The Free Agent: Episode 15 - MQEL

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot proves too alluring for the Free Agent to pass up

Hello to all our new readers, and welcome back to those who have been following ZAM's bi-weekly column, The Free Agent. Our mission, as always, is to answer the question "Can gaming REALLY be free?"

We have a special surprise for you this episode. Remember two weeks ago when I said our next episode would be covering Path of Exile? (If not go check out the full episode covering MechWarrior Online). Well it turns out I actually meant our next, next episode.

Instead we're going to throw caution to the wind, break all of our own rules (except for the spend no money one of course) and laugh uncontrollably as we watch poor unsuspecting noobs perish in our castle.

What am I on about you ask? Simple my friends. I'm talking about The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot!

Now, before you get all worried that I've gone Rob Ford on you, yes I'm aware it's still in closed beta. But fortunately Ubisoft just recently hosted a Halloween open house event, though I suppose open castle is more appropriate. Regardless, since The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has been on the list ever since PAX Prime 2013, I couldn't help myself. I had to check it out; in all its hack and slash, castle building, free-to-play glory.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Okay so maybe I enjoyed myself so much so that I sort of forgot to play Path of Exile. But really, could there be a game out there that is better suited to me than The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot? Let me share a few personal facts. I'm in my thirties, I have a full time job, a wife whom I adore, a 14-month old baby girl, a dog, more volunteer commitments than I know what to do with and even more hobbies on top of that. At this exact moment in time I'm extremely busy.

I also have a bunch of friends that are more or less in the same boat. And guess what? We love to play video games. But sadly our schedules don't always allow us to play at the same time. Well here comes Ubisoft to the rescue because The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a game that allows us to experience the joys of gaming with friends, without actually having to play at the same time.

Here's how it works. Hack and slash your way through the refreshingly light hearted but extremely informative tutorial. Build a simple castle to store your treasures in and fill it full of monsters and traps to prevent anyone from stealing said treasure. Now taunt your friends and tell them to just go ahead and try to steal your treasure. But before they can respond you have to log off and go take care of some random thing that needs doing. While you're busy with RL one of your friends decides to break in... 

The next day you log back in and get to watch recordings of your friends dying over and over again in the depths of your castle. You laugh and send a few text messages to taunt your poor friends some more.

As you loot the corpses of those that have fallen prey to your clever and cruel genius you discover that one lucky individual has managed to survive your death trap of a castle and has stolen your treasure. So you go right on over to his castle and battle your way through his pitiful defenses and steal your treasure back.

As it turns out all that hack and slash, mouse clicking combat in other people’s castles can be pretty lucrative. Of course you've just pissed off all your neighbours in the fictitious kingdom of Opulencia so you better go upgrade your defenses.

On the plus side, doing so makes it even more frustratingly difficulty for your friends to defeat your castle, thus more taunting and maniacal laughter ensues. Rinse and repeat for indefinite good times. It's a brilliant formula really, a strange concoction of action RPG, dungeon builder, castle sim and social gaming, that just seems to work.

Geez Free Agent, when did you become such a fan boy?

Okay fine, to be perfectly honest, The Epic Quest for Mighty Loot has its short comings too. And if I had to scrape a few up they would be that I found combat and character customization a little one-dimensional, castle defenses a touch predictable and perhaps some obvious balance issues. So let's talk a bit more about each of these sore points.

Combat in The Might Quest for Epic Loot has a very action RPG feel; think something a kin to Diablo3 with cartoony graphics (though for the record I actually love the art style). Now, as a whole I find I tire very quickly of straight up mouse clicking hack and slash style combat, but if there is a lot of customization available it's usually enough to keep me interested.

So far though, beyond some fairly linear skill and equipment progression I found there wasn't much to keep me interested. Typically I could only raid a few castles in one sitting before I got tired of it and wanted to go back to building my own, which meant my castle quickly out leveled my character.

