Ubisoft Montreal's Mighty Quest For Epic Loot is a mix of Dungeon Keeper and Diablo, a free-to-play castle builder in which you must construct a devious, trap-addled keep capable of warding off an endless army of would-be adventurers. But, cleverly, Mighty Quest For Epic Loot is also another thing: it's a hack and slash in which you, the would-be adventurer, must infiltrate the devious, trap-addled castles built by other players.
Constructing your castle is a simple matter of dragging and dropping prefabricated rooms into an overhead editor, before filling it with all manner of traps and creatures. Rooms can have multiple exits, meaning castles can have branching routes and dead ends, with the goal being to keep adventurers away from the titular epic loot for as long as possible. Monster placement is limited by each room's capacity, with certain mobs costing less than others - powerful creatures will consume all of a room's defensive capacity, whereas it might take a crowd of smaller monsters to fill that same room.
It's the game's way of ensuring you can't build an overly challenging castle too early in your career as dungeon architect, though it is possible, with enough coin, to drop in Elite mini-bosses and end-room mega-bosses in your efforts to defend your treasure.
Traps include spinning fire cannons, minefields, spiked hamster wheel jobbies and hidden springboards that propel you into aggro-range of powerful monsters. In the short demo I was shown, fire rams were placed next to flamethrowers, creating a room in which an unprepared player would be unceremoniously headbutted into traps. Clever pairings like this work across much of Mighty Quest's bestiary, with certain creatures buffing and reviving others, summoning minions or snaring the player to slow them down.
Everything you build: rooms, monsters and traps all cost gold, Mighty Quest's free currency, which spills from monsters and chests as an adventurer. You can also choose to spend emeralds, the game's premium, real-money currency. It's a traditionally dicey free-to-play setup, one that Ubisoft say isn't pay-to-win, but is evidently and unashamedly pay-to-progress, with the crucial balance undoubtedly to be hammered into shape by a closed beta just launched last week.
Once you've published your castle it enters an online repository in the sky, ready and able to be besieged by any player who happens upon it. Highly rated castles will upvoted into your campaign and placed alongside Ubi-created castles designed to match your current level as an adventurer.
Adventurers come in two classes, the Knight and the Archer, both with a skill tree and paper doll capable of hosting the piles of equipment found in each castle's treasure room. Smashing your way through player castles not only earns you loot and the cash required to build better castles, but also the XP needed to unlock new skills and progress to increasingly difficult castles. It's a very basic hack and slash, in its current form, though some of the variety in monster combinations requires a degree of crowd control and intelligent clicking. You can also challenge your friends to wagers, by betting gold coins that they can't reach a castle's treasure room in a better time than you.
This is mega-studio Ubisoft Montreal's first step into free to play (whereas Blue Byte have been taking on the browser-based versions of Anno, Might & Magic and Silent Hunter, while Ubisoft Singapore handle Ghost Recon Online), and it's an interesting one. The potential for an increasingly massive catalogue of castle parts clearly favours Mighty Quest For Epic Loot's longevity, as does the ability to forge a career as a master dungeon architect, though it'll take a closed beta road test to see whether the tools offered are enough to allow for genuinely surprising and interesting castle designs. The canny merging of dungeon construction and isometric adventuring is at least enough to warrant keeping an attentive eye on this one, in either case.
It's also quite funny.