Epic Games Store – Review 2023 – PCMag UK

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Nobody likes a monopoly, aside from its owners. Consumers suffer when one company controls an entire industry. Many PC game stores have found ways to exist under Steam’s shadow, but none can truly take on our Editors’ Choice PC gaming marketplace. The Epic Games Store represents a real attempt to break Steam’s dominance, something only possible after the unprecedented success of Fortnite gave the creators at Epic Games enough money and clout to try a stunt this ambitious. The company’s name itself, Epic, raises expectations. The Epic Games Store could eventually be the foundation of some exciting and necessary competition in this space, but right now it’s too basic to be our top PC game store.
Like Valve, Epic Games both produces its own games and sells titles published by other companies. Of course, you can download Fortnite from the Epic Games Store, but you’ll also find other Epic games there, including the action-RPG Battle Breakers; the acclaimed, side-scroller Shadow Complex; and the classic, multiplayer shooter Unreal Tournament. Although Epic developed the first three entries in the Gears of War franchise, you need to get the Xbox app or head over to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10/11 to download those Microsoft-published games. Epic Games also acquired Rocket League‘s developers, turning that sports game into a free-to-play title.
Speaking of acquisitions, Epic has also controversially used its considerable capital to lock up exclusive deals for certain PC games. Those deals tend to only last a short time. After initially launching first on the Epic Games Store, Metro Exodus and Sifu soon found their way to Steam. However, if you want to be the first to play the remastered horror game Alan Wake, the Saints Row reboot, or the long-awaited Dead Island 2, the Epic Games Store is the only option. 
The reality is that Epic still faces an uphill battle to get games for its library, while Steam remains the PC gaming default. Other services stay focused on specific niches, such as itch.io‘s or GOG‘s retro games. Some stores solely exist to service specific publishers, such as Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net, EA’s Origin, and Ubisoft Connect. But the Epic Games Store wants it all, just like Steam, and that desire makes major holes in the library much more glaring. 
Epic may have nabbed hit PC releases such as Death Stranding, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Horizon Zero Dawn, but it lacks titles from even just a few years ago, such as Elden Ring, Monster Hunter World, and Tekken 7. All of those games are on Steam. It’s a similar story for indie games, too. Steam is so flushed with weird, tiny games that some wish Valve would take a more active role in curating the catalog. Direct2Drive, Green Man Gaming, and other smaller stores sell Steam keys. You can buy Halo games on Steam now. You can buy random movies on Steam. Publishers can’t resist its gravitational pull. At least the Epic Games Store is one of several stores that partnered with Humble Bundle (owned by PCMag’s parent company, Ziff Davis), so you can buy games and support charities. 
Though Epic disappoints in several ways (I’ll discuss later how the lack of games isn’t the only way it falls short compared with Steam), the purchasing experience is sound. When it comes to buying games, the store’s simple nature actually makes the interface less cluttered and easy to navigate. Game pages show a mix of images and video.
You can browse by genre (shooters, strategy), features (controller support, multiplayer), or operating system (Windows or macOS; Linux support is only available through unofficial mods). Several titles have VR support, another search option. 
As Epic flexes its cash to entice more users to the service, games constantly go on sale or are straight-up free to claim. There’s an entire section dedicated to free games, with new titles every week. I’m not talking about free-to-play mobile games that exploit you after the fact. Epic regularly gives away premium games. While writing this review, I could pick up railroad puzzle game Train Valley 2 for nothing. 
Discovering these deals is a breeze. You can access the store through Epic’s website or by downloading the Epic Games launcher. Unlike Steam, Epic doesn’t apply any digital rights management (DRM), but individual publishers can choose to add their own forms of copyright protection. Your saves get stored in the cloud.
I encountered no issues purchasing and playing games, and I didn’t notice any major difference in download speed using the same home Wi-Fi connection (60Mbps download) I use when downloading Steam games. You can even throttle downloads or allow downloads to continue during gameplay. If for some reason you don’t enjoy, say, Maneater’s shark carnage, you can get a refund within 14 days, as long as you’ve played less than two hours. 
