Last Epoch review: A fresh spin on action-RPG staples

Last Epoch's flexible builds distinguish it from the likes of Diablo and Lost Ark.


Last Epoch is a challenging game for me, and I don’t mean just the battles, though some of its later monsters certainly put up a stiff fight. Last Epoch is what you get if Diablo 4 were deeper and less grey and if Lost Ark prioritized enjoyment over mindless grinding. For all its improvements over the other big action-RPGs out there, Last Epoch falls into some of the same genre traps, but creates a fresh identity for itself with a smart approach to character builds.

It's about time

A Last Epoch party stands around a glowing circle of magic energy

Like most Diablo-style action-RPGs, Last Epoch goes pretty light on story. A dark force ruined the world and twists everything it touches, humanity is on the brink of disaster, and only you can turn the tide or die trying. It’s fairly standard stuff. Last Epoch does add a welcome twist with time travel, which leads to some unexpected interactions with certain enemies and characters later in the game.

Last Epoch handles its time travel shenanigans better than most, with fewer plot holes and contrivances that “time travel” is meant to just explain away. I couldn’t help wishing it tried a bit harder, though. The broad ideas of traveling through time and wars between gods destroying the world provide strong narrative context, but the characters and quests just don't do much with it.

I’d say a shallow story doesn’t really matter in a game like this, except Last Epoch really wants you to care about the story. Narrative segments show up more often than they do in Diablo, though they end up just being excuses to flood you with lore.  Last Epoch tries injecting its NPCs with more personality than Blizzard’s band of miserable, ragtag peasants as well, though the result is mixed. Most characters exist to crack jokes about making you do side quests for them. A bit of self-awareness and fourth-wall-breaking fun is fine, but “a bit” is the key there. It wears thin after a while.

As someone who mostly enjoyed Diablo 4’s story and wishes Lost Ark tried a bit harder with its paper-thin characters, I came away a little disappointed with Last Epoch’s narrative approach. Dense stories aren’t why people play games like this, and I get that. Just a little more depth with Last Epoch’s characters – tying them to the world or other characters more closely, for example – could’ve helped enrich the world and your actions in it.

Better builds

A Last Epoch character building screen, with multiple subclass options shown

The real draw is just how deep you can go with your build without getting overwhelmed with choices and stuck in a perpetual grind. Here, too, Last Epoch’s identity comes as much from itself as it does from how it changes the Diablo formula. Diablo 4 wants you to hit stuff, a lot, without thinking much about it. Last Epoch wants that as well, but it also gives you more ways to build your character, rewards good planning, and encourages wild experimentation.

It gives you the usual spread of classes and damage types – squishy mage, bulky melee fighter, and so on – and then lets you tack on half a dozen or more abilities that specialize that basic class into something unique and, in some cases, downright cool. I’m not one for chasing gear or skills that give you an nth percentage of extra fire damage or whatever, but Last Epoch lets you use some of these minor improvements to make some pretty wild builds actually viable.

Even better is that you can easily reset and try again, as there’s no harsh penalty for respeccing like in Diablo. Acquiring better equipment is also less of a chore. Last Epoch includes a trading and auction house feature like Lost Ark’s, where you can just fork over in-game cash or items to get what you want, and if you’re playing in offline mode, you get access to some extra loot sources that offset the lack of trading.

Color my world

A forest in Last Epoch with colorful monsters roaming the undergrowth

Another feature I appreciate about Last Epoch is how colorful its world is. Diablo 4’s Sanctuary is meant to be a grim and unforgiving place, and I get that, but by the time I hit the third act, I was heartily tired of the muted tones and gritty color palette. Last Epoch infuses the apocalypse with color and variety, which makes a bigger difference than you might expect. You’re actually allowed to see the sun shine on non-bloodsoaked fields, and even its gloomy, barren wastelands have rocks glowing in bright hues.

It sounds like a minor touch, but I was surprised how much more eager I was to explore and stay in the game for longer, just because it didn’t look so depressing.

The problem is that, like in Lost Ark and Diablo 4, the incentive and reward for exploring and all the work you put into your build go right out the window once you hit the endgame. There’s just not a lot to do after wrapping up the main campaign, and what is there is a little underwhelming. Endgame dungeons are small, you blast through a bunch of enemies, and then that’s it. Diablo 4 and Lost Ark have the same problem, though, and Blizzard took some steps toward addressing Diablo’s with new seasons and interesting ways to augment your build. 

I’m hoping 11th Hour has more in store for Last Epoch’s future as well. There’s a strong foundation to build on, both from narrative and combat perspectives, and more than that, I just want an excuse to spend more time in Last Epoch.

The publisher provided the copy of Last Epoch used for this review. Last Epoch is available now in early access on PC via Steam.

Contributing Editor

Josh is a freelance writer and reporter who specializes in guides, reviews, and whatever else he can convince someone to commission. You may have seen him on NPR, IGN, Polygon, or VG 24/7 or on Twitter, shouting about Trails. When he isn’t working, you’ll likely find him outside with his Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd or curled up with an RPG of some description.

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Review for
Last Epoch
  • Smart approach to character builds
  • Visually interesting world
  • Uses the time travel idea for some unique interactions
  • Underdeveloped story and characters
  • Shallow endgame
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