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Diablo 4 > Off Topic > Video GamesFeb 29, 2024 10:00 am CT

What Diablo 4 could learn from the new ARPG Last Epoch

The Last Epoch launched last week after five years of early access, and it’s an ARPG that, like almost every ARPG in existence, is clearly heavily influenced by Diablo 2. Last Epoch isn’t even trying to hide that it wants to be Diablo 2 with weird time magic. The UI, the starting classes, the feel of the combat will all be very familiar to Diablo players. Every ARPG in the past twenty years has been following a similar pattern already, and Last Epoch is just the most recent one. However, Last Epoch takes those influences and goes in inventive new ways, with a premise that elevates it beyond a mere clone of previous games.

Diablo 4especially in its seasonal content, could take some inspiration from Last Epoch — and you could argue it’s only fair that it should considering how much of Diablo is written into the game’s DNA. I think the way this new ARPG works its premise into the game mechanics is a very and important element that breathes new life into the genre. And in a genre that is (intentionally) packed with procedurally generated content, games need to have that kind of spark.

So let’s talk about what Diablo 4 could learn by studying Last Epoch.

You can play Last Epoch offline

Last Epoch does not have to be played online. If you want to play online with friends, you can, but if you want to play by yourself offline — so that you could play Last Epoch even if your internet was out — you that is also an option. One caveat is that offline characters cannot be shifted to online play, as of now. But that’s a small price to pay to be able to play the game when the servers are down for maintenance or big patches. If Diablo 4 were to borrow nothing else from Last Epoch, an offline play option would bring tears of joy to my eyes.

Last Epoch bakes replayability into the story

One of the ways that Last Epoch tackles replayability and the gameplay need to send players through previously played content is by making the entire game about doing just that. The game is set in a world that has come to the end of the road — a world that has seen thousands of years of events unfold that have led to a small population of people clinging to life in a blasted, void-choked nightmarescape. Now these last survivors in the last epoch of history (hey, the title of the game!) have to use their power to travel through and manipulate time to attempt to change history and prevent the nightmare future that is their present from ever happening in the first place.

This means that at various points, your character will be traveling back to the scenes of previously played missions and playing them again, this time with full awareness of what happened last time and the means to take steps to change those outcomes. It’s a brilliant way to take the idea of evergreen content and make it not just a series of repetitions, but rather a way to change and deepen the experience. I can’t help but think that you could do a brilliant seasonal theme based around a similar idea — imagine attempting to travel back to Nevesk and prevent yourself from being force-fed Lilith’s petals, or saving Donan’s son Yorin from his horrible fate.

Timelines and Echoes are an extension of this concept that serve as one of Last Epoch‘s endgame options — sort of Adventure Mode from Diablo 3 meets Starfield‘s New Game Plus model, where you travel to different universes and essentially create new futures for them as part of your attempt to alter the past of your own world. Another way to think about them would be “What if Nephalem Rifts became permanent worlds you could explore once you finished them?” I think this is an idea with definite possibilities for Diablo 4, perhaps as a way to get to replay the original campaign story of the pursuit of Lilith and actually add in story complications, choice, and consequences.

The approach to time, altering the present by going into the past, also manifests in the abilities in Last Epoch, and I definitely think that a Diablo 4 season built around players getting to monkey around with time powers would be a pretty awesome one. Perhaps your Necromancer could create armies of undead who actually rewind and ‘un-die’ if something destroys them, your Druid could use time to rewind their own injuries, your Barbarian could step outside of time and hit an opponent five times in a row before restarting the flow of time so that they take a massive amount of damage at once.

Last Epoch has extra gear customization through crafting

I have to say that the sheer flexibility of Last Epoch‘s crafting system makes Diablo 4‘s Occultist look a little wan by comparison. The level of customization and detail available is something every ARPG, not just Diablo 4, should be looking at. It’s not a quantum leap or anything — in many ways it’s similar to where Diablo 4 is now, just with more options for customizing gear to be better suited for the build you’re aiming for.

For example, you can add exactly the stat or skill power boost you want to any item that has an open crafting slot. No open crafting slot? You can remove an existing stat from the item to open one up (though which stat that is removed is random). Where do you get the crafting items necessary to do this? From the many loot drops you gather while adventuring. If you love your axe, but another weapon drops with a stat you desperately desire, you can deconstruct that drop to get the stat as a craftable item and then slot it into your current axe. So instead of replacing your armor and weapons all the time, you mostly upgrade the ones you have to complement the playstyle that works for you.

Last Epoch has a loot filter you can’t live without

And this leads to the most important feature that every ARPG out there should consider if they don’t have it: a highly customizable loot filter. There are many, many play styles in the game which leads to 95% of the loot that drops being useless for you. On top of that, dropped loot only sells for a few gold and with limited bag space you only want to pick up the items you can break down for crafting or straight up upgrades for what you currently have equipped. The Last Epoch team has created a loot filter interface that allows to specify which kind of loot you want to see and which kind of loot you don’t.

So when you kill a monster or a loot pinata boss, every item still drops, but with your loot filter in place, the game will only show you the ones with the stats you specified, like extra necrotic damage for your Necromancer or health regeneration for your Paladin. The other loot is still there and you can press the X key to reveal it in case you want to see what you’re missing out on. Let’s face it, no one wants to be constantly stopping during their speed run to check out every piece of dropped loot to do the math if it is an upgrade or not. With the loot filter, you grab it all and sort it out afterwards.

There’s actually a lot more to Last Epoch — 15 classes, every skill has its own skill tree, and all builds are viable — than I’ve gotten to explore as yet, but the above are just some of the ideas I think would be worth pursuing. With its seasons, Diablo 4 has a ready-made way to experiment with new ideas and see which ones might fit the game in a more permanent way, and I think Last Epoch has some good ideas that would make for an interesting season for the game.

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Filed Under: ARPG, Last Epoch

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