You have to check a lot of boxes to make a great shooter on a mobile platform. The game has to have a compelling storyline, but also one that is easy enough to follow for most people playing on about a 4-inch screen. It also has to have great graphics, backed up with an appropriate soundtrack. Above all, a game has to wrap up the package into something that felt like it was made specifically for mobile, with gameplay and controls to match.
We're looking at a game here that checks those boxes, and then some. Developer Uppercut Games has a winner on its hands, and it's name is Epoch. Read on past the break with us and see what makes this robot-themed over-the-shoulder shooter so great.
The best way to describe the scenery in Epoch is that you're a robot soldier, fighting the evil robots of a post-apocalyptic ruined cityscape. That's a bit to take in, but the game elements combine extremely well, creating a story that is sci-fi and thrilling. The first few levels of the game are well structured, giving you introductory lessons to the main controls, interface and storyline. Each time you receive a new ability or weapon, you're also given a walkthrough of its abilities the next time you start a level.
The main controls in Epoch are extremely simple, and are clearly made with touch-only mobile devices in mind. Instead of a set of joysticks and buttons to maneuver, the game is structured in a way that it only relies on swiping gestures for up/down and left/right movement. You can swipe left and right to make you character dive and roll to the next obstacle, and swipe down to take cover behind barriers. Swiping up makes you stand, and making the same swipe while standing will perform a large jump to the side. A small visual indicator at the bottom of the screen shows which moves are available at any given time. While some may prefer a true console-style joystick and button approach with more "free roaming" in the game, the limitations of a touch-only device can make that difficult. This control system works fantastically in Epoch, and should be implemented in more shooter games of this type.
Aside from moving, you'll probably want to know how to control those weapons you have -- this is a shooting game, after all. Targeting and shooting is done by tapping on targets, which you then "lock on" to until you either kill it or tap away to another. When targeting something, you will fire your main weapon (an arm-mounted mini gun) whenever you're standing and the target is in sight. Extra weapons and skills, like grenades and missiles, are placed in the top right corner of your screen and are thrown or shot at the current target when you tap the icon. These extra abilities operate on a cooldown timer, which is clearly shown with a filling bar behind the icons.
Adding another angle to the gameplay in Epoch is a character and inventory management system -- appropriately dubbed the "Scrapyard" -- where you can upgrade your armor and various weaponry. Items and upgrades are purchased with credits, which you gain by playing and finishing levels. You can also sell back old weapons and upgrades when you're done using them. There are dozens and dozens of upgrades for each part of the Scrapyard, giving Epoch lots of depth. But this is where some of the complaints will roll in, as although this is a paid game (just $0.99) it does have in-app purchases available for additional credits.
Ranging from $4.99 for 100,000 credits to $49.99 for 35,000,000, you can accelerate your gameplay (or ease of play) by making these purchases. There's also an interesting one-time $4.99 purchase that doubles the rate of credits gained form normal gameplay. The game progresses just fine without these, and can of course be completed without them as well (we already had upgrades purchased in the first two levels). We can't say we have any problem with paying up-front and still having in-app purchases, as this game is certainly worth more than the $0.99 sticker price.
Alongside the regular level-based gameplay where you progress through the storyline, Epoch also includes an "Arena" mode. This mode is still based on levels, but the goal of each is battling an unending horde of robots to see how far you can get to post a high score. Each wave is more difficult than the last, and you have to work to survive longer than your last attempt in order to improve your score. Experience and credits earned in Arena are part of the same pool as the regular Campaign, which means your efforts in Arena won't go unrewarded.
As you play through the levels of Epoch, you'll notice a great set of cinematic cut scenes and slow-motion animations that really get you into the game. The beginning and end of each level have nice scenes that bring you in and out, making them feel like complete pieces of the puzzle. In-game, when you kill the final opponent of a stage or a new type of robot with new abilities emerges, you're also shown a slow-mo cut of that moment. The game would likely play just fine without these scenes, but it's elements like this that tie a game together and make it feel complete.
We started off this review by saying that Epoch was a winner, and we're sure you can see why now as well. It's absolutely baffling that you can pick up such a high quality game for just $0.99, and have hours of gameplay ready to go. The interesting original storyline is accented well by great mobile-optimized game controls and cinematic cut scenes to keep you enthralled in the title. If you're a fan of shooters or just looking for something new to sink your teeth (err, fingers?) into, Epoch is worth the dollar to give a whirl.
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