When I first saw Epic Chef I was intrigued. I am not really a fan of cooking competition shows, but the idea of a video game being built around them sounded interesting. As I am far from a chef the fact that the game took a more streamlined and silly approach to cooking was a welcome addition as well. On top of this Epic Chef didn’t seem to take itself seriously which is always a plus in my book as I like games that actively try to be quirky. Epic Chef in some ways is similar to your typical farming simulator, but its quirky atmosphere and interesting cooking mechanics lead to a fun game that many will likely enjoy.
In Epic Chef you play as Zest. Zest has recently arrived in the city of Ambrosia after acquiring a piece of property for a surprisingly good deal. It turns out that his new property is quite large but also rundown and kind of haunted. The city of Ambrosia is also not your typical town as its residents are quite eccentric and are obsessed with cooking. Much of the town is centered around its epic cooking battles where two chefs settle their disagreements in the kitchen. Can you make something of your rundown property and in the process become the most epic chef in all of Ambrosia?
Epic Chef’s gameplay feels like a combination of a number of different genres. Probably the most prevalent is your typical farm/life simulator. Shortly after you arrive at your home you are given the tools to start making use of your new property. Like most of the games from this genre you can use your axe to cut down trees for wood which is used to make various buildings. You can also till the land and plant various types of crops. Since your land is infused with magic, crops grow really quickly where they will produce crops at least once a day. You will eventually get access to various livestock as well.
This aspect of the game is very similar to a lot of games from this genre. Outside of your crops growing really quickly, this mechanic doesn’t really have anything particularly new. You till the land and plant seeds. Then you just wait for the crops to grow and harvest them once they are grown. Crops can be sold/traded for money or you can use them for the cooking mechanic. If you are hoping that this element of the game would bring something new to the genre, you likely will be disappointed. This isn’t to say that this part of the game is bad. It is still fun to run your farm and expand it. With how fast your crops grow you can actually grow your farm much quicker than most of the games from this genre. The controls are pretty straightforward and work well for the most part. If you enjoy this type of game at all, you will likely have fun with the farming element of the game.
Outside of growing crops in order to sell them for money, you can also use them to cook dishes. The cooking in the game is a sort of mini game. Each dish you cook in the game will include three different ingredients. A dish will be judged based on three elements with each ingredient providing its own points towards each of the three elements. Each ingredient has its own inherent values but can also receive bonus points from things such as other ingredients that are added or even when the ingredient is added to the dish. You can also apply spices/sauces to a dish to add even more modifiers to the dish. When you add each ingredient to the dish it will start to cook releasing its points into the dish. To add them to the value of the dish you will stir the ingredients. If you let them simmer though for a while they will add to the dish’s aroma which can be important for chef battles. While cooking you can’t leave ingredients cooking for too long or they will start to burn which will reduce the dish’s overall value. The dishes you make can be eaten which will give you experience helping you level up. They can also be given to residents for money, or you could prepare meals for a chef battle.
Chef battles occasionally come up in the game mostly as a way to earn money or to advance the story forward. For each cooking battle you will prepare one or more dishes for a judge. Each judge has their own preferences for ingredients and other flavors which will impact how your prepare your meal. You will receive points for the value of the dish you prepare with bonuses being applied for any judge preferences that you meet. The judge ultimately will declare the chef with the highest total value between all of the dishes the winner of the duel. As you are competing against another chef you can get creative in how you prepare your dishes as you can add flavors that make a judge like a certain type of dish more or less. Thus you can indirectly sabotage the other chef in order to get an advantage in the battle.
This was the element of Epic Chef that I was most intrigued by. I have never really cared for cooking competition shows, but I was intrigued by Epic Chef as the idea of a cooking battle game actually sounded interesting. This element of the game is not exactly what I expected it to be. Outside of making sure none of the ingredients burn, there is no time limit to the cooking aspect of the game. The cooking itself is quite straightforward as you just put in a few ingredients and stir them to pick up the points. Choosing whether to let ingredients simmer to add to your aroma adds a little complexity as you have to determine if you want the judge to eat your dish or your competitor’s first. There is nothing wrong with these elements as they are still fun. I wouldn’t say the cooking itself is all that dynamic though. Outside of timing things correctly to increase your aroma skill without losing value and avoiding ingredients burning, the cooking itself is not all that challenging.
