by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
New Take on Metroidvania (cntd)
Like most games of this type, you will need to backtrack to unlock passages and locked doors. The castle is so large, however, that trying to remember every location would be virtually impossible. Thankfully, Unepic allows you to add notes to every area you have visited. Before finding my first key, I had come across three locked dungeon entrances. It was enough to make me wonder if I had missed something along the way but because of my notes, I was able to know just where to return when I’d found the right key.
RPG Progression Systems
Where Unepic really becomes unique is its RPG-inspired progression system. Throughout the game you will accumulate experience which levels up your character. Each level allows you to invest five attribute points into stats which boost your character attributes and weapon skills. New weapons and armor drop from chests or can be purchased at merchants which also impact your stats. Enemies drop materials and magical essences which can be used to craft potions. Spells and abilities can also be trained. Each of these items is able to be bound to a Warcraft-esque hotbar for easy access. Choosing the right tool for the job is important but not always clear, so it is good to have several options on hand when learning new enemies.
As you explore, you will encounter many NPCs and discover new missions to fill out your journey. Since Téllez de Meneses cites World of Warcraft as an inspiration, it is not hard to draw a connection between the two. Like Warcraft, these missions tend to be basic item-runs but match the game mechanics well. They are also a great opportunity for side-stories.
Good But Needing Refinement
This all sounds like a recipe for success, and in many ways it is, but still needs refinement to reach its potential. Platforming sometimes feels stiff and, as a result, imprecise. Whether I played with a keyboard and mouse or a gamepad, Daniel seems to hang in his jumps before moving left or right. This makes it hard to judge and control Daniel when leaping for platforms, especially when still. When leaping from ladders, he lacks the same upward momentum of a normal jump and propels forward in an unnaturally stilted, weak manner.
Combat also feels a bit stiff and initially awkward. Unepic insists that you switch between mouse and keyboard for menus and pure-keyboard for gameplay when not using a gamepad. Switching is cumbersome and the natural inclination is to click to attack which is currently impossible. With time, this issue fades but awkward control remains an early stumbling point. Combat is fun but getting a single hit in on some enemies leaves them temporarily immobile – which is good, but may leave you feeling like you hit the pause button on their routines. Enemies quickly ramp up in cleverness, and culminate in some truly difficult boss encounters, but these mini-freezes add to the sense of rigidity laced throughout otherwise excellent gameplay.
I was a fan of Unepic’s art style and audio sensibilities. The comic-style of character portraits fits well with the smart-aleck writing style and sprite graphics. Unepic feels delightfully retro but is enhanced with modern lighting effects and catchy soundtrack. With its Steam release, the game now also offers a full array of resolutions, a common criticism of its previous release.
Unepic caught my attention from the outset. What young gamer hasn’t imagined being whisked away into their favorite video game? Spanish developer Francisco Téllez de Meneses has finally answered this fantasy in an authentic way. Unepic smartly uses its setting to identify with its player. The frequent references to old video games and movies can sometimes be overbearing but often succeed in enticing a smile. Combat and platforming do sometimes feel stiff but never game-breakingly so. With over twenty hours of content and a paltry $8 price tag, Unepic is worth experiencing, even if to re-explore a childhood fantasy.
Great concept. Clever writing. Tons of content.
Jokes sometimes fall flat. Combat and platforming can feel stiff.