A lot has happened in gaming in the last four years. Franchises have been concluded, others have been rebooted and games have been released that will go down in history as absolute classics. During those four years, a little game called Unepic
has been silently but happily residing on PC's without any word of a release on consoles. Now that 2016 has sprung upon us, the game's Spanish developers thought that we should finally be given the chance to try it out for ourselves. Now that it's finally here, is Unepic
a classic indie title or is it as bad as the name suggests?
A giant castle of mysteries awaits
In a constantly evolving industry where low budget indie titles are being released faster than you can download them, a 2D sidescrolling game like Unepic
needs to present something special to stand out. Fortunately, it does. Starting out as a simple RPG game night amongst friends, the main character, Daniel, is in need of a bathroom break. After being enveloped in darkness, Daniel resorts to using his lighter to see but now appears to have been transported to a dark, medieval castle. Believing that this is just a hallucination conjured through a drug he unintentionally ingested, Daniel plays along and explores the castle with a helpful, but malevolent companion, Zera. The adventure is also fully voiced, adding character to what would have only been pixels on a screen and something of a pleasant surprise for a game of this type.
On his travels, Daniel will run into enemies, traps and the occasional NPC. It's a simple enough concept, but Unepic
gives you enough freedom to do as you wish while also giving you a clear sense of direction. As Daniel begins to uncover his goal in this castle, he will discover new areas via keys dropped by the various bosses. The game never tells you where to go next, but this is clear through the obvious hints of the locations of locked passages and the keys that you acquire after a boss battle. Each location is distinguished by a particular colour on the map and, as you go on, you will soon realise that this is the biggest castle in the world. A central complex, mine, sewer, library, giant gardens (and much more) are all here and each has its own colour scheme and design to keep the game fresh. With this castle being the humongous labyrinth that it is, the shortcut system is extremely welcome. Each area has a couple of gates that, when unlocked, will transport Daniel to a hub where any other opened gates to other parts of the castle can be accessed instantly. Think of it as a convenient and immeasurably useful fast travel system.
Unepic This is just one of the many, many rooms to explore
isn't just a walking simulator inside a giant castle. Daniel is set-up like a classic RPG character, with access to an assortment of weapons, skills and items for his inventory. It may seem as though there is a lot to get your head around at first so that you can play efficiently, but it's actually very simple. The Metroidvania style of the game allows you to zoom in and out at will, and you can assign potions, weapons and unique items to quick slots to make things easier when playing. The game won't pause when navigating the inventory so these quick slots are invaluable.
The potions, weapons and skills will need to be carefully assigned for when Daniel engages in combat because a multitude of enemies are scattered throughout the castle, attempting to destroy you at every turn. Just like its sidescrolling forefathers, Unepic
isn't the easiest title when it comes to difficulty, but it is still widely accessible to anyone who plays it. Magic, archery or melee weapons can be chosen on the fly and certain enemies are weaker against different playstyles. It's definitely worth getting to grips with all three combat styles as all will come in handy in your initial playthrough. This isn't bad in itself, but choosing skill points upon levelling up will bring on the odd stint of indecision as you decide what's best for Daniel. Although the game isn't a deathfest, you'll need to have your wits about you so that Daniel doesn't succumb to poison or fall off a ledge. This can cause frustration in part, but progress won't be halted too regularly.
At the end of each area of the castle you will reach a boss. These bosses appear when summoned, giving you time to prepare. Once they appear, you can't help but marvel at them. From fire-breathing dragons to giant lazer-shooting heads, this is definitely one of Unepic
's strengths. Bosses can be exciting to fight as specific tactics are needed for each one and they have numerable strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit. A simple yet exhilarating tune plays out in the process and gaining a key to a new area adds an extra sense of accomplishment to the battle.
Daniel vs. Drakonius. Who will win?
This type of level design can feel slightly repetitive, but the diversity of each area works in the game's favour. A great soundtrack gives every area its own personality. While it is possible to just blaze through and go for the primary goal, there are plenty of hidden treasures, vendors and extra rooms to find. These alternate pathways may offer extra loot, a quest from an NPC for a specific reward, or simply another room to add to the never-ending manor. Everywhere you go in these rooms, Daniel will only have the aura from his own lighter, but unlit torches, lamps and braziers will await so that the castle can become a beacon of light instead of the dark and dank abode that it initially appears to be. While essentially optional, the satisfaction of hearing the "ding!" once a room is entirely lit is infectious, causing you to trawl through every inch of the castle and light up every corridor that you reach. This secondary objective adds extra playability to the game, encouraging you to explore everywhere you can, lighting up the castle and finding every possible treasure.
As well as loot and other valuables, you will stumble across challenges hidden behind breakable walls or other secret passages. These purple swirly objects unlock a specific task when picked up, giving you special credits for vendors when completed. An annoying catch, though, is that some of the game's achievements are tied to these challenges, and they will only unlock when you have actually found the corresponding challenge while attempting the requirements. This is an odd move and adds an unneeded hurdle for achievement hunters, but at least there is an in-game reward for each one.
Aside from the challenge achievement requirements, the rest of Unepic
's 57 achievements are a solid bunch. There is a decent sprinkling of story achievements and the game will ask you to light up the whole castle
as well. Specific quest achievements will be gained throughout your travels, but the biggest time consumer will be killing 10,000 enemies
. Finally, you will need to play the game on the hardest difficulty
to grab another achievement. To earn the full 1,000G you will have your work cut out for you.
probably won't be for everyone with its Metroidvania style and death prone areas, but once you get stuck in, it is an enjoyable experience. The skill system is simple but complex enough for those who like RPG's and the boss battles are memorable and exciting to witness. The castle itself is huge and there is plenty to see, so for the price there is a hefty amount of content. The requirements for the challenge related achievements is peculiar, but the completionists among us will forgive the developers as we roam through every nook and cranny, lighting up every torch and lamp that we see. There are so many indie titles that are available now and it's tough to shine above the rest when you're a 2D sidescroller like Unepic
, but it is a worthy title in the ID@Xbox library and is a great throwback to those games of old.
- Wide variety of locations in the castle
- Simple yet deep enough skill system
- Exciting boss battles
- Occasional frustration when subjected to death
- In-game challenges need to be found for certain achievements to register even when the requirements are met
The reviewer spent 10 hours exploring the castle, finding treasures and battling bosses. 11 of the game's 57 achievements were earned along the way. A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.