The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot preview: mighty decent

The first time I saw The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot was at Ubisoft's E3 press conference and the game appeared simple enough on first glace. The idea of this free-to-play action RPG appeared to be to grab loot at every possible turn and, at the end of the day, have more loot than everybody else. And while that does turn out to be the general idea, I found a surprising amount of depth during my time with the closed beta.

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Sporting the visual style of a Dreamworks animated feature, Mighty Quest has a narrative that matches those films. Opulencia is a land filled with rich folks living in castles suspended high above the skies. Playing as either the Archer, the Knight, or the new Mage character, the object of the game is to collect as much loot as possible by pillaging your neighbors' castles, which are filled with traps and monsters--and chickens.

The action RPG element of Mighty Quest plays like a simplified version of more established dungeon crawlers. There are only four attack slots to add to the standard left-mouse button attack. Players also move with the left-mouse button, which can make crowd control a bit of a bear. As I was bombarded with attacks, I struggled to get my Mage to stand still, as I'd often find myself moving him by accident. It quickly reached a point where I stopped attacking with the left mouse button entirely.

Castle raids are very short, which is one of Mighty Quest's strongest features. Each run will only last about five minutes or so, giving this game a strong "pick-up-and-play" vibe. In fact, quickness proves to be a major goal, as stragglers will see their reward diminished significantly. Mighty Quest penalizes players a little too easily, reducing the final rewards for taking too long, dying, or even using potions, though this is likely an aspect of the game that's subject to change after beta.

Mighty Quest has a lot going for it, but it also contains some baffling mechanics. The oddest is that characters do not automatically level up after filling their XP meter, bucking the trend set by every other action RPG I've ever played. Heroes must wait until their current raid is over and manually level up their character from the Hero Manager. Leveling up will also cost gold, which hits upon another issue I had with the game--there's more than one type of loot, including some that can be purchased with real money.

For such a simple idea, I would have thought that Mighty Quest would stick to a single currency. This is not the case. There's standard gold, the primary currency that help players upgrade everything, and green gems, which expedite upgrades.

Gold is used for every upgrade. Blacksmith stations, hero stations, chests, and even castles, themselves, only scratch the surface of what must constantly be maintained. Even after a successful castle raid, you'll likely see most of your loot go up in smoke by upgrading your castle. This is without even touching upon how much needs to be spent on castle defenses.

But while the outrageous cost of protecting your own loot is a bit steep, I can't deny that the act of protection proved to be another strong point for Mighty Quest. Blending elements of strategy and tower defense, I was soon able to work towards building my own castle filled with death traps. I liked the idea of setting up dangers for would-be burglars, though given the size of each castle, I didn't find myself with too much space to work with. Part of me hopes I'll eventually be able to work my talent for traps into a much bigger castle.

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I do, however, feel the need to point out that Mighty Quest does suffer from some major "free-to-play" weaknesses. Even after spending gold to build stations and upgrade your castle, there's an unnecessary timer that requires players to wait minutes at a time for the upgrades to take effect. Players can spend the green gems to speed up this process and must shell out real money if they don't have any. I didn't encounter a shortage in green gems, though, in my time with the beta, so it looks like Ubisoft is at least being fair about green gem distribution. But given that Mighty Quest works best in short sessions, the whole mechanic just feels unnecessary to begin with.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a never-ending hunt for treasure and, thus far, has proven good in short spurts. Those that are looking for a much quicker action RPG fix may like what they find and the tower defense mechanic is a nice touch. It's far from epic, but Ubisoft's hack-and-slash quest is plenty decent.