Last Epoch and Diablo 4 have both generated excitement among fans of the genre. While Diablo 4 benefits from Blizzard’s pedigree and name recognition, Last Epoch offers deeper gameplay systems and long-term replayability.
For players looking for the premier ARPG experience, Last Epoch is shaping up to be the superior choice.
Why Last Epoch is the Superior ARPG
I’ve loved ARPGs ever since playing Diablo 2 many years ago, and I’ve experimented with and sunk a lot of time into games like Path of Exile and Wolcen: Lord of Mayhem. The gritty gothic world and endless item hunt sank its claws in deep. So when Blizzard announced Diablo 4 with promises of a return to form after Diablo 3, I signed up ready to recapture that magic.
My expectations ran high for its eventual release, and it was addicting for the first few months, right through to Season 2. Then I realized I was bored with the tedious end game loop of Helltides, bosses and Tree of Whispers.
I’m all for target farming a boss for 400 hours (I play OSRS so it’s in my nature) but the terrible Uber unique drop rates really turned me off the grind in Diablo 4.
Visuals and Art Direction
In terms of pure graphical fidelity, Diablo 4 has the edge. Powered by the might of Blizzard’s art teams and budgets, Diablo 4 delivers crisp visuals with excellent animation.
Last Epoch opts for a brighter, more stylized look with improved lighting effects that I prefer. This vibrant art style ensures readability in chaotic battles and compare favorably to the general gloom and darkness of Diablo 4. When you compare the two games, as I did in the screenshots above, you can see how washed out everything seems in Diablo 4.
The variety in the dungeons you travel through during the main story of Last Epoch, and in end game content such as Monoliths are completely refreshing and have enough diversity to keep you coming back for more.
Occasionally I noticed janky animations, reminding me this was an indie production. Yet the excellent skill feedback still kept combat exciting despite those limits. And the developers actively upgrade graphical assets each patch.
Ultimately, visuals are a matter of preference between realism and stylization. Diablo 4 wins on technical merits, but Last Epoch’s vibrant style and setting has its own appeal.
Combat Feel and Boss Fights
Diablo built its reputation on best-in-class combat. Diablo 4 continues that legacy with weighty animations and skills that convey power. Combined with dangerous enemies that require precision, it delivers some of the most engaging core combat in ARPGs.
However, Last Epoch holds its own with an array of excellent skills and abilities, and – dare I say it – more challenging bosses – especially when you factor in the unique time-travelling aspect in dungeons in the game.
Where Diablo 4 emphasizes skill spamming against hordes, Last Epoch promotes more tactical play, kiting, and crowd control. This leads to tense boss fights that test player skill. With improvements to animations in the works, Last Epoch may eventually overtake Diablo 4 in combat as well.
Build Variety and Replay Value
One of Last Epoch’s biggest strengths lies in its skill system. With complex skill trees for every ability allowing deep customization, players have unprecedented freedom to experiment. This leads to incredibly diverse builds not bound by traditional archetypes.
Diablo 4 strongly reinforces those identities for each class, railroading you into a specific combat role like ranged vs melee dps.
Your only real customization happens through gear and attack rotations rather than fundamentally changing playstyle possibilities. The result leaves little room for innovative builds compared to Last Epoch’s boundless experimentation potential via its flexible mastery system. I can see myself endlessly rerolling new concepts here.
Last Epoch and Diablo 4 Itemization
Items are the lifeblood of any ARPG. Great items drive the loot hunt and enable wild character builds. Here too, Last Epoch outclasses Diablo 4 through deeper itemization and more meaningful endgame progression systems.
With affixes and base types that interact with skills, Last Epoch items open up new build opportunities. The modding system also allows upgrading, recombining, and rerolling items. Meanwhile Diablo 4 echoes Diablo 3’s overreliance on core legendary affixes rather than fundamentals like sockets and links. This overly constrains gearing choices.
For endgame, Last Epoch shines with extensive mapping options, an outstanding crafting system, deterministic upgrade paths via Exalted items, and special endgame bosses.
Diablo 4’s endgame remains vague besides repeatable dungeons, Helltides, and random map events. It comes down to a simple equation – more complexity usually signals greater longevity.
Last Epoch Has A Staggering Number of Items
Instead of having Diablo 4’s legendary system, Last Epoch has Uniques in their place. Essentially these fulfil the same role, but it just feels more exciting when they drop: when a Unique drops, you know what it is, how it changes builds and what would benefit most with it. Whereas in Diablo, Legendary items are just Rares with an ability modifier.
The sheer number of Uniques in the Last Epoch blows Diablo 4 away with 44 set pieces and 274 Uniques, not including legendaries. Diablo 4 has 83 Unique items as of Season 3, and that includes Uber-Rares like The Grandfather and Harlequin Crest.
