrow causing the first death, the second through the heart and a shattered skull causing the three deaths. The third arrow casts a frozen attack stopping your enemy in his tracks and the fourth sparks jolts that shatter them dead.
This “Druid” class draws strength from the wilderness to shape shift, or if you prefer having beasts at your beckon call experience Beastmaster.
With a strong connection to the natural world, druidic magic is strong with it’s wild embodiment. You command the trees, the woods, the wind, moon and stars. Your powers grow a Eterra feels threatened.
Beasts are at your command, their tooth, claw and talons are on our side. You lead with ferocity and the power of the beasts in body letting shape shift.
The darker side of the classes, choose from Necromancer, drawing power from flesh, bone, blood and essence. Or choose Warlock, have an understanding of ancient powers, draw souls from the darkness.
Based on the forbidden arts, you have learnt the secrets of the dead from flesh, bone and blood. Mastering the army of the forsaken, dark creations at your every command. Use the lingering essence of life to bring these visions fourth.
With a new found understanding for the ancient powers, you draw power from the twisting of souls. Fragile things that a born from the shadow of the light within. Using hexes weaken your foes and magic to destroy them.
I had a chance to play two classes in the pre-alpha: Mage Sorcerer and Void Knight; two very different classes in terms of gameplay, but equally fun. You could say Last Epoch draws a lot of inspiration from Diablo, as it’s play style and item system is quite similar, but Last Epoch bring it’s own uniqueness when it comes to it’s lore and end-game systems. The fact that the Last Epoch has aims to build a time travel end-game is quite promising as it adds a twist to the tried and true gameplay experience that most ARPGs offer.
Last Epoch’s extensive skill system has a huge amount of choice, and when it comes to tailor making your character to your particular play style, one class can be played many different ways making the game extremely versatile. As the game is still pre-alpha there wasn’t much in terms of in-game tutorials, but merely a few hints and tips a long the way. Because of this, “how to create an optimal build” is a little confusing at this stage, and hopefully as the game develops there will be more of a guide when it comes to tackling this aspect.
The game looks and feels promising, but there are a lot of features that have yet to be developed, and Last Epoch has a long way to go. Hopefully Eleventh Hour Games can build upon the areas needed to make this game unique; and captivate players into continually trying new characters and skill sets. The Kickstarter campaign is still underway, with the first beta is set to launch April 2019, and the estimated full release to be April 2020. Be sure to check out the demo on Kickstarter if you’d like to try it out. It’s free!