I’d heard nothing about this game before seeing it on my initial walk-about in the middle of the Digital Showcase Floor, advertised with the tagline ” Death is a Strategy” . I didn’t stop at Epitaph’s table, manned by Designer Wyatt Yeong, initially but that tagline stuck with me. What did it mean? Death is a strategy? This has to be cool. So, pretty quickly, I wound my way back around the showcase floor and asked Wyatt to pitch me on Epitaph.
I could have never anticipated how much I would love this game.
Epitaph is a tactical fighting game that combines the thoughtful strategy of games like Fire Emblem with the speed and excitement of games like Street Fighter. Each player commands a team of three Reapers, the many faces of death, to steal souls away from your enemies and conquer the afterlife. A unique real-time, cooldown-based combat system challenges players to form combos between their combatants, setting up brutal moves and countering the plans of their opponent. But be careful – every time a character dies, they come back stronger, so moving closer to victory will also make your opposition even more formidable
Epitpah is a strange, yet compelling mix of two often disparate ideas. All of the actions in Epitaph take place in real time, but every ability has a delay and a cool down, so everything is in essence queued.
This starts out being a little difficult to get the hang off, or felt like it did for me, but quickly became addicting. Every combo you pull off feels like two parts of a puzzle finally clicking in place. It’s incredibly satisfying. There are a host of different characters to construct your teams with, each with their own different abilities and actions, allowing you to play in a lot of different ways: You could focus on raw power, or control, or just moving people around the play area to the perfect spot.
The other thing that adds an incredible amount of strategy to Epitaph is, as the tagline said, death. When one of your characters dies, they level up. Not by killing, but by being killed.
And that level up matters.
Individual Reapers can become incredibly powerful with a couple of deaths, and become real threats. This means that sacrificing one of your own units for an early level up could be a very viable strategy.
Visually, Epitaph is fantastic, and wonderfully coherent. The florescent shades of the two teams contrast with the blacks and greys of the characters and the background. The low poly models are visually striking and do a great job of suggesting what each unit is particularly good at.
I’ll be eager to see how Epitaph develops, and even more eager to play more of this fantastic indie title.