In high school, I had a notebook full of game ideas. Many of these were often combinations of games and mechanics, usually something along the lines of “Final Fantasy X but with Legend of Legaia‘s battle system,” “Pokemon Red/Blue meets Valkyrie Profile,” “Bushido Blade crossed with Dynasty Warriors,” and so on. Regardless of genre or feasibility, I liked combining games for a dream project I’d wish someone would make in the future. I bring this anecdote up because Lost Epic reminds me of the days where I’d dream up mashed-together games that would be far better in concept than execution.
Lost Epic is, at first glance, a 2D side-scrolling action RPG. It’s bright and colorful like Odin Sphere or Muramasa with a Metroidvania-esque world, Souls-like corpse-run and stamina systems, and a touch of character action mixed in. The game borrows many elements from its predecessors, though it doesn’t fully execute them as well as it should. It even includes a multiplayer mode, though it feels largely unnecessary and more like an afterthought than anything else.
In Lost Epic, you are a faceless knight summoned by an ancient witch. Within seconds, the witch asks you to design your appearance prior to heading out into the world. There are quite a few avatar options on the character creation screen ranging from valkyrie-esque holy knights to grimdark deathlords. Numerous accessories can also be crafted and unlocked along the journey, so if you want to be an edgy dark knight with bunny ears and a pacifier, go for it. The witch then gives a quick rundown on the world and what is wrong with it, then gives the knight a clear task and the sole reason for their existence: to slay the gods of the land and return the realm to peace. You’re given each of their locations and a brief overview of the lands where they dwell, then the leash is off and you’re free to roam.
Despite its appearance, Lost Epic is a rather dark game on the narrative front. The world was one ruled by a singular Elder God. This entity seemed essentially benevolent and graceful until it was overthrown and forced from the world by six rebels. With the Elder God defeated, they split his power amongst themselves and ushered in the era of the New Gods. These six New Gods quickly changed the world for the worse and divided people into classes based on their races and beliefs. Any who rejected the New Gods — or were rejected by the New Gods themselves — were branded as The Perishing: people whose sole existence is to suffer and be exploited.
Right off the bat, Lost Epic makes you hate the six New Gods with a passion. In JRPGs, we’re often shown despotic madmen who plead their cases or try to show just how clever they may be. They often have some delusions of grandeur mixed with an unhealthy dose of psychopathy and a touch of mania. Lost Epic takes it a step further: the New Gods are utterly aware that they are abusing, torturing, exploiting, and even murdering humans. They enjoy it, and they’re completely unapologetic about it. In boss fights, they trash talk the player for being jealous of what the New Gods have or explicitly state that humans are nothing but their food and fodder. It’s a highly oppressive and blatantly mask-off approach that I would expect out of something like God of War. Part of me wished there were brutal execution sequences like God of War, as the New Gods deserve every ounce of ultraviolence directed their way.
The standard gameplay loop involves mixing light and heavy attacks to create combos that may stagger an enemy or set them up for a death blow. Alongside the basic attacks are Divine Skills — a selection of five abilities that the player learns over time while using new weapons. Divine Skills are assigned to the circle button, up + circle, down + circle, left/right + circle, and the R1 button. These are powerful moves on a cooldown that easily change the tide of battle, and they grow even stronger over time. The Divine Skills are flashy, fun, and powerful. However, they often feel like they’re the only way to deal notable damage in the later parts of the game.
In Lost Epic, there are three main weapons: one-handed swords, longswords, and bows. Each has its own type of Divine Skills that cannot be mixed, though the player can swap between two main weapons and sub-weapons with a tap of the L1 button. One of the sub-weapons, the magic gauntlet, turns the game into part shooter/shmup and part Devil May Cry. By utilizing the bullet skill, players can shoot in a wide area before them to break boxes, wipe out small enemies quickly, and even juggle enemies for more aerial combos. The bullet skill never left my repertoire, as it was an easy means to keep enemies airborne while slapping status effects on them and setting them up for follow-up attacks in the air.
