Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Unepic is what can aptly be called a “ye olde 2D dungeon crawler”. Young Daniel and his friends are sitting around playing what I assume is Dungeons and Dragons. Suddenly he has to piss, and while in the bathroom someone turns off the light, and all of a sudden he finds himself in a dimly lit castle full of traps and monsters.
Gameplay consists of using one of the various weapon types or magic available to you in order to conquer the castle guardians and make your way to the lord of the castle, Harnakon. The weapons you can choose from range from sword, to axe, to bow, and chances are you’ll need to use a wide variety of them. Swords are useful against monsters such as snakes or bats, whereas maces and axes are good for skeletons and undead. Bows are useful against those cheeky enemies that pimp slap you when you get too close. Each weapon has different attack speeds, and you need certain proficiency levels in order to equip some weapons.
Weapons, items and spells can be assigned to any of the square, circle, triangle, and cross buttons, with three sets that change depending on whether you hold L1, R1 or both. As you kill things you get item drops, money or essences as well as experience points. Essences act as your MP fuel, and come in different, separate elements. With sufficient item drops you can also craft potions to pop during battle. When you level from your experience, you can put points into different skill proficiencies or status. Skill proficiency increases weapon damage and attack speed, as well as allowing you to equip more powerful weapons and armor. Putting points into constitution will increase your health.
As you progress through the dimly lit castle, you can light torches to brighten rooms and provide extra light when the whole room is lit. This is especially useful or keeping track of which rooms you have completed. There are puzzles to be solved, quests to be completed, and a saucy shadow creature possessing you to take jabs at. There is a great deal of exploration, and while some rooms or areas are aggravating, the whole experience is a rather well done experience. With the old style 8-bit like graphics giving the game a retro NES feel, and a wonderfully composed soundtrack to boot. The game is a great Metroidvania style play.
While the gameplay itself can get a little complicated when you forget what you’ve assigned to what button combo, for the most part its all quite fluid, apart from when the game freezes as you land the final hit on a boss or finish clearing a particularly difficult room. Now, if you took a look at the score I have given Unepic before reading this, you might be wondering “why not higher when you’ve said it’s really good?”. Well, here is where the game falls a little flat. Most of the side quests are experiences in excruciatingly annoying fetch quests, most of which just gave me access to spells I literally never even used. The soundtrack, while fitting and NES style, is incredibly lacking. For example, the boss theme is literally the same 12 seconds looped over and over, which wouldn’t be so bad if the loop wasn’t painfully evident. If you spend a long time during a boss fight, expect this to drive you up the wall. While the extra challenges hidden throughout the game are a cool addition, some of the requirements may make you simply facedesk because you’ve either already missed them or the requirements are so arbitrarily annoying that you just don’t wanna. The game seems very unyielding to confusing mechanics, such as leeches or vampire bats, which are sent into the inventory, but you aren’t told they are until well beyond when it stops being funny.
Where the game really hit a wall of “don’t wanna anymore” is the end. In one of the last few areas there are enemies that turn your weapons into toy hammers, and slimes that give you the status “slippery hands”. In order to transmute the toy hammer back into your real weapon, you have to find a certain character hanging out in the catacombs, and pay him 100 divine favors. Divine favors are only gained by killing undead, which make harvesting them quite the pain. The “slippery hands” effects means you drop your weapon. Literally. It is now on the floor for you to pick up again. This wouldn’t be so bad if the effect didn’t last twice as long as any non sadistic person would make it. A lot of the bosses simply turn into a challenge of “how patient are you willing to be”, despite most of them having an interesting or unique gimmick/weak point. My direct hate goes out to whoever thought invisible enemies who can only hurt by holy attacks (but who your holy attacking pet won’t touch) would be a good idea, especially when they can steal any weapon you have on hand. The better part of this is that I got flinch locked in a corner, they stole literally all my weapons, and then took about two minutes to do enough damage to kill me, thinking I could get my weapons back.
Well, the joke was on me, because I respawned in the same room with none of my weapons, and I then had to go farm cash for two hours so I could buy a weapon, so I could farm divine essence to use holy spells, so that way I could kill the buggers that took my gear. Imagine my pleasure when I came back to find out that the offending enemies had all despawned. Along with all my unique and legendary equipment. Despite wanting to be done right there, it was the final area, so I trudged through to the ending. Now, I won’t spoil the ending, but I can certainly say the final stretch was probably one big laugh for the developers, at the expense of the players. The game literally tells the player to tell everyone that the ending was amazing, which you can probably take as an indicator of how the ending will play out.
The game was definitely fun for the first 90% or so, but as soon as I hit the last stretch, everything seemed to just become a chore, and I ended up finishing the game not because I was enjoying playing it, but because I was so adamantly ticked off about being so close to the end that I had to finish it. It would probably have been a lot more enjoyable had I not lost all my equipment, but I have no intention to replay the entire game again just for the sake of keeping my gear. The game had its fun and charm, but the end of the game feels like the developers either decided to seriously troll the players, or they couldn’t decide what they wanted so they just threw the first thing they thought of into the ending. Despite that, the tower ascension was well done and made you seriously use the skills and tactics you built up to that point, so I’ll at least give them that. The pets were a nice touch, and the gags and side events were interesting. The level design was interesting, and exploring the castle feels both rewarding and exciting. If you can get past some of the issues with the end game, it was a good game and quite fun. And yes, I’m still bitter about the invisible douche canoes.Score: 7 / 10