What I was kind of surprised by though was that much of the cooking is actually built around the choice of ingredients and spices/sauces. The game actually gives you a lot of options of what ingredients to include in a dish. There are quite a few different ingredients that you can use and you can use them in different combinations. In a way crafting a dish kind of feels like a puzzle. Some battles require you to emphasize certain things while in others you are just trying to maximize its score. To make a good dish you need to take advantage of the various ingredients synergies. The order you place ingredients into your dish and certain ingredients being used together can greatly improve your score. These are presented in a very easy to understand way where you can look at all of your ingredients and know right away what synergies you can take advantage of. I found this to be quite interesting. You can just throw any odd ingredients together to make a dish, but planning out which ingredients to use and their order can really help you score higher. This is the element of Epic Chef that I probably liked the most as it is pretty creative and fun.
Normally you would expect a cooking video game to basically ignore the story as how much of a story could a cooking game actually have? I have to say that I was honestly kind of surprised by the amount of effort that was put into the story of Epic Chef. The story is more than just cooking dishes in order to become the best chef. The game takes your into a quirky world kind of reminiscent of Sir Terry Pratchett’s work. Simply put the game is not going for a realistic story. Between its quirky world and characters to the simple premise of a whole town obsessed with cooking battles, how could it not go down the absurd path.
I think people are going to have very differing opinions on this aspect of the game. If you are looking for a serious game, Epic Chef is far from it. As a fan of quirky/weird games, this was actually one of the things that initially intrigued me about Epic Chef. I won’t deny that the game has a quirky sense of humor that won’t appeal to everyone. In fact the humor itself can be kind of hit or miss. Sometimes the game can be quite funny where I genuinely laughed out loud. Other times the jokes can fall so flat that I groaned. While it can be hit or miss at times, I genuinely appreciated that the game tried to be funny and actually put in a lot of work adding an actual story to a genre that rarely puts in any effort. The world and characters are interesting leading to an unique and memorable experience.
Outside of some of the mechanics not being the most original, I would say Epic Chef’s other biggest issue is some occasional technical issues/bugs. The game has a number of load times which are placed in some strange locations. The load times aren’t super long, but they do break up the action and make it kind of a pain to travel from your home to the city and back. The game also has a few minor bugs. To interact with certain objects you have to be in a very specific area, and sometimes I pressed a button and the game didn’t seem to even recognize it. I also once encountered a bug where an invisible wall temporarily blocked me from moving in one direction. These are mostly minor as it just means you have to waste a little time, but they do hurt the experience some.
As for Epic Chef’s length I can’t really give you a definitive answer. Part of this is because I haven’t completed the game so I am not sure how long the main story goes. It is mostly due to the game it being the type where you have a lot of impact on how long the game will last. The game really encourages you to take your time, grow your farm, and interact with people in town. If you just enjoy running your farm or cooking dishes in order to make money, you likely will get a lot of time out of the game just doing whatever you want. If you are the type of player that is only focused on the task in front of you though, the game will likely be quite a bit shorter. Thus whether you will get your money’s worth out of the game really comes down to how you plan on approaching it.
Ultimately Epic Chef is not a perfect game, but it is still pretty fun. I would say that the majority of the game is built around running your own farm. You grow crops and raise animals in order to acquire the ingredients that you need for cooking. This aspect of the game is not particularly original, but still fun in its own way. The cooking on the other hand is pretty interesting. Actually making the dishes is pretty straightforward and simple. Crafting the dish is where the real skill and interesting mechanics come from. To make a good dish you need to find the right mixture of ingredients to maximize their value. In a way this feels like a sort of puzzle which can be quite enjoyable. Outside of the gameplay the game actually puts a pretty big emphasis on its story. The story won’t be for everyone. It can be quite quirky and misses the mark at times, but it has a sort of charm and can actually be pretty funny at times.
My recommendation for Epic Chef mostly comes down to your feelings toward farm simulation games and quirky games in general. If you don’t generally care for farming simulator games, I don’t see the game being for you as that plays a pretty big role in the game. If you like farming simulator games though and are intrigued by either the quirky atmosphere or the cooking mechanics, I think you will enjoy Epic Chef and should consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Infinigon Games and Team17 for the review copy of Epic Chef used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.