Last Epoch also has an extremely customizable Loot Filter system that allows you to recolour or hide drops that have certain affixes. Last Epoch also lets you have near unlimited Stash tabs (for an ever increasing amount of gold) which is an absolute must for anyone who wants to try out different builds or classes (or just ARPG hoarders).
As I’ve already mentioned, the amount of customization and respeccing in Last Epoch will ensure you’ll want to keep playing. However its end game content is far and away more superior to the current Diablo 4 gameplay loop.
Last Epoch offers a diverse range of endgame activities for players looking to fully optimize their character builds, however I believe it could use slightly grander scale boss encounters reminiscent of Baal in Diablo 2.
The premier endgame system is the Monolith of Fate, an infinitely scaling dungeon with alternating timelines that provide unique blessings and enhanced rewards. Players can explore these timelines to take on empowered quests, echoes, and bosses for epic loot.
The Monolith also has an ultra-challenging Empowered Mode available at max level. Beyond that, Last Epoch features more traditional dungeons like the Lightless Arbor and Temporal Sanctum which drop special resources for legendary crafting.
There is also an Arena with survival modes to test players’ mettle against endless enemy hordes with glory and prizes at stake.
In Diablo 4, players participate in the Tree of Whispers activities, which unlock special crafting materials, and catch-up gear to kickstart higher World Tiers. From there, players should finalize their build by acquiring key skills and passives after accumulating enough cash to respec at will.
The primary farming method lies in taking on Nightmare Dungeons powered by crafted Sigils to earn points towards the Paragon Board’s combat glyphs. While Uber bosses at max level exist, they’re simultaneously near impossible for the average player and not worth the investment.
Trading and Community Systems
ARPGs have always thrived on player interactions via trade and community features. Last Epoch plans robust trading infrastructure via an in-game bazaar style marketplace. Players can choose to join the Merchants Guild for trading or target farm through the Circle of Fortune faction and get better drop rates.
Diablo 4 only has direct player-to-player trading and only for Rare items, with little to no in-game support and most trading occurring over platforms like Discord.
Accessibility for New Players
While Last Epoch offers incredible depth for veterans, new players may find Diablo 4’s simplicity more welcoming. Straightforward classes, tooltips, and progression aid accessibility for beginners unfamiliar with ARPGs. Last Epoch instead unleashes full customization options which could overwhelm anyone new to the genre.
New players to the ARPG genre fall into one of three camps:
- They either don’t explore the games’ systems out of fear of messing up
- They experiment almost too much
- They follow a strict build guide online such as from IcyVeins or LastEpochTools
Diablo 4 punishes players for experimentation through expensive respeccing and upgrade costs. This isolates players in the first two camps and perpetuates the cycle of a strict meta.
Last Epoch, on the other hand, floods players with upgrade mats, gold and keys for areas to experiment in. While these systems may present themselves as obtuse and over complicated, players are expected to learn through experimentation and are rewarded for doing so.
Last Epoch also empowers player agency rather than restricting choice. As players grow in expertise, Last Epoch reveals further layers of depth to master rather than hitting skill ceilings like Diablo 4 might. What seems intimidating at first ultimately promotes retention via long-term aspirations. Given time, most should prefer Last Epoch’s approach.
Last Epoch is Rewriting the ARPG Rulebook
Last Epoch ambitiously reforges ARPG tropes into something grander. I have to credit the Diablo 4 team for trying to be innovative by putting the game in an open world, however it severely gimped a lot of the stage replayability that the genre relies on. In my experience with Diablo 4 I found myself only farming in the same two areas for the entire duration of my playtime.
From a gameplay and story standpoint, Diablo 4 plays it safer by iterating on past Diablo formulas without pushing boundaries. It banks on familiarity and Blizzard’s brand power, and for casual fans that extra accessibility and polish has appeal.
But in terms of sheer game design quality, Last Epoch experiments with bold new concepts that could redefine ARPG endgames. The complex itemization and skills breed unprecedented replayability and theorycrafting opportunities. Meanwhile excellent trading infrastructure and community features will nurture a vibrant player-led economy. This collection of deep interlocking systems points toward incredible long-term retention.
Playing Last Epoch showed me the untapped potential still existing in ARPG foundations, even with genre titans like Path of Exile, the upcoming Path of Exile 2 and Diablo 2. Only time will tell, but all signs point to this ambitious indie RPG becoming a titan in its own right.
The team at Eleventh Hour Games seems poised to shape the genre’s future. While I’ll definitely go back to Diablo 4 during the beginning of Seasons, Last Epoch will likely dominate my playtime as the superior overall package.