Epoch Hands-On Preview

We’ve just gotten word from Uppercut Games that Epoch will hit the App Store on November 10. As you may know, that means the game will actually appear in iTunes the night before, at 11 p.m. Eastern or 8 p.m. Pacific. They’ve also released an awesome new trailer that you can watch below.

To call Epoch a “cover shooter” is a little misleading. Although it shares many characteristics with games like Gears of War or Shadowgun, Epoch offers a much more streamlined experience. It’s more like Gears of War mixed with Infinity Blade, except that you play as a nimble combat robot, and you’re trying to save a princess.

But the game’s story takes a backseat to the action. Action is what this game’s all about– there are no story-based cutscenes, and there’s very little downtime. Mostly, you’ll be shooting at enemies and avoiding their fire.

When you begin, you’re quickly ushered into your first firefight, in which enemies pop out in front of you, and an interactive tutorial walks you through the moves you have at your disposal. Unlike in Shadowgun, you don’t have full control over your movement. All you can do is dodge by swiping left or right, duck behind cover by swiping down, or do an acrobatic flip across the screen by swiping upward. There’s no retreating, or rushing the enemy, or anything like that. It’s duck, dodge, and gun.

To shoot, all you have to do is tap to target the enemy you want to destroy. After that, anytime you’re not ducking behind cover, your robot will automatically fire at the targeted enemy using your standard gun. From then on, it’s all about avoiding enemy fire and using your auxiliary weapons strategically. Overall, the controls are very intuitive, and we found ourselves dancing around like a ballet-trained assassin in no time.

Your other weapons become unlocked gradually as you progress. You’ll get a grenade, a missile, and a time-slowing device that can help you get out of hairy situations like, for instance, a bunch of attack robots pumping you full of bullets. Often the battles are so intense that there’s very little time to glance up at your health meter.

The enemies you’ll face come in a number of varieties. Some are heavily armored and pack massive artillery, while others spend much of their time behind cover, but can be mowed down pretty quickly when they emerge. Some shoot pistols, some lob grenades, and some fire laserbeams that can slice through the cover you’re hiding behind. Even though the basic move set may sound limited, we found ourselves adopting various strategies to take out the enemies we faced.

At the end of each firefight you’re shown your combat results, which track how many credits and experience you earned, as well as your stats. Between rounds you can read text “intercepts” that advance the game’s story, or visit the Scrapyard to buy new gear using the credits you’ve earned.

The scrapyard brings in a character progression aspect to the game, and it’s where we spent most of our time between firefights. Here you can buy better gear, like more powerful guns, grenades, missiles, armor, etc. It works a lot like how Infinity Blade’s store works, and when you buy better gear, you’ll usually notice the results immediately. Not all gear that’s more expensive than what you have equipped is necessarily better, though. Some guns pack more of a punch, for instance, but have a lower rate of fire.

So even though the combat is quite different, Epoch is surprisingly similar to Infinity Blade, and may prove just as addictive. It’s a streamlined, high-octane shooter that’s quite unlike most of the stuff on the App Store. We’re looking forward to playing the final version when it’s released. According to developer Uppercut Games, that should be “very soon.”

If you want more information about this frenetic shooter, read our Q & A to hear from the developers themselves.

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