You know what they say, if it’s too hot, get out of the kitchen. The Finger Guns Review of Epic Chef.
I don’t think I make it a big secret that I love the adventure crafting genre. From triple AAA games to small indie games, if it has a cracking story to sink my teeth into and a bunch of things to craft and make your own, I will likely dig it. So, lets get into Epic Chef, a game which promises both.
I was aware of Epic Chef due to our own chief Sean’s indie games to excited about for the month of November. It caught my eye immediately. The trailer sees an adventurous take on those much loved games such as Cooking Mama, or Diner Dash, with an adventure to take on and much to make your own such as farm, building your own restaurants and competing with other chefs in the kitchen. Fab. Sounds ‘Epic’, like the title suggests. However, for me, it delivered about as well as our food delivery apps do here down in Somerset. I won’t bore you with the details but let’s say you’ll be waiting a long time before you get any decent food and that’s if they even decide to bring it at all.
A Zest for Life
My initial thoughts were that of perplexity. The initial title screen before choosing to start or load a game is full of blasting bright colours and is yet deathly silent. It was really jarring and I had no idea what to expect going forward. It’s the complete opposite of the next screen, which is a marching band of sound, a catchy tune and lots of sound bites as you move through the menu. I know it seems pedantic to comment on a loading screen, but first impressions can be made in 3-8 seconds and it was something that really stuck with me.
As you enter Epic Chef, You’re briefed with a short cut screen of a captain on a boat, kicking Zest, the player who you will assume, onto the Island of Ambrosia. It’s not completely clear why he’s being thrown off said boat, but nevertheless your adventure starts here.
Zest has nothing but a few buck on him, and buys a haunted house within the town that all folk of the land are attempting to persuade him otherwise of. Your house is derelict and creaky, with very little other than beams, a basic kitchen and a fireplace to keep warm. Some NPC’s give you a helping hand by giving you some seeds and thus start your mission to try and make a living here on Ambrosia as a chef
When conversing with other townsfolk, there’s no voice acting, just squawk noises, however this is totally forgivable considering just how funny the script is. It’s satire, it’s sarcastic, using very millennial / Gen Z language and it is very funny. You can get bites of both Zest talking to himself and the lines he has with others and I laughed out loud multiple times.
After the first night a giant Golem lands on your farm. He acts as a bit of a tutorial around how to plant your seeds, and gives you tools to do so, and how to gather your crops.
Each ingredient will have one of three properties; Vigour, Spirit and Sophistication. Some ingredients synergize better with others when you start to cook these and Zest can activate synergy by matching the different types of ingredients (such as meat and grass) together or by placing certain ingredients in an empty pan. As missions go on, you will have access to a wider range of ingredients and synergies to be able to understand how you can ‘score’ the best dish. Players will need to learn the mechanics of stirring, flipping and serving food. This is maybe a bit more basic than I anticipated before playing but actually is still a lot of fun even though it does take some getting used too.
You’ll be able to access further information as your chef level goes up. When cooking the food, it isn’t just about shoving ingredients together. It’s about knowing the combinations and also stirring and making sure the food doesn’t burn. Should the food start to burn in your pan, it’ll lose points in the three categories. Zest should aim to get high points in vigour, sophistication and spirit to get a good dish. He will then eat the dish and consume all the points which merge into experience for your chef level.
You can raise the amount of experience you gather from eating each dish by increasing your general vigour, spirit, and sophistication levels. As you do tasks around your farm, such as cutting trees, some categories will give you points. This could then amount to adding to the total of the dish Zest eats. As an example, you could cut down all the trees in the land leading to Zest’s vigour increasing. He now can get a total of 2x the amount of vigour points when he eats his next dish. As the player your aim would be to try and increase the vigour as much as possible so Zest can increase his experience as best he can. It is from what I can gather of other cooking type games, quite unique in adding depth into the extra ways to gain experience throughout the game.
Zest will also need materials to help build the best farm he can to be able to look after his crops and enhance them the best he can. This will include chopping wood, sometimes different types, to be able to make structures such as slaughterhouses for meat, and mixing tools.
The game is not how much you can make Zest eat, but how you use his cooking skills to win battles and build a life for himself in Ambrosia. People around the town will challenge him to cook-offs and he can take part in tournaments. Zest will need more than a tomato and potato soup to win however. Zest will need to tactically make sauces with ingredients he has available to be able to manipulate the points of either his or his opponents dish. Making this a battle, farming, crafting adventure extravaganza.
At times, the game can feel a bit debilitating. For someone called Zest he walks as if he is absolutely no zest for life. Luckily there is a mission pretty early on which can give you an animal to ride on.
Zest needs money and money can be gained throughout smaller missions throughout the town. Something that did feel a bit off for me was the amount of access and inventories Zest had keeping track for him including side missions, but would completely negate smaller tasks such as ‘Collect 5 rats for £200’. Which would have been extremely helpful for future gameplay as money is short early on.
