by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Show Me the Mana
I’m not sure there’s even a point to business school anymore, with the explosion of manager games letting you control everything from prisons, to theme parks, to space stations, and beyond. Now, ManaVoid Entertainment Inc.’s Epic Manager lets you take control of something I would never thought could be managed - a fantasy adventure company. The first question you are asking is probably something along the lines of “what the heck you will even be managing?” Well, in Astraeus, the game’s world, there aren’t any more battles or wars and epic questers have become a bit bored. The best ones still strive for fame and fortune, so a competitive sports-like league has been created, headed by managements companies whose agents and questers compete to control the best places, loot, and quests.
It all starts with a very tongue-in-cheek draft in which the game asks you to provide a little bit of information about what kind of manager you are before letting you chose your first draft pick. The dozen or so characters you get to start with cover just about every class you can think of, and each come with a unique set of stats, character boosts and boons, unique movies, etc.
In the race to become the epic manager of legend, you will be tasked with climbing through the bronze, silver, and gold leagues to reach the top. Gameplay is split into turns which make up days, weeks, months, and years, and after each year the bottom two teams are cut from competition. It’s a clever mash of genres, and they melt together fantastically.
World’s Greatest Boss
As a fan of sports and sports management games, as well as a lover of fantasy adventures, the general premise of the game was right up my alley. During the first few rounds I will admit that I was a little nervous about the depth and challenge of the game. Things seem to progress fairly linearly, and the overworld didn’t seem particularly interesting. Luckily things picked up not too long after that, after which it became clear that there’s actually a satisfyingly large number of different gameplay elements and things to keep track of hiding under Epic Manager's cartoony guise. As the manager you need to find and research quests, assign adventurers to said quests, manage your company/team’s fame and resources, and deal out contracts to keep your talent happy and present. Working quests will bring up decisions about who to send where, what loot to keep, how to manage your talent, and are filled with bouts of both turn-based combat and text-based choices. It’s easy to get caught up in something like, say, quest management and forget about something else, like negotiating salaries, putting you in a tough spot against your salary cap. As far as I can tell there are hundreds of locations spread out across the map, around a dozen quest-givers, and a theoretically limitless supply of questers given the random distribution of stats and perks. It’s absolutely a lot to handle when it all starts rolling, but the game does a nice job of taking things slow until the systems start to stink.
Let’s Not Fight
If any aspect of the game is underwhelming, it’s the turn-based combat. While there are items to use and powers to wield, the presentation and style just seem a little too much like a mobile game, for lack of a better term. The better choice, in my opinion, is to play through the combat for the first hour or so to get a hang of how things work, then stick with auto combat for the rest. It makes you feel like the coach that the rest of the game sets you up as, giving your “players” the tools they need to succeed and hoping they can capitalize on their opportunities. The random encounters fair better, bouncing between choice making (do I attack the orcish looking merchant, or ask him why he looks so upset?) and stat checks (is it worth an agility roll to capture gold when your rogue is already low on health?) that will feel ripped right out of a Dungeons and Dragons playbook.
I’m curious to see if Epic Manager is able to find a niche in the market, as I can see more hardcore management enthusiasts being turned off by its cartoony (though charming) visual style and humor, while those more interested in the fantasy elements may be cautious of a game with an emphasis on management instead of exploration or combat. I hope it is able to find its footing though, as it’s great to see developers experimenting with new genres and ideas- especially when they turn out as fun as this one did.
A lot of elements to manage, unique genre pairing, good humor, and visually pleasing graphic design.
Combat is underwhelming and the quests could use some more meat.