“Souls-like” is a genre descriptor that is used often to the detriment of the game it is describing. Not because it is wrong per se, but because it is not giving the full picture. Saying a game is a Souls-like says a game is deliberately difficult but in such a way that progress can be made, there is probably a stamina bar limiting how often you can attack, often times there will be a particular resource that serves as both a currency and an experience system, healing is limited and takes time, boss battles are often over the top and bombastic, things like that. All of these things can be true and still fail to address what a game is like. I bring this up to say that such is the case for Lost Epic by oneright and Team EARTHWARS. Yes, it is absolutely a Souls-like, but Lost Epic is so much more than that.

Even before starting Lost Epic, just upon looking at it, the visual art style reminded me of a Vanillaware title. In part the playable characters (though they were not trying to explicitly ape Vanillaware like some other companies), but moreso the lavishly detailed backgrounds which immediately made me think of Odin Sphere, Dragon’s Crown, and Muramasa the Demon Blade. And after starting Lost Epic up, that comparison became even stronger. Lost Epic is an action platformer, and in this case that means fantastic attack strings, light and heavy weapon types, and fantastic weapon based special moves, all of which spoke strongly to my love for Muramasa.

Seriously, the backgrounds and character designs are just gorgeous
Seriously, the backgrounds and character designs are just gorgeous

This is not to say Lost Epic is a 1-1 clone of the Vanillaware title. oneright and Team EARTHWARS have absolutely put their own spin on a similar loop. First off, whereas Muramasa had a heavy emphasis on a large number of unique swords each with its own special ability, weapons in Lost Epic come with their own special abilities, but they are not locked to that weapon. After using an ability enough times you can learn it, and then equip it regardless of the specific weapon equipped, allowing you to have up to 5 special weapon abilities equipped at once. There are also additional weapon types, like bows and gauntlets, to give additional combat options. In short, the combat is a wonderful blend of Souls’  combat mixed with more over the top Vanillaware combos that encourage fighting at a punctuated rhythm, attacking aggressively for several moments, then making a break for stamina to recover and jumping right back in. There’s also an emphasis on countering, as attacking enemies with special arts when the yellow and red warning signals appear can instantly stunlock enemies and leave them open for lots of damage, though the timings can be quite tight.

That’s enough talking about the combat system for a minute, lets discuss the story. Putting it simply, you are a nobody who lives in the wastelands between the verdant protectorates of godlike beings. One day, a witch tells you that these gods are responsible for the devastation between their realms, and you need to kill them to restore life to the wastelands, and off you go. It’s a very simple impetus, just enough to keep you going. There are plenty of characters to meet and befriend along the way, like the several pupils of the witch, all apparently identical sisters, a fellow knight fighting against the godlike figures, a catgirl you need to escort home, and more. There are also various bosses and minibosses, who have their own stories, and will talk to you before, during, and after combat. Yes, even after you kill them. I mean they’re godlike beings and the first one continues to fight you even after you cut her head off. They’re not going to let death get in the way of a few good final words. So yes, there’s tons of that sweet sweet lore. It’s even weaved into the levelling system, with entire weapon types and crafting recipes only unlocking after being taught them by an NPC and completing their quest, and several special abilities like the ability to breath underwater being automatically learned after defeating a miniboss who floods her arena when she’s desperate.

Combat both looks and feels super satisfying, especially when you get counterattacks off
Combat both looks and feels super satisfying, especially when you get counterattacks off

Of course, speaking of special abilities brings me over to levelling. Like I implied above, Lost Epic uses a single currency, Anima, for levelling up and for purchasing and improving items. To level up your character you must pray at a goddess statue, which also doubles as a save point and health restore, and then spend your currency. When you level, you choose how many levels to gain, and spend the currency, gaining these levels and a number of points you can spend to increase attributes or “tidings”. These attributes are arranged in a pattern on a grid on over 10 different sheets, and you have to unlock these attributes moving outward from the center of a sheet. The attributes can raise your HP, Attack Strength, Magic attack strength, Ability recovery rate, Stamina, equipped weight capacity, special abilities and more. Each new sheet is unlocked by defeating a major boss though not always the lord of an area, and once unlocked you can jump between sheets freely, but you have to gain tidings from the center of each new sheet, apart from the special ones learned from quests and map discoveries.

Crafting, well, crafting is not as good as a lot of the rest of Lost Epic. It can only be performed in the goddess statue safe spots with one of those several identical pupils, making it incredibly inconvenient to do until you gain access to the warp ability that lets you teleport between statues, which happens early enough as to make you wonder why not just let you craft at all the goddess statues anyway. Secondly, and this is a more minor quibble, but it is badly translated. The menu option to “Create Weapon” is in fact create equipment in general, Enhance weapon and evolve weapon refer to improving an existing weapon and turning a weapon into a different type. The other problem is that the resources for crafting have bizarre rarities and drops. I still haven’t seen the resources to create basic armor, even thought I’ve gotten resource for and crafted armor that is its superior in every fashion. You can also cook, and the resources are much less irritating there, though it might take you a few times of making burnt food before figuring out what the game is asking of you there. There are plenty of tutorials in Lost Epic but I either missed the one for cooking or it isn’t in there.

There are 20 total pages, 12 of which are just stats and abilities
There are 20 total pages, 12 of which are just stats and abilities

But if you can get past the oddities of the crafting system and a couple of other minor translation issues (and seriously, Lost Epic was out on PlayStation for around a year before the PC release) and want a viscerally satisfying combination of action platformer and the Fromsoft fallen world Soulsborne aesthetic, then Lost Epic is absolutely well worth your time and attention.

Tim reviewed Lost Epic on PC with a review code. Lost Epic is also available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

 

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