GAME NAME: UnEpic
DEVELOPER(S): Francisco Téllez de Meneses
PUBLISHER(S): Francisco Téllez de Meneses
GENRE(S): Action, RPG, Platformer
RELEASE DATE(S): 13 Jun 2013
Metroidvania-style games have largely been the domain of consoles and handhelds. You know what we mean; large, bleak corridors filled with monsters, lots of backtracking, leveling-up your skills and abilities and plenty of trial-and-error. PC fans have largely had to resort to wonderful indie titles such as Cave Story and, more accurately, Akuji the Demon to get their Belmont-esque fix, but now a wild contender has appeared in the form of UnEpic. While it won’t dethrone the reigning champions, there’s still a lot to love about it.
Let’s begin by saying that UnEpic is unapologetically molded in a retro style. The old 8- and 16-bit games of the retro genre were brutal to players, and this title aims to do the same, albeit not quite as harshly. While it guides players through the basics, they are nonetheless expected to apply some common sense and read the friggin’ descriptions. The game tells the story of Daniel, a stereotypical gamer nerd attending a D&D party one night with his friends. While taking a toilet break, he finds himself mysteriously whisked away to a dank, dark dungeon. Suspecting that he is in a drug-induced hallucination, Daniel decides to have a bit of fun and play out the scenario to its logical conclusion, all the while retaining his real-world experiences and recognizing references from games, movies and general geek culture. To make matters more complicated, he is possessed by a malevolent spirit (unable to exert any sort of control over his physical body) who becomes an unwitting companion offering counter-intuitive advice in the hopes that Daniel will perish.
It is exceedingly meta-referential and expects the player to be more than a little familiar with geek orientated general knowledge, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is an innocent, playful romp, as the humor can get quite crude and the language quite vulgar. As far as gameplay goes, Unepic is presented to the player as a single-screen title rather than a side-scroller, and multiple locales are visited time and again. Players are essentially locked into corridors on the screen that are connected via hallways, platforms and ladders, and they’re infested with all manner of traps and ghouls.
Weapons such as swords, daggers and bows can be obtained, and each has a specific strength and weakness against particular foes. Items dropped by enemies may be used in magical potions which the player has to brew in cauldrons haphazardly scattered all over the gaming world. As far as currency is concerned, coins can be collected from smashed barrels which can be used at a merchant to stock up on items. And it’s in the player’s best interest to keep track of the locales of shopkeepers and other notables; fortunately, the game provides a map that can even be marked and named. Still, expect more than a little confusion as you navigate the labyrinth, especially since there isn’t much variety and one room pretty much looks like another.
Like any RPG worth its salt, a leveling system is present in the form of skill points, each of which may be spent on various attributes such as constitution (health), armor and potions. These three, especially health, also count as the most important upgrades, especially in the later levels where the difficulty takes a very sharp curve upwards. And speaking of difficulty, this is as much a fault with this game as it is with the others of its ilk, players can be uncertain of which upgrades to invest in, and are left at a disadvantage when a boss encounter proves to require different set of skill points altogether. UnEpic, fortunately, doesn’t punish the players by providing them with no-win scenarios, but expect to be highly frustrated eventually.
Aesthetically, the graphics are extremely simple, which suits the overall theme, but the sprites are a tad too small and too much of the game world is taken up by the black nothingness between corridors. As mentioned previously, there isn’t a whole lot of variety; it may, however, very well be intentional as a tribute to the early games that are this title’s inspiration and I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Still, some graphical polish would be appreciated, but it’s pretty stunning considering that it is essentially a one-man effort. Sound and music are mostly unforgettable, though the dialogue is fairly amusing, with characters mocking conventions commonly associated with the genre and pop culture generally. Daniel is a likable character, particularly with his sarcastic and apathetic attitude. The overall theme of juxtaposing a modern slacker in the world of a classic RPG is a joke that never gets old.
UnEpic is a good title, but it’s definitely not for everybody. If gaming for you means getting your fix of shooting on the latest multiplayer Call of Duty: Black Ops map, then this game’s retro sensibilities are the sort of thing you’ll want to stay clear of. If, however, you’re a member of the 8-bit generation – or you have a fondness for it – and you appreciate a game that requires you to sit down and play for a long time, then don’t even hesitate in getting this.