Daniel is having a bad day. A very bad day. One minute he was with his friends drinking beer and playing Dungeons & Dragons, (albeit badly), and the next moment, while relieving himself in the toilet, he has been transported from his world to the castle of Harnakon. Groping his way forward using only the radiance of his lighter, he soon encounters a guardian of the castle, Zerathul, who becomes trapped within Daniel when he tries to possess what Zerathul presumes to be just another interloper in his masters kingdom. Lost in a strange fantasy style world, you must guide Daniel through the castle in a bid to return to his real life.
UnEpic is an action-RPG at its core, built within a 2D platforming world. Defeating enemies generates experience and random drops of items, gold or weapons with which to improve and upgrade your character under a streamlined RPG skill tree. This is broken down into weapon, and later magic, proficiencies, armour, health and potions, each of which improves the potency of their specific focus. Points are awarded each time you level up and can be spent up to and including your current level.
The castle itself is extensive from the dark creepy Catacombs, fetid infested sewers, undead filled libraries and the infested gardens, all are unique areas you must unlock through completing quests and overcoming other guardians hosted within the depths of the stronghold. Within each of these areas you will also find pure spirits, otherworldly entities of immense power that can grant you the knowledge of magic and even heal your wounds, should you pay proper respect to them.
Combat is extremely straightforward and precise in its execution. Each weapon speciality has varying reach extending from the close quarters dagger, through the sword, axe and pole-arm, to the extensive range of the bow and magic wands. When fighting with ranged attacks, the right trigger snaps to a nearby enemy and each successive press alternates your target while the left trigger performs a standard attack. To aid you in battle you have spells that can be learned, weapons and armour that bolsters your attacks and defence, and pets that can assist you in battle. These pets, earned through side quests within the castle help by freezing, setting aflame or even neutralising foes altogether.
All weapons, potions, spells and pets can be assigned to the substantial quick slot inventory system utilising the bumper and face buttons and can be used instantaneously during battle.
While maintaining several platforming and RPG staples, UnEpic does introduce some interesting mechanics into the game, the most amusing of which occurring during excursion into the sewers. Within, warning signs tell of leaches in the water, but a particular set of quests challenge you to venture within the turgid waters beneath the castle. After doing so I noticed a draining effect but no poison listed on my status. Upon entering my inventory I found numerous leeches had attached themselves to me and were happily draining my life. I felt a great deal of satisfaction at hearing their distinct squelches as I popped each from existence.
UnEpic has a very particular sense of humour, and focuses heavily on references from all forms of entertainment, from television, films and even other video games. As such, the humour can wane sometimes, but the interactions and observations from your incorporeal ‘guest’, Zerathul, who frequently identifies and mocks tropes from other video games never fails to amuse.
With the environment so large, it is easy to get lost, and without a guide I found myself backtracking through the entire area to find the lock that opened new areas upon the defeating of bosses.
Should the main thrust of the game not be enough, even though it contains a substantial time investment to complete, there are numerous challenges, side quests and collectibles to add to the games longevity. Although not impacting directly on the story, these do serve as sufficient distraction to add several hours on to the longevity UnEpic contains.
For an indy title, crafted by a one man development team, it all feels extremely polished. It’s simple, old school graphics, the accuracy and precision of its platforming and the depth of the roleplaying elements all combine to create a game that is truly enjoyable from first moment to last.
Thanks to Xbox and Francisco Tellez de Meneses for supporting TiX
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