Gamers are always on the hunt for new experiences
Devs are often pushed to their limits experimenting with new mechanics, features, and ways to enjoy this form of interactive entertainment. Epitaph quietly appeared on the eShop promising tactical real-time strategy, fighting and equipped with a unique art style and an addictive gameplay loop. Does it live up to the self-described hype or is this one dead on arrival?
Starting off, Epitaph is easily one of the most unique titles to grace our offices. Looking at the visuals on the eShop many will overlook this simple-looking low-poly title. To do so is a crime, as Epitaph somehow takes this minimalistic approach and makes it work wonders. Each of the handful of combatants is distinct enough to stand apart while engaged in multi-character battles. The bright colour palette standouts against the dark often gloomy backgrounds. The weapon effects look fantastic as you cleave, immolate, and push enemies closer to the brink of annihilation.
The Tactical Battler where Death is a Strategy!
Control-wise, Epitaph is just as minimalistic and somehow, again, makes it work. While the image of a fighting game being limited to just 2 buttons brings back horrific memories from the late 80s the simplicity works well. The B and X buttons move left and right as well as allowing your character to face the associated direction if they are not (cost 1 move). The A and Y act as your attack/powers and will be used to dispatch your opponents.
The tutorial (we recommend playing) does an admirable job of laying out the flow. The devs have purposely left the powers to be discovered by the player. Learning how to incorporate and better use combinations of combatants is key to later victories and unlocking more challenges.
Replayability-wise, Epitaph is a mixed bag
Puzzle mode is the meat and potatoes of this title. Here, players will solve increasingly more difficult challenges. This is where the player will get the hard and fast lessons needed to embark onto battle mode. Here, in battle mode, players can finally match up against real live opponents. Unfortunately, this is limited to couch play only. The lack of online really hampers the audience in this instance and could end up being the kiss of death. The pandemic has made couch coop a thing of the past for a lot of people. A title like Epitaph would excel if friends from all over the world could play together. being limited to who is in your household handicaps the ability to fully experience the title properly. Time can be spent mastering techniques in puzzle mode, but wanting to compete against others is never replaced.
From the audio perspective, there is not a lot here. Everything fits as it should. That is neither good nor bad. While a strong sound design can add to an experience, a lack of one has the same but opposite effect. Epitaph somehow manages to fit comfortably in the “it’s what we expected” range. The music will not be hummed while you sit waiting in line at the store.
Epitaph is a rare title. Those willing to look past what on the surface appears to be basic visuals and simplistic gameplay will be rewarded with a smart title that cleverly subverts traditional tactical games. While feeling more like a turn-based title than an authentic fighter, Epitaph does balance the genres well and offers gamers a unique experience.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 12/01/2021
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: Puzzle, Strategy, Multiplayer
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop