A Game Review by Greg Dabkey
Game – Unepic
Version – Wii U eShop
ESRB Rating: ‘T’ – Teen
Release Date: 1/16/2014
Obtained – Courtesy of EnjoyUp Games
With solid gameplay, music, sound and graphics, it would be completely Unepic of you not to own this game.
Daniel is at his friend’s house playing a table-top Dungeons and Dragons type of game. He excuses himself to the restroom and is magically teleported to a mysterious castle. Armed with only his lighter, and wearing nothing but his jeans and t-shirt, he must venture through the castle to find out why (and how) he got there. He encounters a dark spirit who attempts to possess him, but is unsuccessful, leaving him trapped inside Daniel. The spirit can communicate with Daniel but not control him, and can only be released through Daniel’s death.
The story is actually quite interesting. Daniel has a lot of inner dialogue to help think through situations, giving the player a much more in-depth look into his character. It also throws in many references to popular series such as Dragon Warrior, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings to name a few. The story is quite strong, as our hero tries to figure out how he arrived at such a place and more importantly how he will leave. Each time a new character is introduced, there is always a little back story or conversation between Daniel and his possessing spirit regarding the character, and what his options are. Basically what it comes down to, his options are to help out the character in need, or to simply skip the quest altogether. There are no requirements of completing particular quests, but items gained can be of great assistance.
Gameplay & Controls
Unepic is an action/adventure game with RPG and platforming elements. You explore this castle in an 2D environment, engaging in free-for-all style combat with different creatures. There is no pausing in Unepic, so any moment that you need to settle down from the game, you need to be sure there are no enemies on the screen. The game is loaded with RPG elements as the player can get experience points from the monsters defeated and the character will level up. Upon each level up, the player acquires five points to assign to his various skills. There are skills for the different weapon types (swords, maces, axes, spears, daggers, wands, bow & arrow), along with a skill for armor or robes, and even generic ones for health, potions, and magic. The sheer variety leaves a tough decision of which ones to advance. Leveling these skills allow the player to use stronger weapons, armor, or make more complex potions. That’s not all, the game does offer some punishing difficulty and the player will die – a lot. Some of the early enemies can poison, and acquiring health can be difficult to find or replenish. Eventually you will acquire an item to teleport Daniel to the save point which will automatically fill his health up – but comes at the cost of losing progress in the current area. The game does auto-save periodically so you can still venture out and die, but will not have to completely redo everything.
Daniel’s skill set expands as he acquires new weapons. When you level up the skill, the weapon will deal a little more damage than before, so if you increased your sword skill by 1 point, you may deal an extra 1-2 damage points per swing, meaning being able to kill the enemy quicker. The entire game is all live action and player will not be able to pause – even if you load up your inventory the enemies on the screen are still moving around. Most of the simple enemies just walk back and forth, but each have strengths and weaknesses to different weapons. For example animals and humanoid creatures are weak to the sword, but stronger against a mace or dagger. The barrels are destroyed from a single hit of the mace, but will take at least four swings of the sword. So the player has to master and level up a variety of skills and be able to switch weapons on the fly. With the combat being live action, some enemies can detect your presence will advance towards you, others can be oblivious that you are near by. While striking the enemies, they will often try to run into the player or even attack back – with some enemies having range attacks to hit you from afar (but you also have a bow or magic to hit enemies from afar as well!). Some weapons or attacks also have status effects like burning or poison and the on screen health reductions assist if you’ve been poisoned or on fire. Early in the game you cannot avoid the poison, only weapon to combat it is to drink healing potions until the poison stops from time – over time it reduces the damage done to Daniel
The controls may come off as complex, but are really very simple. A is your standard action button, whether it is picking up an item, opening a chest or lighting torch or candle. B is the jump command, which helps you dodge traps, enemies and simple gaps. Y will use your equipped item, which could be a sword, a mace, bow & arrow, a magic spell, a healing potion, etc. How does one button do all of this? Well, the player is able to assign the Y button to various weapons and abilities – but will only use one weapon at a time – the currently assigned weapon. In one instance you can have the Y button be used to swing your sword, but you can change it out to drink a healing potion at any point during the game. Then it can be switched back to the sword, or perhaps using a mace. Basically the Y button is multi-functional to use many different weapons and abilities based on the various hotkeys configured. The player can trigger 12 instantly switchable items by holding L,R or both and hitting a hotkey – either Y, X, B or A, to change to that weapon, potion, spell, etc. At any time, the player can change the weapons, items, or spells that are configured to the hotkeys as they find or purchase stronger or more useful ones. As the game cannot be paused, setting the hotkeys should be done when the player is safe from traps or enemies.
Visuals & Sound
Unepic looks like a remastered NES game. The graphics are all 2D and sprite-based, but all of the models and designs are filled with detail. The music is very catchy, whether it is the player entering the enemy’s line of sight or entering into a different part of the castle. The sound effects are all solid and help immerse the player in the environment. I especially love the sound of lighting a torch and that of the pull and release of the bow & arrow. As well, Daniel and all of the characters he interacts with are all voiced. I found the voice acting to be incredibly cool and I enjoyed having the multiple characters use various tunes of voice to tell if they are angry, or simply explaining something to Daniel. It really adds a lot to the on screen text to help immerse the player in the game. The game also displays the dialogue on-screen so the player can read it if they fail to understand what was spoken or simply playing the game with the volume off. I absolutely enjoyed the art style as well as all the various music tracks and sound effects.
Final Score: 10 out of 10
Unepic’s gameplay really packs a powerful punch. Between the interchangeable weapons and abilities, RPG elements and number of quests to partake in, there are plenty of things to do. The difficulty is a reminder of the NES or SNES days, so at times it can be punishing, though the player is reloaded at the last save point or from a recent auto-save point. That should not deter the average player, but instead make them strive to do it correctly. With solid gameplay, music, sound and graphics, it would be completely unepic of you not to own this game. I would recommend this game to those that enjoy action/adventure games, RPGs, retro titles and even those that love some challenge while playing games. It is easily my Wii U eShop Game of Year and it will be tough to de-throne it.
+ interchangeable weapons
+ interesting story
+ ability to level up skill sets
+ top notch 2D graphics
+ solid voice acting, sound effects and music
+ large world to explore
+ plenty of various references to other pop culture series
- some will find this game difficult, especially without the ability to pause