God damn Bone Puppeteers.
I hate Bone Puppeteers. You see, Bone Puppeteers reanimate their fallen allies as undead skeletal warriors. That’s fine of course, everybody likes a modest, manageable degree of skeletal reanimation. It’s par for the dungeon crawler course. Carry on reanimating, you cheeky Bone Puppeteers.
But wait, Bone Puppeteers can repeatedly revive dead enemies for as long as Bone Puppeteers are still alive, which is a less acceptable way for a mob to make a living. Even more egregiously, these many Bone Puppeteers — all of these multiples of Bone Puppeteers — reanimate enemies and then quickly run out of your attack range. They sprint right off the screen so that you have to chase after them, pushing past (or often blocked by) a crowd of their reanimated friends while aggravating every other monster in the castle.
Maybe it’s my resolution setting, maybe it’s a balancing issue, but I don’t think these Bone Puppeteers should be cartwheeling towards the horizon likefrightened spidersthe moment they spot me. Neither should they be such efficient damage sponges, eating up my fireball attacks as if they were fistfuls of Coco Pops in the morning before my mum wakes up and finds me in the kitchen.
Your Bone Puppeteers are not fun, Ubisoft Montreal, not even a tiny bit. I hope that the main feedback you take from the closed beta of Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is to fix your Bone Puppeteers. In fact, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is topsily turvily balanced in its current closed beta form, with the resurrection-happy Bone Puppeteer forming but one cog in the stuck workings of the otherwise utterly compulsive treasure-hunting hack and slash. The game is cross between the base building of Evil Genius and the loot grinding of Diablo, with a thick yet gratifyingly uncynical free-to-play layer smeared on top. I’ve played with the knight and the mage before, which I wrote about here. The beta, meanwhile, has allowed me to stick an investigative hand up the mage’s frock.
The wizarding magician is the third of the three available classes in Mighty Quest (currently only available to players who buy into the game’s paid-for founder pack) and follows a standard hex-chucking template. Three schools of magic, each containing four spells, concern offence, defence and strategy minded spell-casting. The first is all flame-mattered, with mortar like fireballs, cones of cinderous hotness and area of effect barbeque pits. The second is to do with electricity, dealing lesser amounts of chained damage but softening enemies up to further magic attacks. The third is unholy dark energy that both deals damage and heals your mage at the same time, sucking enemies into black holes or vanishing them from the battlefield momentarily.
During attacks on castles, you can have four of these skills equipped at any one time, along with one item from your inventory, which initially feels limiting given that you can’t swap out these abilities or even access your inventory while attacking. Instead, your assaults on castles are brief, lasting just minutes before you’re returned to your base of operations where you may re-equip and refine your character over the course of a whole series of attacks. You go in, you make a grab for the big treasure (by beating a time limit, not dying and using fewer than three potions), then you come back out and sift through your acquired loot like a kid at Halloween. It’s a satisfying loop.
The flipside of the game is that the castles you’re attacking, by and large, belong to other players. They’ve built their castles and populated them with monsters using currencies plundered from their own assaults. You’ve got your own personal castle too of course, the defences of which you must constantly invest in to prevent other adventurers from stealing your resources.
There’s a safety latch built into the system, in that once your castle has been successfully looted by another player it becomes invulnerable for 12 hours, but this works both ways. At least half of the player owned castles you’ll attempt to raid are protected by this shield. They’re also impossibly tough (at least for the mage), even when the game reports their difficulty as appropriate for your current level. Players simply have to to max out their available defences, and not skimp on the Bone Puppeteers, to create an unreasonably tough castle for adventurers. This impenetrable challenge then forces you to tackle castles well below your grade, rewarding you with diminishing returns. The alternative is to grind the handful of Ubisoft created castles in each region, the difficulties of which are more carefully pitched.
Or maybe the mage is just underpowered in the early game. It is, after all, only being offered in an ‘early access’ context, and I didn’t face this sort of uphill grind in my brief time with the knight and archer characters. The game is under constant development. The fundamentals of how the premium currency affects the game remain the same since I last played however, it’s only ever used to speed up processes and buy items you could otherwise purchase with in-game currencies.
Weirdly, levelling up isn’t automatic. After maxing out an XP bar you must return to your castle to spend gold to level up, which robs the hack and slash of the simple pleasure of a triumphant levelling up ‘ding’. Progression seems a little too plain as well, with such a small set of skills (all quickly revealed and unlocked, leaving in the way of flashy new spells to work towards) and a small selection of characters, Mighty Quest reveals most of what it has to offer within just the first few hours of play.
It’s what closed betas are for however, working out these kinks and unjamming the mechanics between attacking and defending modes. Mighty Quest is a free to play dungeon crawler that delivers on fun long before it starts eyeing up your wallet, patting you on the thigh and asking for a drink. It’s also a funny and stylish cartoon of a game, with a rousing Disney-hued adventuring soundtrack, one that escalates towards the castle’s boss battle before resolving into a jaunty post-victory pomp. Honestly, it’s a wonderful game to listen to. As for the rest of it, Ubisoft will continue beating Mighty Quest into ever better configurations, so keep a close watch.