This is my subjective view on the different levels of Last Epoch regarding level design and atmosphere. Everything I mention is not game breaking, I’d even guess that people would argue whether these are issues at all. Also I do not suggest to change all parts of this game that I disliked even if the majority of this community would agree (what I doubt). This would be a lot of work and I’m not sure if the result would be worth the effort. Rather I’d like to suggest that the points that are considered valid are taken into account for the future and crafting of new content.
There is no issue for me with the handcrafted levels. It grands the possibility to make levels more reasoned and to make beautiful and impressive landscapes that may be remembered. With some levels this is the case, but there are also parts when it doesn’t look like it’s handcrafted.
Some areas are already reworked, some seem outdated and tuning is possibly work in progress. Nevertheless I want to share my opinion. Also I want to invite my fellow Epochers to add their impressions here.
Story Sections - Atmosphere
Divine Era - Start:
The start in the Devine Era looks very nice. I like the (partially idyllic) atmosphere. The cliffs worth the view down the mountain is very nice. The levels aren’t complex and lead you well towards the first (mini) boss fight.
Divine Era – Late Story:
Level design is ok here. The only thing that is a bit odd is why at the Wengari Fortress there is no more snow on the ground. Again there’s a muddy brown/greenish look. I have the feeling that green is one of the favorite colors at EHG.
This is end time. No hope. This feeling is transported well in my opinion. The part in the Last Refugee gets a little bit boring after a while because you spend a lot of time in this era and there’s not much diversity. The surface parts I find nice.
I really don’t like the color shape of this whole area around Welryn and the parts in the sewers. It’s like looking at my screen through a greenish glass panel. While in the Ruined Era some colors are dominating (and that’s totally fine) here colors just seem to be missing. This is how I imagine dogs see the world. The purpose is (I guess) to transport the feeling of poison and disease. But in my opinion this definitely is too much. Even the enemy types adept to this color shape (all grey skeleton or green slime)
But then there is one of the atmospheric highlights of this game for me: The Dreadnaught’s Deck. Rainy weather, night, only lanterns illuminate the surroundings. This is very nice!
- Ancient Era:
This is the exact opposite of the Imperial Era. Very colorful, perhaps a little bit too much.
Many Bridges don’t have a handrail and lack pillars. In real life I won’t walk over many of those.
The coves are very huge for being subterranean. There are also mostly no pillars of any kind to prevent the ceiling from crumbling.
There are “houses”, but you can’t tell for what purpose. Are they shops or apartments or whatever? And they all have the same doors that look intact. So are people still in there? But why when everything is overrun by the Void. So I’d expect these doors to be left open in a rush by fleeing people or destroyed by the Void, searching for somebody to kill. But right now they look like paintings on a wall. And why did they leave so many space between these houses? I’d expect people that hide from the all-consuming Void to build their cities more compact. The areas feel too wide for being the last refuge of mankind deep in the earth.
What was/is the purpose of the council chambers? They look nice but also like the rest, there is so many empty space that serves no purpose. The name tells me that this is the place where all the elders gathered to discuss politics. But where did they do this? Did they sit on the floor?
I have to admit that I did not recognize the last refugee as a city in the first place. When you think about it you can see some elements but it’s not very obvious. Even if you image there would be people walking the streets. It’s just too huge and/or to empty. This goes for all areas. In the Armoury you see elements that remind you of a forge, but again these elements are so far away from each other nobody would really have worked there. There are no remains of a civilization that lived there a few days/weeks ago (don’t know at which point of the scenario we entered this timeline). It looks more like it has been abandoned 600 years before.
The Temple Of Eterra
Again: So much empty space only filled with enemies. Room after room after room. What purpose did these rooms serve? It feels like it’s as big as Welryn itself. That’s not a temple, that’s a city. It doesn’t feel like I am in a building. Its architecture also is completely asymmetric. Nobody would build a temple this way.
I could repeat everything I wrote on the previous section. This is not a ship. This only are design elements of parts that exist on ships lined up to be the stage for the combat. At least the map has the shape of a ship. But there are so many rooms and they are so angled that I might believe I am on a cruise liner not a medieval ship.
The End Of Time:
This Area is huge. Its design is very nice and reminds me of “Divinity Original Sin” (also because of the “Void”. But its purpose is not really clear to me. The ways between all the key NPCs (gambling, vendor, monolith, arena, despecialise,… ) are very long and there is nothing in-between but space. If the space would be filled with life like people doing their work or some crazy “Torment - Tides Of Numenera” like things. But it’s only rocks and nothing interesting. As a quest hub for multiplayer I’d guess the empty spaces will not be filled either. The people will gather around the key NPCs mentioned above.
The Gates Of Solarum:
So again a city without anything that makes it a city. Ok, we’re at the “Gates”. But then let us have a view on the city behind this Gate. This is one of the greatest cities on this planet but we only get to see empty places with barrels and some braziers.
I know the levels serve as the battlefield for our char to kill enemies, level up and loot fancy items. But partially the levels feel like I am an ant fighting my way through hostile creatures in the living room of a human. And buildings being this implausible take away a lot of immersion (at least for me personally).
The corrupted lake is a hell of a labyrinth. You have to walk a lot and ending on a dead end happens frequently. I really dislike this level.
We can’t enter buildings. There also are no real buildings except for buildings that take the place of a new map (like the “Great College” or “The Temple Of Eterra”). Why not let us enter houses and pubs and so on and scavenge some loot in there?
What I always like in games are towns from small villages to big cities. To see how people live and / or work creates a great atmosphere and immersion. This is completely missing in LE. Your save haven always is some kind of refugee camp. This fits the story very well but also always creates the feeling of apocalypse. No matter what epoch you are in, nowhere you find a healthy civilization. I have no problem with the serious setting, but I’d like to see some contrasts to spice it up.
- Ancient Area: No civilization, yet
- Devine Era: World at war - Heorot vs. Rahyeh
- Imperial Era: Near to no real humans left
- Ruined Era: As its name says
- End Of Time: All civilization already gone (together with the planet)
So there are some cities you come along, but they all are overrun by monsters. With the time travel aspect it would be possible to show the player how Welryn looked like when it was inhabited. At the moment we only get to know different states of destruction. Same relates to Maj’Elka.
There could be a time rift that takes you to Welryn in its heyday to fetch a quest item or talk to a special NPC.
Other games often have these homesteads that are filled with life. Or prospering cities, cities being under siege,… This I am missing in LE.
That’s all for now. At the end this is all just my opinion and I hope you guys are able to make use of it.