"This is probably the most stressing thing to the team as we’ve seen games be review bombed and eviscerated when there are launch issues." Last Epoch's game director laments before the game gets... review bombed for launch issues

Last Epoch gameplay
(Image credit: Eleventh Hour Studios)

What you need to know

  • Last Epoch, a highly anticipated aRPG touted as a direct competitor to Diablo 4 launched on February 21 but has been plagued with launch issues. 
  • Servers have struggled under the capacity of 150k eager players trying to play the game, resulting in review bombing on Steam taking the game from 'Overwhelmingly Positive' to 'Mixed'.
  • The developers have been transparent on social media, both with how they extensively prepared for this issue to no avail, and how despite their best efforts it looks like playing the game offline right now is the best solution. 

Last Epoch launched on February 21 to cheers from fantasy ARPG fans, touting the game as a Diablo-killer at half the price. But that mirth was short-lived as, to the dismay of both fans and developers, the game encountered serious server issues from launch, still plaguing prospective newcomers. Despite extensive testing and preparation from Eleventh Hour Studios prior to version 1.0 launching and the game officially leaving its Early Access status, the servers buckled. Right now, the most anticipated action RPG since Diablo 4 is facing review bombing on Steam over launch woes, despite its incredible gameplay. What went wrong, and should gamers not be a little more forgiving in launch week?

Developers watched and learned from Helldivers 2 launch, and still the servers crashed.

The developers have been extremely transparent and communicative with the Last Epoch fan base, from pre to post-launch. Players expressed concern prior to Wednesday that the game would succumb to inevitable server meltdown, and perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of this situation is that this precise scenario was extensively tested. Judd Cobler, the CEO, and game director of Eleventh Hour Games took to Reddit to assuage fans' fears before launch, even acknowledging similar issues in other freshly launched games, notably Helldivers 2, which faced review bombing on day one due to server crashes and waiting times.

In this Reddit post Cobler stated, "We’ve scale tested for months with third parties, consultants, the help of infra providers, and our own backend team. We have the ability to scale servers quickly, have reserved a large amount of bare metal machines, and do not have a maximum spend for cloud overflow- it’s all elastic. From the extensive testing we’ve done, unless we do have a really crazy turnout, we should be stable. It’s not lost on us that many much larger companies than us have had issues at launch though... We’re optimistic and if there are issues it certainly won’t be for lack of effort, spend, or ignorance to the importance of launch day."

It’s not lost on us that many much larger companies than us have had issues at launch though... We’re optimistic and if there are issues it certainly won’t be for lack of effort, spend, or ignorance to the importance of launch day.

Judd Cobbler - Eleventh Hour Studios

He later added "I will say that this is probably the most stressing thing to the team as we’ve seen games be review bombed and eviscerated when there are launch issues. I remember being frustrated when games I was excited for had launch issues in the past, but now being on the other side of it I’ve seen how much of an emotional toll it can take on a team to face hatred for something that they have tried hard to prepare for but it not be received/gone well despite best efforts. Just in general I think it’s a good thing for the gaming community to understand the impact those types of things have on development teams. That’s not me asking for leniency for our team, just rather an insight I feel worth sharing for gamers in general." 

Despite all the preparation, the game was flooded on Day 1 with eager players, and the servers inevitably buckled. Players encountering error LE-61 have been sharing memes across the subreddit, but some have been less understanding and have taken to Steam reviews to express their disappointment. Last Epoch, a game that sat as an 'Overwhelmingly Positive' rated game during Early Access, has now been downgraded to 'Mixed' following its shaky launch.

Cobler was not shy about acknowledging how his previous post had "aged like milk". "Even though we felt we were prepared and came in with a high level of confidence - even feeling that we over-prepared — we were shown that in a real-world situation things can go wrong that just simply do not in simulated scale testing."

Is review bombing justified when you can't play a game you purchased due to popularity? 

(Image credit: PMS_Jordan on X/Twitter)

This isn't the first time we've seen review bombing at the launch of a game due to server issues. Helldivers 2 is currently also suffering from its own success, going into another weekend of issues with its servers and some PS5 players unable to log in at all since the latest patch. At peak, the server issues were so severe that the developers openly discouraged new players from purchasing the game until things were resolved.

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It's a frustrating situation for everyone involved, not only the developers who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to fix their game but also the fans who have paid for a product they are unable to play. It's not uncommon for excited fans to book time off work for game launches, and being met with a loading screen for the majority of your day is understandably rage-inducing. Is it justifiable behavior to then leave a bad review on Steam? In reference purely to launch issues and not the game itself? I don't think so, and I'm not alone.

Following the Helldivers 2 server meltdown, many devs from other games took to Twitter/X in support of Arrowhead Studio's plight, from Dauntless to Sea of Thieves — launch issues should neither be a surprise nor a sole reason for giving a game an unfairly scored review. Not every game has the luxury or budget for multiple server stress testing events, like Diablo 4 implemented. The launch for which ran relatively smoothly following many betas and the aptly named 'Server Slam'. 

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While many are lauding Last Epoch for being an alternative to Diablo 4, half the price with 100 stash tabs for gear and free expansions — in the same breath as these compliments, we should remind ourselves that this is an independent studio nowhere near in scale to that of Blizzard, and for that, we need to give them grace during the launch period. It's clear from the devs' extremely transparent and regular communications with fans that they are working as hard as possible to get the game working for everyone who wants to play. Right now, the main issues are not so much logging in but the excruciatingly long waiting times when loading between areas. That being said, it's still progress. The game itself looks incredible, and hopefully with time and more fixes, those positive reviews will start flooding back in. Overall, it's a positive for Eleventh Hour Studios that they've had so much interest in the game, despite it already being available in Early Access. At last count, there were over 200,000 players trying to access the game and it's not even the weekend yet.

As can be learned from Last Epoch, Helldivers 2, and numerous other games that have been met with day-one issues, we should not judge games by their initial server instability during peak demand, at least not with some of the excessive anger I've witnessed. It's clear that just as the players care deeply enough to express their frustration, the developers are real people behind the scenes trying to put out the fires. Instability is temporary; bad game design is not.

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Are you ready to travel through time and save the world of Eterra from the Void? Last Epoch is the ultimate action RPG for fans of hack and slash, loot, and epic skills. Choose from 15 mastery classes, craft legendary weapons, and explore dangerous dungeons in a ruined future.

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.