If you’ve been following us since the middle of last year, you’ll probably remember an interview we had with Christian Allen at E3 2015. In it, we discussed the concept of his upcoming tactical shooter, EPSILON, as well as a few of the more pronounced issues with his last game, Takedown: Red Sabre. With the official Steam page for EPSILON boasting 30% completion, I figured now was as good a time as ever to start playing, and give my take on how the game’s coming along. I’d like to preface the following by saying this title is still in a PRE-ALPHA state.
I think a little backstory is important here. Christian Allen started his game development career making Rainbow Six mods for him and his friends. He would go on to join up with Red Storm Entertainment, a subsidiary of Ubisoft, where he’d become Lead Designer for a host of titles. Allen continued in this role through most of the Ghost Recon series, eventually ending up as Creative Director on Advanced Warfighter 2.
It was then that he left for Bungie, to become Lead Designer for Halo: Reach. He resigned during development, instead joining WB Games to work on what would become Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
An impressive pedigree of games, to be sure, which is why most people were so disappointed with Takedown: Red Sabre. After a successful crowd-funding campaign, Takedown was released in 2013–and was absolutely demolished by critics.
There were a number of reasons Takedown failed, most of which are detailed in a post-mortem video by Christian himself. I won’t go into too much detail about that title, as most things that need to be said have already been beaten to death.
However, it’s clear to me after playing EPSILON that the team at Serellan is doing their best to launch forward from Takedown’s ashes.
So, what is EPSILON? According to the developer, “Epsilon is a hybrid stealth-action near-future tactical shooter where pre-planning and commanding your squad is essential for survival. Through high intensity kinetic operations, Epsilon is the unit tasked by Unipol to counter Eastern European militias engaged in human trafficking.” In feel, the game definitely seems like it’s trying pay tribute to the great tactical shooters of old–namely SWAT 4 and the original Rainbow Six.
Although there are only a scant amount of gameplay features implemented in EPSILON’s current state, the framework for a solid game is there. You’ve got a comprehensive pre-planning stage before embarking on your missions, in which you can suss out your method of attack.
In co-operative play, I can imagine this being a blast, and truly allowing for some rewarding bits of teamwork. That’s honestly the reason I play games like this, and while there aren’t any multiplayer features to speak of just yet, you can imagine how this sort of thing would work out if properly implemented.
Not all squad features are available yet either, but what’s there works competently enough. The animations for your teammates and enemies are spartan at best, though I imagine what’s there is simply a placeholder.
In the two maps available, you and your squad sweep through and eliminate every enemy in sight. The initial level happens to contain the first glimpse at EPSILON’s story, which looks sufficiently dark and interesting.
Time will tell if it becomes as morose as SWAT 4’s campaign, in which you discover a mass grave for a doomsday cult’s deceased children. But it still looks pretty intriguing! Some might consider the comic panels to be a bit cheesy, but I personally like the style they present.
To be fair, most of my complaints are due to the game being unfinished, and it’s a bit arbitrary to level such at a game that’s in pre-alpha. However, I think it’s important to discuss my issues regardless.
As of right now, the gunplay feels a little stiff, mainly due to the enemies not having much by way of physical cues. Hit detection is a little iffy, especially when you’re being struck, as I could barely tell when I was taking fire. The weapons sound decent enough, but the music was prone to cutting out on occasion.
Realistically, though, expecting a full game out of a pre-alpha is pretty silly. What EPSILON currently strives to be is a proof of concept–a sign that the team at Serellan is capable of making a badass tactical shooter.
And honestly, I’m pretty excited to see how the game pans out at this point. Between the squad-based teamplay, emphasis on pre-planning, and an actual story in a tactical shooter, (lookin’ at you, Rainbow Six: Siege) there’s a lot to look forward to with Allen’s latest offering.
EPSILON is available via Steam early access for a paltry $7.99 USD, or your regional equivalent. It’s a bit difficult to recommend in its current state, as it’s fairly unfinished and unpolished.
However, with heavy forum involvement from the devs, and 5 updates since October, you might wanna nab it before it goes up in price. Here’s hoping the finished product lives up to my expectations, and brings Serellan out of the hole that Takedown: Red Sabre dug for them.
EPSILON was previewed on the PC using a digital copy provided by Serellan. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s preview/ethics policy here.