Uppercut Games’ original EPOCH. is one of those classic iOS games like Infinity Blade and Real Racing that gave mobile gamers something meaty and unique that felt right at home on the touchscreen (or tilt-screen, in the case of RR). I remember thinking it looked like a glorified rail shooter at the time, and was proven completely, hopelessly wrong the first time I laid hands on it. It was an astounding game, and while it probably would have worked okay on a traditional console, it wouldn’t have felt nearly as good. EPOCH. was ours. And finally, almost exactly two years later, so is the sequel.
If you played the original (and I urge you to if not) you’ll feel right at home in EPOCH.2 (out now, $5.99). Each stage sees you hiding behind walls and barriers while enemy robots fire at you. When the time is right, you tap an enemy to target him (it?) and swipe up to pop out and start automatically firing. From there you can swipe from side to side to change your positioning or down to duck back behind cover. There are a few more moves you can perform, but that’s the gist of it, and everything feels exactly as good as the first outing.
Like any good sequel there have been a number of nifty new features and gameplay mechanics added. Each level in the campaign now has three stars to earn: one to pass the level normally, another to pass it as quickly as possible (“Time Trial”), and a final star to pass the level with much more difficult enemies (“Iron Mode”). It’s a clever way to extend the 16 levels of the campaign and will leave you with plenty to do once you’ve beaten the final boss.
On the gameplay side of things there’s a new reload mechanic that feels kind of like a golf shot powerbar (you have to swipe when the moving meter is at just the right spot on the bar). It felt unnecessary the first few times, but if you do it right you’ll reload much faster and I ended up warming to it pretty quickly. Beyond that there are now some enemies that need to be tapped rather than shot, and a new sniper rifle that has its own unique feel and controls. And speaking of sniping, there’s a new type of enemy that teleports around the map with a slowly scanning red beam that fires a devastating shot if you cross it. All of these things allow for unique new strategies and help to keep things suitably tense and exciting.
Not all of the changes are particularly welcome, however. One major omission this time around is the lack of the popular Arena mode, which saw you battling endless waves of increasingly tough enemies while completing missions like “avoid damage for the first 20 seconds”. It was a ton of fun and a great way to earn extra credits. Of course, it could make it to the sequel in an update, and I’ll be crossing my fingers.
Speaking of earning credits, one other step backward is that the in-game cash seems a lot harder to come by this time around. Running through the campaign, I barely had enough to buy more than a handful of Tier 2 items (which are practically required for anything beyond the regular campaign), and I had bought the credit doubler to boot. The payouts do scale up pretty significantly once you start dipping into the Time Trials and especially Iron Mode, but you’re still gonna have to do quite a bit of grinding to get anything in Tier 3. It helps that the gameplay is so solid it makes grinding pretty tolerable, but you’re still in for a very, very long road ahead if you’re a completionist and want to buy every item in the game.
So the real question, I suppose, is whether or not EPOCH.2 takes the series to new heights or turns it into a pretty — but hollow — metal shell of its predecessor. There are some great new ideas here to be sure, but some of the changes have not been for the better. If you weren’t a fan of the original, nothing here is going to blow your mind; if you were, though, you’re probably going to have a great time with this one. I just can’t help but wish they’d added a truly killer new feature, like multiplayer (holy crap… seriously imagine that for a second) or something. Here’s hoping they at least bring the Arena back at some point.
iFanzine Verdict: Uppercut Games’ EPOCH.2 is an amazing game taken on its own, but whether or not it’s better than the original (or even compares) is up for debate. One thing is for sure, though: it’s a very, very fun game and you would probably do well to have both. The cover-based combat feels pretty much the same as it did the first time around despite adding a few new mechanics and enemy types, but it also feels noticeably grindier (and the omission of the endless Arena mode hurts). Still, if the worst thing you can say about a game is that it’s not much better than its tremendous predecessor, that’s not such a bad thing at all.