The somewhat repetitious feeling of combat was exacerbated by the fact that if you are raiding castles that are in the correct  level range for your character they all end of being more or less the same. Some combinations and layouts of monsters and traps just seem to work well and, as a result, you see them repeated a lot. Like this snotty fellow that was at the end of almost every low level castle I faced.

Perhaps that also speaks to the balance issues that seem to plague The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. With only the melee brute force Knight and the ranged god-of-kiting archer available for free; I felt as though in order to make my castle defenses challenging for one class I was making it a cake walk for the other.

I'm not sure if you noticed the unifying themes running through all of the issues I've just identified, so let me spell it out. Content and tuning. Add in some additional layers to character customization, add more variety across multiple systems and spend some time on balancing and all three issues could be easily addressed.

And therein lays the beauty of it. Unlike other games we've covered that were in full release or open beta, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is still in closed beta, with  plenty of development still ongoing and many systems not yet implemented. That means there is time for Ubisoft to iron the kinks before it hits the masses.

And that's precisely why the Free Agent doesn't normally cover games in closed beta, because frankly it’s not fair to the developers. The fact that The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot can stand on its own while still in closed beta is impressive.

Sold! Let’s buy our way into the closed beta... oh wait...

So the bad news is if you're looking for free gaming, you'll probably have to wait until The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot hits open beta, which I'm not even remotely prepared to speculate on. But there is plenty of free content to look forward to when does become available.

I'll even outline some of it for you, but please keep in mind, I'm basing my observations solely on the Halloween open house which is part of closed beta so the monetization is still highly subject to change.

What I did observe over the course of five days definitely caught the Free Agent's attention. As with any well construction free-to-play model, real money (in the form of a rather aptly named currency called 'bling') can't buy you victory.

Sure bling can speed things up a little bit for you, but if you treat The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot sort of like checking your email or Facebook (i.e. something you do for a few minutes a couple times a day), then the various boosts and insta-builds you can buy with real money are almost irrelevant.

As it stood during the Halloween open house event, I'm cautious optimistic that with The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot gaming really can be free, you just some patience. But unlike some games where patience is the key, I'm not referring to grinding away at content.

Unlike those other games, here patience just means not logging into the game every 5 minutes to see if your Castle Heart is done upgrading yet or if your gold mine has accrued enough to buy your next level of Summoning Portal.

Providing you can resist the urge to buy silly hats or garish castle themes, you should have no problems playing The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot for free. Sure my neighbor’s castle might look shinier than mine. But while I'm looting the treasure room of Mr. Spendypants' golden palace of weak sauce, he's still stuck at the front door of my aged oak fortress of pain, while my elite Cyclops doorman Pete Poundmore mops the floor with his face.

Sorry Mr. Spendypants, you lose! That is unless winning means being able to play the mage class or buy your way into the closed beta, but other than that, you lose. My man Pete is gonna mess you up!

See you in Opulencia

So there you go, I hope you agree I'm not just being a fan boy. I recognize the shortcomings and issues currently plaguing this game, but I believe Ubisoft has discovered a magnificent formula, and with time remaining in their closed beta to iron out the kinks, I think they're well on track for success with The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot.

I know I'll be back in Opulencia once it hits open beta, returning again to review the latest carnage inflicted upon would be intruders, and then tweaking my defenses to further optimize the death machine that is my castle. Heck while I'm at it I might even see if I can find some inspiration by throwing myself at someone else’s impenetrable fortress of doom.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has our attention, and with great game play experiences readily available in short sittings, the Free Agent might even be able to afford to keep playing this one on the side (only when it hits open beta of course).

That's all for this week, I sincerely apologize if the change in plans threw you for a loop. That is unless of course you've read this far and still haven't figured out this episode wasn't about Path of Exile, in which case I simply pity you. Either way, rest assured, Episode 16 will get us back on track with Path of Exile.

See you next time on the Free Agent.


Robert "Caergan" Gray

               Follow me on Twitter @Caergan

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