Equally, the game lacks elaboration. For example, it gives you no clue other than when you do it, that the only way to save the game is to sleep. Zest will only sleep past 8pm and sometimes where there are night specific tasks, this can be incredibly annoying if you have nothing to do but that task, especially early on. It can also mean your arbitrarily waiting for time to go by just so you can save and exit. The game could have used that opportunity to teach or develop zests skills or do something early. I can appreciate later on, that the time can easily be used to tend to the farm or build more tools, but with no money and your seeds not fully grown, there really is little to do other than to waste time sunbathing (which is just a shot of zest on a sun lounger which passes a few hours).
The game can hint to something, or give you a mission without really telling you anything. It also has weird rules guiding the difference between a mission moving on or now. These can be like equipping a potato in your hand, or the NPC will not think you have a potato in your inventory and then you’re stuck. Sometimes quests wouldn’t realise I had finished the tasks it had set me until much later. This could easily get someone confused and running around in circles for days thinking what left of the mission might there be. It left the game feeling shallow early on, with not much to explore or do other than the task set for me, and tending to a few crops which are done in a few minutes.
Unfortunately, this is as far as I can really go with this review. Epic Chef, epically failed me when I got stuck in a mission with no way out, nothing more to do and no way to restart, unless I restarted my whole game (we will get to that soon). Without spoiling too much, The mission involves a cooking challenge where someone offers to secretly help you in said challenge or you will get your ass handed to you. You have to achieve certain things before you can challenge them that requires speaking to many different people and gathering lots of ingredients and tools. To gather some tools you will need to make money to buy the tools and therefore you also have this to do before the cook off can start.
After doing everything listed, and speaking to who I needed to speak to, the game crashed out on me. Each mission does have a small mission marker for where you need to do, and this is placed in an unreachable area behind a character who tells me that I have done everything I need to do, and I now need to speak to ‘X’ person to start the challenge. When going to speak to ‘X’ person. Zest chimes in and says I still haven’t achieved everything.
Speaking to the team who develops Epic Chef, it seems that it is a confirmed bug, albeit an uncommon one which is a huge shame. I did all of this in November 2021 before the release of the game and we sat on this hoping that a fix would come into play so I could continue my adventure. I did still run into other bugs, such as frequent freezes, but I was enjoying what I was playing. We tried many solutions, such as talking to EVERY NPC possible, walking around, doing stuff in the day, doing it at night, having different inventory items on, making sure everything was equipped ect. Unfortunately with no luck. Even the dev team’s suggestions did not come up fruitful and we let the broth go cold.
Fast forward to now, (March 2022), and in the patch notes it listed that this particular bug had now been patched out. Using the original save game presented the same issue so I restarted the game. Fine, you know, I am a patient individual who is happy to give all things a second (read like 12th because I went back and forth to this game trying to unbug the bug so many times before giving up) chance. I checked my game play itself could be salvaged which it couldn’t and restarted my progress.
Luckily with knowledge of what to do, and the bearings for most of the map, I knew my way around and what to do quickly. That said this still takes a few hours. I was feeling incredibly hopeful as I could see a big difference in the smaller bugs I noticed. I didn’t encounter any menu freeze, screen tearing or just small graphical glitches. It’s probably worth saying here that the game has loading screens, which was very strange as it was only in one place, but even that was increasingly faster on my second play through. The script somehow even seemed funnier the second time around? Although maybe that’s just me.
Getting to the mission in hand I waited with baited breath to hopefully surpass and continue my adventure in Ambrosia. I even had the lads at the HQ cross their fingers! Unfortunately, the game ran into the exact same bug. I’m not even angry (okay, I was a bit, this just seemed like a bit of a colossal waste of my time), I am just disappointed. As a consumer, this just isn’t good enough. If I had been someone who invested in the £24.99 price point (in some stores), to play approximately 4 hours before a point of no return…well, that sucks.
Here at Finger Guns, a 0/10 doesn’t mean the game was so epically bad that it doesn’t deserve a point. It just means that really, we don’t have a score for a game we haven’t really played. I am not gonna dunk on this game, because quite frankly I haven’t played enough of it. I don’t think that warrants a dunking. But it does still need to be commented on that this stuff happens, and it is not okay.
From what I did play, it was starting to go somewhere exciting, but I did already have some issues. Most of these were resolved in the second play through but equally some issues that were about the game itself. The lack of elaboration, the little to do at the beginning, the snails pace of Zest all remain.
As it stands, I can’t recommend this game to anyone. I quite frankly wouldn’t want to put you through the slow pace of it all, just to have the game break on you. From what I have seen from other lucky players who got further than I, it looks like Zest will be managing restaurants and growing substantial land, which looks alright… unfortunately you’ll have to ask them.
Epic Chef leaves much to be desired when encountering a game breaking bug that stops progression completely so early on. It has potential with unique cooking experiences, but don’t expect to be the next Gordon Ramsay anytime soon if you hit a game ending glitch.
(Editors Note: As Kat mentioned, the score of 0/10 is reserved at Finger Guns for games that we’re unable to finish due to game breaking bugs/glitches. The bug mentioned in this review appears to be one that is experienced by a small number of players. We’ve ensured that all patches were installed while playing, even deleting and reinstalling the game. The score is reflective if Kat’s experience with the game. For more information on the way we score games, please consult our review policy).
Epic Chef is available now on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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