IMPRESSIONS: SuperEpic: The Entertainment War

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

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Just to be clear – I wanted to be a fan of SuperEpic: The Entertainment War. I love Metroidvanias, I love indies, and I love retro pixel and sprite art. Which means that SuperEpic had all the right tools at its disposal to enchant me. The premise of the game revolves around a fictional world where one company, RegnantCorp, rules all the game industry with an iron fist. They publish video games that steal the willpower of fans, while pushing irritations like microtransactions and subscriptions onto their slaves. They may also have more sinister motives than that. You play young raccoon Tantan astride his llama companion as you both venture to RegnantCorp in the pursuit of justice.

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So far, so good. I liked the tongue in cheek humor, and how all the characters are animals. Especially the added touch that all of RegnantCorp is run by literal money grubbing pigs. The art style in SuperEpic is also really attractive, featuring colorful and complex sprites. Everything looks fantastic, and there’s a fluidity to how everything moves. Frankly the art is what drew me to covering the game to begin with. Sadly, that’s about where the positive ended and the negative began.

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Any Metroidvania is make or break from the gameplay alone, and unfortunately SuperEpic just didn’t do the trick. In theory it’s sound. You move through large areas (with very intermittent save points), fight hordes of minor foes, acquire items and new abilities. In execution, it’s a very different story. As an example, the game loves to swarm you with minor enemies, including some that keep respawning, such as flying robots which drop tiny crawling bots. If the game can, it will always interrupt and try and swarm you in a dogpile. Further making this a challenge is how many of the enemies in the game lack audio cues before attacking. And since the window for dashing through an attack is very minimal, this quickly became an issue. Even minor enemies have a lot of health, which means you’ll be choosing whether it’s better to attack through them or just run away. The only advantage to killing foes is grabbing money, which is much more important in SuperEpic than in most games in the genre (more on that later). But since you don’t level up by acquiring experience, it’s generally best to cut your losses and run from a difficult room.

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All that would be fine if the combat had solid mechanics, or if the UI was easy to use, but neither is the case. You can equip three different weapons to three different face buttons, allowing a forward, upward and downward melee attack. But again, since most enemies have tons of health, that means you’re encouraged to juggle them, which really isn’t that fun and got repetitive incredibly fast. Hell, later you get some super moves that can only be recharged by juggling enemies in midair ad nauseam. And though I kind of appreciated having different weapons mapped to different attacks, there’s one big problem – you can’t change your equipment while exploring. You can only change it while you’re at the one of the shops you buy items at, run by a cadre of masked pigs. All they want is your sweet, sweet coin, and lots of it. You’ll need money to buy new equipment, attacks and even upgrades to your basic stats. Since there’s no leveling system, you have to go full Scrooge McDuck just to have a fighting chance. And while there are new abilities you gain as you progress, I didn’t ever get any that felt as though they sufficiently changed the game. In classics of the genre, each new ability you gain would make a huge impact on your exploration and combat, but here they just felt like underwhelming stopgaps. Sure, you quickly get a double jump, and that’s handy, but the levels are so huge that even having it won’t allow you to fully explore each area. Worse was that the rage attacks you get just feel equally underwhelming. You get a freebie downward kick, but it didn’t feel any more powerful than my basic attacks. Every additional rage attack costs diamonds which are very hard to find.

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Now while I’m unimpressed by the combat at large, at least the bosses are a bit more interesting. Those I encountered had some good diversity, different attack patterns and witty fourth wall breaking banter. Fighting against them felt more like playing Fatal Fury than an actual Metroidvania, with more button mashing than precise combat. The main issue is most of them wander all about the rooms you fight them in, and will generally charge you without much warning. To be fair, there is an icon that flashes to show approximately where they are off screen, but I personally was aghast at the need for this. There’s also a general floatiness to the physics in the game that upset me. It just felt like the design wasn’t tight or precise enough, and that feeling translated to the rest of the SuperEpic experience. I did have some slight hope when the game introduced a rogue-like mini game, but sadly that was hampered by the same flaws as the main experience.

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One issue that was completely perplexing was SuperEpic’s use of QR codes. I’ve never before had to use my phone to play a game on the Switch, and I wasn’t about to start here. The problem is, complete rooms are totally blocked off unless you scan various QR codes and then play a minigame to unlock a gate. I would have much preferred that investigating these codes prompted a minigame on my Switch instead, but alas that wasn’t the case here.

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I can forgive a lot, but there’s one thing I absolutely detest and that’s when a game doesn’t properly explain how things work. I know some gamers hate any sort of tutorials, but I’m fine with them so long as I can ignore them if need be. In SuperEpic, you’re often left to your own devices. You are shown how to do basic attacks early on, but that’s it. For example, I got healing items as I wandered, but couldn’t recall if the game ever explained their use. I finally confirmed that yes it does, but only after talking to the PR for the game. More importantly though, you should never not be able to figure out how to use healing items. That’s pretty basic. Later in the experience, I got a new ability to throw bombs, and was instructed to use them to destroy a wall in front of me. Key issue? They never explained how, and I tried every button without success. Hell, I even checked the pause screen for clarity and nothing was apparent. Now I know that it requires pressing down on the joystick, but that’s far from intuitive. Ultimately, these issues kept me from really enjoying the experience.

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All in all, I just can’t recommend SuperEpic: The Entertainment War. It had the right tools to be a fun game, but completely mismanaged their use. Features like odd QR codes and poorly explained mechanics made it a slog, despite the attractive aesthetic. I honestly hope this feedback helps Numskull Games produce a much better and clearer experience after this. Or perhaps even prompts them to update SuperEpic with a giant batch of fixes. As it is, there are better examples of the genre currently out there.

SuperEpic | Dead

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.