GameSpot's open beta reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available to the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote time and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.
Heroes are kind of jerkwads, at least if you accept the premise of The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. It's not enough that they've pillaged fortunes untold from dungeons and assorted baddies; in their idle hours, they engage in home invasions of their neighbors in Opulencia, their medieval Columbia-style floating city in the sky. Good thing for us, then, that this game's combat reminds us that there's some fun in being a jerk. Even better, Mighty Quest supports an unobtrusive free-to-play model, although a few drawbacks threaten to send this airborne lootfest crashing from the sky.
The game's cheeky personality reveals itself in flashes throughout much of Mighty Quest's early presentation. You find it in the seedy voice-overs of a real estate agent who walks you through the tutorials, and you find it in premade dungeons that pit you against bosses like kingly frogs that recall Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2. A Disney-meets-Pixar aesthetic coats Mighty Quest like caramel on apples, never letting you forget that accessible lighthearted fun trumps hardcore play and settings.
Indeed, it could scarcely be easier to pick up. You can adventure through Mighty Quest as one of four more-or-less stock adventurers--a knight, a mage, an archer, and a scrappy runaway with a battle axe--and you can buy the other three after you make your first free selection. Simplified skill trees initially seem to take some of the fun out of experimenting with builds, but the limitation of a mere four active abilities allows for greater play-style variations than the straightforward setup suggests. When it all comes together, the combat's good enough to warrant favorable comparisons to Diablo III. My little archer kited hulking giants with caltrops and pestered them with a raven, and I sprayed crossbow bolts with the abandon of the possessed.
The dungeons themselves make a good first impression. They're carpeted with traps that might glue you to the ground and decorated with buzz saws that zip across the floor. The enemies initially seem diverse and satisfactory, whether you encounter the aforementioned giants or the annoying shamans who churn out minions like Joyce Carol Oates churns out novels. The beauty of Mighty Quest is that another player is behind the creation of almost every dungeon, save for a few designed to advance you to new zones and settings.
With Mighty Quest, Ubisoft captures the fun of creating dungeons in a way that Bullfrog's disappointing Dungeon Keeper remake never managed. Thanks to a heavy focus on intuitive design in the creation interface, even novices can craft competent dungeons rife with monsters and traps. As you level and add new crafting tables to your dungeons, you can add new wings, set new traps, and even decide the behaviors of some of the nasties you populate them with. The most remarkable thing is that you'll seldom come across a dungeon that seems shoddily made, and there's a reason for that. When players defeat your castle, their gold reward comes from your personal stash.
The concept admittedly begs for exploitation, but Ubisoft wisely implemented several safeguards. For one, there's a limit to how many creatures and objects you can stuff your castle with at a particular level. For another, Ubisoft forces you to complete your dungeon yourself before other players can jump in and have a chance at stealing your gold. A smart concept, yes, but it spoils some of the fun. It may keep players from employing too many cheap tricks such as floors carpeted entirely with traps, but it also means that you need to run through your dungeon every time you make a little tweak. Realize that flamethrower is just a little too far back to be effective? Tough luck. You'll have to run through the whole thing again if you move it.
Mighty Quest's saving grace is that it usually takes no more than five minutes to complete a dungeon (or die, in some cases); the simplest ones might see you smashing into the treasure room within a minute and a half. That means you suffer no big loss if you can't complete a castle, but it also means that a feeling of sameness creeps in as early as level 10. By level 15, Mighty Quest devolves into a grind, because every player seems to fall back on variations of the same tricks that work for everyone else. In time, it becomes a headache, as dungeon masters clearly concern themselves more with keeping their gold than making a dungeon that's fun to both play and explore. Even the loot loses its all-important epicness, which it never really has since so much of the design relies on incremental upgrades. Good loot seems to fall like the Alaskan snow in the earlier levels; higher up, several dungeons may succumb to your wrath before you find something worth equipping.
Oddly enough, that samey feeling likely springs from the lack of players forking out cash. Indeed, there's no real reason to. Mighty Quest falls but a few steps short of the payment model of a game like Path of Exile, which takes its free-to-play model so literally that you could play for hours and never spend a cent of virtual currency. Here, you spend it on one of the three other classes; barring that, you spend it on different themes for your castles (that few folks seem to use) or buffs that boost your gold for a limited time.
The bulk of the playing experience instead relies on the in-game gold (and so-called life force, used for making monsters), whether for health potions and associated accessories or new gear from the blacksmith shop that you can upgrade as your level progresses. That wasn't always the case. As early as a few weeks ago, Ubisoft was still making players wait for hours to build new dungeon additions without premium speed-ups. Right now, however, Mighty Quest stands as proof that a major publisher can create an entertaining free-to-play game without robbing us of our real-life epic loot.
That's partly why Mighty Quest still delivers many moments of fun in its roughest spots. It starts out strong, but soon loses its momentum under the weight of grindy gameplay and cheap-shot dungeons on the part of the players. Still, there are some good ideas here that could be fixed with time, particularly if Ubisoft figures out how to let players create entertaining dungeons rather than throwing everything they've got at potential intruders. Oh, and a cooperative mode wouldn't hurt, either.
An entertaining dungeon-crawling hack-and-slash game that relies heavily on player-made dungeons.
|What's to Come?||Ubisoft has claimed that Mighty Quest won't change much by launch, but other features are planned, such as crafting and a questing structure.|
|What Does it Cost?|
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is free-to-play in the best sense of the term. The only premium services provide aesthetic upgrades for dungeons and the like.
|When Will it be Finished?|
There's currently no concrete release date.
|What's the Verdict?|
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is brimming with good ideas, but the problems in its execution show up in the later levels. With a little work, Ubisoft could have a killer free-to-play game on its hands.