While swinging blades and firing arrows, players need to pay attention to their stamina gauge early on. Attacking and dodging consume the gauge, which can run out quickly in early levels. However, a few levels in stamina completely negates this mechanic and allows you to keep swinging with reckless abandon. Defeating enemies grants the player Anima, a currency used for everything in the game. However, falling in battle will cause the player to lose all the Anima they have on hand at the location where they died. Players will have a single chance to fetch their Anima, but should they fail, it’s lost forever. While it may seem as punishing as the Souls games, I died less than ten times across my eighteen hours and lost all my Anima perhaps thrice.
The art direction in Lost Epic is impressive for the most part. The game has a vibrant look that feels like it came straight from a Vanillaware game. The early landscapes are gorgeous, the visual effects catch attention, and the character designs are bright and charming. While the designs themselves are fantastic, the animations are a bit uncanny. When it comes to animating 2D art, there’s a point where animations can look distorted or have the appearance of an old-school Flash game. Lost Epic‘s animations are smooth, yet the character’s weapons and limbs have that Flash game look every once in a while, like pieces of paper sliding around.
The landscapes and world design are notably impressive on the visual front. I applaud the designers for being able to create gore-filled castles, skeleton-laden catacombs, snowy hilltops, and vivid hills of purple and yellow while managing to keep a cohesive theme and style. However, in the later parts of the game, the general map design starts to betray this unified theme. Floating platforms and bizarre architecture make places feel more like a game level and less like a setting where people once lived. That said, I take issue with this in most Metroidvanias, so I can’t fault Lost Epic for following the beaten path.
Lost Epic‘s soundtrack is a strange mixture that doesn’t feel as thematically appropriate as I’d hoped. The intro theme song is an electronica-heavy song with J-pop vocals riding along. As an intro theme, it’s catchy and not part of the overall soundscape. Once the OST proper begins in the first levels, Lost Epic starts strong with a fantastic orchestral theme sporting chant vocals paired with heavy strings and drums. After that song, much of the music is forgettable save for a few strange uses of dubstep for gated battles and specifically marked side quest enemies. Lost Epic‘s soundtrack is good for what’s there, but there isn’t enough music nor are there enough standout tracks to make the OST truly great.
While a 2D action RPG with elements of shooters/shmups and character action games may sound like an amazing combo, Lost Epic doesn’t capitalize on it as well as it should. The Souls-like stamina system feels pointless after a few levels, the Devil May Cry-esque juggling and aerial combos feel unrewarding due to their low damage and lack of flair, and the Metroidvania-style world map feels wholly unnecessary as there are few places you need to come back to later with new tools. Additionally, in the later parts of the game, enemies are so heavily armored that it feels like your light and heavy attacks are just filler while you wait for Divine Skills to recharge.
There are several afterthoughts and ideas that seem to display a surface-level understanding of why the mechanics from other games actually work. The progression system spanning across over a dozen pages seems attractive in theory, and I can only assume the intention was to encourage players to respec and replace points in later pages for greater stat boosts. Unfortunately, across my eighteen hours, I never found another respec item. Thus, I felt trapped in my early build decisions when I spent precious points on +1 strength instead of saving it for a +5 strength node a few pages later. Finally, many skills are tied to finding monuments and lithograph shards throughout the world, but these are often difficult to see or hidden away behind monster closets and enemy gauntlets.
Lost Epic feels like it has great ideas but only good execution. It sits somewhere between full and half-hearted, perhaps something along the lines of “three-quarters hearted.” It feels like a game that is seventy-five percent of what it aims to be. Rather than having a series of cresting highs and sinking lows, it feels more like a steady wave of averageness. Lost Epic is ultimately adequate in all areas at the cost of being generally unremarkable. While I mostly enjoyed my time with it, I’d sooner recommend Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights to anyone looking for a gorgeous 2D action RPG.