Porting over console-style shooter gameplay to the confines of a touch screen has been one of the most vexing problems for mobile game developers hoping to capture a taste of hardcore gaming on the go. Some, like Madfinger’s Shadowgun, have been willing to settle for being a slightly dulled, yet authentic experience. Others, like Uppercut Games’ EPOCH chose to reinvent the genre’s controls into an elegant gesture based system, at the expense of things like manual aim and free movement. The two approaches both have their advocates and neither has conclusively managed to find a definitive approach.
EPOCH.2 continues to build on the foundation of its predecessor, without radically changing anything fundamental. Like the original, it uses swipes and taps to move, take cover, dodge, and shoot, creating a competent facsimile of a cover shooter, at least in the heat of combat. What’s been stripped away is any free movement or exploration, lending a bit of rail shooter flavor to the title. It’s arguable that this is worth the sacrifice, since many cover shooters don’t have much in the way of exploration anyway, and feature highly linear level designs.
What EPOCH.2 lacks in freedom, it makes up for with its stylish animation and tight controls. The aerial leaps and flips, and quick, lateral dodges lend a touch of Vanquish and Sin & Punishment flavor to the mix, which is high praise for anything in the genre. There’s enough unique mechanics to give the game quite a bit of technique, if not real depth.
EPOCH.2 uses the Unreal Engine for some impressive, if not ground-breaking visuals. Those who played the first game have a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of detail, but the variety of the environments add more than polygon count or texture resolution ever could. Animations are especially rewarding, and EPOCH’s stiff, snappy movements help to reinforce the feeling of playing as a nimble robot warrior.
The first game’s greatest enemy was repetition. Despite some enjoyable combat mechanics, the game did precious little to keep the action fresh and exciting. This is where Uppercut seems to have focused much of their efforts. There’s a much greater diversity of enemies in this sequel, each with their own attack patterns and weaknesses. You’ll deal with all manner of firing patterns and projectiles, and even a couple of types of kamikaze exploding enemies. Dealing with all these at once is chaotic; overwhelming at its worst and adrenaline-fueled bliss at its best. Unique boss fights steal the show, with unique showdowns against some truly epic foes.
There is a whole system of upgrades to help take the edge off of the challenging difficulty curve, ranging from weapons, to power ups, to armor. The game can be a bit stingy with these upgrades, which can be frustrating, but it gives you a means to gradually overcome any roadblocks in difficulty with enough grinding. It also helps to extend the fairly brief 16-mission campaign into a three hour affair.
EPOCH.2 doesn’t seriously alter any of the groundwork laid by its predecessor. It’s still very much an arcade affair of pure action, but that action itself is worthy enough to make this worth a look. While this is certainly shy of being Gears of War on your phone, it’s stylish and fun to control, with just enough depth to maintain interest. It’s probably for the best that it isn’t any longer than it is, though, because it exhausts its bag of tricks by the end.
EPOCH.2 is still a repetitive, streamlined cover-shooter, but it does so with enough flash and variety to make its 2-to-3 hours playtime worthwhile.