Recently, Epic Seven has been caught up in a storm of bad publicity following its most recent patches, with its Google Play rating dropping from a 4.7 to a 3.4 within less than a week. The subreddit is also flooded with critical feedback ranging from complaints to speculation to suggestions on how to implement new features better. Some players are even quitting the game, leaving posts listing their reasons why.
The backlash is all for poorly implemented new features-- but to better understand why these features are disappointing, first we need to take a better look at how the game is designed.
In Epic Seven, equipment is everything for progression-- a Hero’s base stats unequipped are only about one-sixth of their stats when equipped with good gear. Content in the game is scaled accordingly, with difficulty melting away once proper stat thresholds have been reached.
However, this progression is also set up very carefully so that it’s impossible to truly “max out” characters. In the process of acquiring equipment and enhancing it, there are many RNG-dependent opportunities to “mess up” the process, depending on what rarity the gear is.
- Has to be 85 or maybe 70 Gear
- Has to have a useful main stat (if Right piece)
- Has to have useful substats that compliment each other
- Substats should also have decent starting values
- Has to roll into the desired stats for all five Enhancement stages
- Each stat increase has natural variation, so even if it's increasing the correct substat, the growth may be marginal
Because of this, high-level players often must toss equipment and start over with a new piece many times before seeing any improvement. For your trouble it costs anywhere from 5 to 10 million Gold to build a single good piece-- and you need six to “complete” a Hero.
Like with most freemium games, currency is kept in careful balance. Usually this means intentional scarcity of premium currency and abundance of everything else, but with Epic Seven, the scarcity occurs around Gold, Stamina, and--most importantly-- your time.
Smilegate had promised features that would reduce the amount of time players need to sink into the game to progress. However, the actual implementation falls short of the mark and even pads out gameplay further, creating a monotonous experience.
Pets were introduced about a month ago and were intended to enable autoplay. And they do... but only when bribed with a rare currency, the Homemade Snack. These are currently very scarce and difficult to obtain, making auto-repeat battling very limited.
Tip: macros and apps like Auto Clicker can allow repeat auto-battling without consuming Homemade Snacks. Keep in mind though that automation breaks the game's Terms of Service and should be done at the player's own risk.
Pets also disappointed players because they require a lot of Gold to adopt and raise. Given how much Gold is already needed to create Equipment, having another feature competing for the currency did more harm than good. It did introduce some valuable bonuses-- especially for Hunts-- but overall the feature feels distracting more than helpful.
World Boss was first teased as a game mode almost a year ago, yet the actual implementation fails to be interesting or engaging. It is completely automatic and requires a very geared out roster, which only exacerbates the problems around equipment many players are having.
To make matters worse, the drop table is padded out with common items. It’s very easy content, making for a nice minigame with a chance for good rewards, but the expectation was set much higher-- hence the disappointment.
This feature is so stingy it might as well not exist. In our own guide, it’s clear that this is only worth doing if optimized, and even then the returns barely justify the cost. Given the expectations players had for a “recycling” kind of system, it was a huge letdown.
This is just patronizing.
Gachas and Game Design
The truth is, Gacha games and Hero collectors deliberately have bad game design. Extra Credits makes a good case for differentiating between Engagement and Compulsion below:
Gacha games mainly thrive on compulsion, or creating an obligation to play, rather than engagement, or genuine interest in the content. That’s not to say that the whole genre is terrible and we should all drop them, though-- for mid-game players, Epic Seven remains intrinsically rewarding with the problem-solving involved in beating Hunts, Abyss, Guild Wars, Arena opponents, the Hall of Trials, and Hell Raid. Mastery also comes into play for PvP and the knowledge required to anticipate enemy actions.
With that said, nobody can deny that Epic Seven is padded out with Skinner Box mechanics. It’s quite telling that one of the most highly anticipated features allows you to skip actually playing the game. The time investment only serves as a barrier to the most engaging content. Of course, with its treadmill-like nature, Epic Seven’s progression is engineered so that the next milestone is always ahead of the player.
The gear grind isn't a ticket to play the game - it IS the game.
For those who go in knowing this, Epic Seven is still a fun experience. But others who expect more are rightfully bored and feel cheated out of their time, energy and money.
For Epic Seven-- and the Gacha genre-- to survive with its monetization model, the gameplay needs to actually be enjoyable. Sadly, in the mobile genre and many RPGs, both players and developers have lost sight of one simple principle: that games should be fun.
Smilegate has posted a Notice promising changes and improvements. Whether due to translation issues or careful wording, however, the statements are too vague to generate high expectations. My hope though is that the publisher and developer can decide on a better direction for Epic Seven-- and be more honest with players along the way.