Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
I do love a good dungeon crawler, and we've been spoilt in recent years. Torchlight and its fantastic sequel showed Diablo how to get it done properly, Magicka gave players an over-the-top and comedic take on the genre, and titles such as Path Of Exile continue to look very promising, but with so many such games appearing it would take something a little different to stand out from the pack. The folks at Ubisoft Montreal might have the answer in their upcoming title The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot for two reasons - firstly, it blends two genres together to provide an almost unending amount of levels to conquer, and secondly, it's all Free To Play.
The premise of The Mighty Quest is simple enough – players run through a series of castle to attain masses of gold and lifeforce, two types of currency, and picking up gear with which to kit out their characters. This involves slaying hordes of enemies, avoiding deviously placed traps, and defeating whatever boss lies in front of the castle heart chamber where the loot chests are housed. Should the player do all of this within a certain time limit, a share of the bountiful loot is theirs, but should they fail on reach it in time they will find prize locked away to a chorus of boos (although when I fail they're all clearly saying boo-urns.)
However, what sets The Mighty Quest from its peers is that while some of the levels are produced by the developers, the majority of the castles you will see will be controlled and designed by other players. It will be their minions that lie in wait ready to pounce, it will be their traps scattered around every corner, and, most importantly, it will be their own stacks of gold and lifeforce that are awaiting those brave (and fast) enough to storm their gates. Glory, death, and bragging rights are at stake alongside the hefty piles of money in the near endless supply of castles, and only the most devious and skilled players will succeed in keeping hold of their hard won riches.
Three classes are available to players to upon starting the game - The melee-focused Knight, the spell-slinging Mage, and the hawk-wielding Thief make up the roster - each with their own unique abilities tactics, although anybody who has played a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler will know how to play each of the characters. In fact, in terms of progression, UI layout, and the controls, veterans of the genre will be able to jump in with little-to-no effort. This is aided by the tutorial that carefully explaining the mechanics as they are introduced, before unleashing the layer into the skies in search of gold and glory.
Scanning the great blue open space for castles to raid is simple and informative, with levels labelled clearly so that players can differentiate between AI-controlled castles (which are needed to be beaten to unlock new regions / tiers of castles) and player-made fortresses, along with their defence rating. With developer built levels, it is all about gaining loot and money, but raiding another player’s home adds in Crowns into the mix. These badges of honour show how successful you are in both your ability to attack and defend, with a wager thrown down depending on the player’s current level. Attack a castle which has a low defence rating and expect only a few (or perhaps no) crowns for your trouble, but failing it will result in losing a huge chunk of them. Likewise, taking on a castle with a much higher defence compared to your character will see a larger prize and less risk of losing Crowns upon a failed run.
This is perhaps the most obvious way of how The Mighty Quest nurtures rivalries to form within its populous, with the activity list that appears on the main menu keeping track of everything. Here you can see who recently stormed your castle, informing you of if they were successful, how long they took, how many crowns you gained or lost, and how much loot you were robbed of. A 20% cut of the overall stash is taken should an attacker reach the castle heart in time, meaning you will be left with something should your defences fail (although you’ll feel like you’ve been robbed blind when you do lose a significant portion of cash.) On the same screen, players can replay the raid to see how their defences were beaten (or how they crushed the intruder) but right alongside this button is another, perhaps more tempting, option – Revenge, taking you straight to the castle of the one who out-witted your fortress.
That said, it would be best to check the defence rating of the attacker’s castle before diving in for some vengeance. Running up against enemies two levels better than you will only add to the misery, let me assure you.
In terms of the enemies players will be facing, a rather varied roster of foes awaits. Simple minions such as Derps and Snotters may well be weak, but a pack of them homing in on a player at the right time can do some serious damage. Equally, larger foes such as the Cyclops deal out large amounts of damage, but can be thwarted easily enough as long as you know what you’re doing and don’t have distractions messing with your game plan. On top of this, a large portion of the roster have numerous abilities that can activated upon being upgraded. For example, the Cyclops can either have a charge ability, a powerful floorpunch stun, or a combo of punches. It’s down to the player to decide which is best for their strategy to defend their castle, meaning invaders will need to be on guard until their special abilities are identified.
Whatever you do, just keep an eye out for those bloody Bone Summoners – their ability to raise fallen minions can utterly ruin your day.
Enough of the dungeon crawling, let’s talk castle building. Players spend their masses of gold and lifeforce investing in their their castle, with various upgradable machines gradually allowing access to more powerful minions and traps. Depending on the level of the castle heart (where the loot chests are kept) players can place additional rooms of varying layouts. These range from large open rooms, to corridors, to crossroads, with the clever or more devious planners able to use these layouts to form chokepoints or launch surprise attacks. With castles having a maximum defence rating, players will have to allocate minions carefully, choosing to either have one heavy hitter surrounded by lesser minions, or places down two powerful monsters along with a trap. With each minion having their own operational radius, it is possible to link enemies together to charge from around corners, although each of these groups does have a limit to avoid having every minion in the castle being placed in one group. This allows for fairer fights, and means players will need to plan their defences carefully and economically.
That said, the castle building potion of The Mighty Quest is where the true time (and real money) sink becomes clear. Upgrading structures such as the Architect’s Office or the Summoning Portal not only cost you a significant amount of gold and lifeforce, but require the player to wait an increasing amount of time before they are ready… but spending a microtransaction currency known as Bling can do away with the time to ensure you have immediate access to new items. In previous builds, the game had included the ability to buy minions using Bling in addition to traditional methods, but the latest patch has removed this in a move I applaud. Being able to quickly buy minions was imbalanced compared to the route players must undergo to increase the size of the castle (which requires an obscene amount of gold and lifeforce at the fifth castle level) so bringing the two aspects in line should prove better for not only the fun and fairness factors, but also for the longevity of the game.
Beyond raiding and defending castles, a challenge mode is also available with weekly leaderboards, allowing players to show off their offensive capabilities in time trial runs to win Honor Points (although there’s no mention of whether they are a currency or just a bragging right.) while groups of friends can band together to form Friendzones, keeping the castle raiding among a select few in a bid to out-do each other. These modes, along with the large number of player made levels to conquer, provide a rather large amount of content for players to get through for a game that is, at a base level, completely free, but in terms of getting the best defences possible players will either need to employ a lot of patience or inject some cash into their account. At least (with the latest patch) players cannot pay their way to a good defence, and ensures that things will remain relatively fair in terms of progression.
It also helps that The Mighty Quest is incredibly charming in terms of its presentation, with a fun and colourful art style that keeps the action visually engaging even when in a dark corridor. The humour that the game exudes is simple yet endearing, making fun of its own premise throughout its intro and tutorial, and its audio design, from the fitting soundtrack to the stings that are played when a piece of loot drops, helps to make the overall package yet another top-tier Free To Play title.
If there are any concerns at this early stage in my castle-storming career, it is that the amount of time to progress from one castle defence tier to the next doesn’t match up with the player’s speed to level up. Although the need to upgrade the castle heart to upgrade machines does somewhat ensure that progression is tiered, I can’t help but feel that a rather excessive amount of grinding will be put upon the player, which in turn can lead to a feeling of strong repetition. Then again, you can argue that this is the whole point – an endless chase after loot – and you have to remember that this game is completely free. As it currently stants, I’m enjoying my time with The Might Quest, and it will be interesting to see if the enjoyment is still there in the months to come.