The Epic Games Store passes all the minimum requirements for a PC gaming marketplace. However, more and more of these stores serve as gaming social hubs, not just a place for faceless transactions. The Xbox PC app integrates people into Microsoft’s larger ecosystem. At times, itch.io feels more like an art commune than a store. And to many players, Steam is synonymous with PC gaming in general. This wasn’t always the case. Before it matured into its current form, players constantly complained about Steam. They downloaded it begrudgingly in 2004 just to play Half-Life 2. The Epic Games Store feels like it’s in a similar, embryonic state.
Basic features you take for granted don’t appear here. There’s little sense of community since there are no user reviews to read or curators to follow. You can add games to a wish list, message friends, and now leave game ratings or answer poll questions such as “how challenging is this game?” But you can’t even take screenshots in-game without using a separate capture tool. Steam is chock-full of weird, neat ideas, from its Big Picture mode to its mobile app to its broadcasting and remote play features to its trading-card economy. These aren’t all crucial features. Arguably, some of them are even a little toxic. However, they make Steam feel richer in a way that enhances the overall experience. The Epic Games Store could still use some of that.
Fortunately, we’ve already seen progress when it comes to new features for the Epic Games Store. To its credit, the Epic Games Store has updated to add basic features, such as a shopping cart and achievements, as well as mod support. You can check out this Trello roadmap for more information on upcoming improvements. Planned features include gifting, user reviews, and an Android store. Note, however, that all of those future features just mentioned were listed when we last looked at the store more nearly three years ago and still haven’t been rolled out yet.
Fortnite isn’t the only reason why Epic reigns as one of gaming’s major players. The company also produces the Unreal Engine, the set of tools used by countless developers to create games of all shapes and sizes. Artists created CGI Star Wars sets for The Mandalorian using the Unreal Engine. The Epic Games Store already tempted existing developers with much more generous 88/12 revenue sharing, but its Unreal Engine resources may make it a great destination for aspiring developers, too.
Under the Unreal Engine section of the Epic Games launcher, you can install the latest version of the engine for free and manage your current projects. You can also browse a separate marketplace of resources, such as 3D assets, AI systems, and lighting models. Items frequently go on sale, and you can filter your search by different categories, just like on the game store. Game development requires specialized knowledge, so we recommend making sure you at least learn to code first, but the Unreal Engine section offers plenty of educational material for getting started with the engine and moving on to advanced techniques (sculpting human faces, augmented reality). The dev community forums provide plenty more knowledge and support.
Like Epic, Valve offers its own game engine, the Source engine. However, for all its strengths, the Source engine isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as Unreal Engine. You also can’t easily access those tools through Steam, with the exception of the Source Filmmaker software. The Epic Games Store positioning itself as a place to make games, not just buy them, intrigues me as a proponent for democratizing game design tools. Get your practice in now as Unreal Engine 5 blossoms alongside next-gen hardware. But if you only care about playing games, not making them, this section is also easy to ignore.   
We don’t want to paint a company as huge and successful as Epic Games, the creators of a game that still controls the culture of an entire generation of children, as an underdog. That said, the PC gaming marketplace needs more competition, and the Epic Games Store theoretically has the resources needed to compete with Steam. 
In the real world, though, this isn’t yet a fair fight. The Epic Games Store can’t overcome the gulf in premium features Steam has built up throughout the years, especially since it has slowly taken months for Epic to implement basic features it arguably should have had from the start. Is the Epic Games Store a serviceable store for buying a growing library of DRM-free PC games? Sure. Is it a helpful resource for Unreal Engine developers? Absolutely. But is it epic? Not quite.
In 2013, I started my Ziff Davis career as an intern on PCMag’s Software team. Now, I’m an Analyst on the Apps and Gaming team, and I really just want to use my fancy Northwestern University journalism degree to write about video games. I host The Pop-Off, PCMag’s video game show. I was previously the Senior Editor for Geek.com. I’ve also written for The A.V. Club, Kotaku, and Paste Magazine. I’m the author of a video game history book, Video Game of the Year, and the reason why everything you know about Street Sharks is a …
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