How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. UnEpic has a large contiguous castle, however there is no ability gating, and each area must be tackled in a linear fashion. There are quests and gates that send you back to earlier areas, but otherwise backtracking isn't required.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~22 hours
Review Info: UnEpic was played using the Steam version.
Buy UnEpic if you like…
- Table-Top Roleplaying Games
- Popular ''Nerd'' Culture
- Parody Humor
- Leveling Systems and Character building
- Likeable Characters
▼ Review continues below ▼
This review only covers the Single Player Mode of UnEpic. We will be reviewing the Multiplayer Mode at a future date.
In UnEpic, our hero Daniel is drinking beer and playing D&D when nature takes its course and he has to go to the bathroom. Suddenly everything goes dark and he finds himself in a strange castle living out the fantasies that he was just role playing with his buddies. Shortly after arriving Daniel is possessed by a dark spirit who inexplicably can’t control Daniel’s actions with that possession, but is involuntarily bound to Daniel’s body for the duration of the adventure. Together they face off with the castle’s guardians as they begrudgingly get to know each other. It’s a fun setup for a comedic parody, and it’s definitely something that will be appreciated most by fans of Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop role playing games. For better or worse all of UnEpic’s challenges are based on tabletop tropes, meaning that planning and strategy is generally going to trump manual skill. UnEpic pulls off both the strategic and action aspects of its designs with varying degrees of success, but the true value of the game will come from whether you happen to be in the target audience for the story it presents.
The key difference UnEpic’s design – compared to other similar games – is foreshadowed in the D&D game being played in the intro. In that cutscene Daniel attempts to hit a skeleton with an arrow, which the Dungeon Master laughs at, pointing out that an arrow would just go between the Skeleton’s ribs. Daniel protests by saying that damaging skeletons with arrows is “how it works in video games!”, to which the other players respond that table top games are more realistic. It’s a clever if not heavy handed way for the game to tell you to pay attention to weaknesses. Every monster you meet will have some special way for you to deal with them, so you better build your character in a manner that allows you to adapt to the situation accordingly.
Having the right toolkit available to you is especially important because the combat in UnEpic is relatively clunky. Each weapon has only a basic swing that locks you into its animation every time. Unlike games similar to the Igavania Castlevania games where you can cancel your animations by jumping, there is no animation canceling here. That isn’t to say jumping isn’t helpful, being able to move mid-air while you’re winding up your swing definitely has its benefits, but once you land it’s very likely your target will trade hits with you given the opportunity. Many enemies are immediately stunlocked once you make that first connection though, which is your only saving grace in the earlier parts of the game. As long as you can get that first hit in with a melee weapon, you can button mash your way to victory no matter what weapon you’re using. However, weapons can only hit one target at a time unless they have a special property that says otherwise. This means that fighting hordes will generally get you into a ton of trouble – and you face off with a lot of hordes in this game. You also get stunned just as easily as your enemies, although thankfully they’re not usually as relentless as you are. Daniel in general is fairly weak if you try to go at your enemies head on.
Daniel’s weaknesses are luckily nullified by the plethora of options you have at your disposal. Character building is everything. Swords will deal more damage to fleshy enemies, maces will deal the most damage to skeletons and armored creatures, and axes will be able to damage both adequately but at a much slower swing speed. Throughout the game you will also gain access to seven different types of magic, and no matter what build you happen to be shooting for you’re likely going to be using each school at least a little on a first time play through.
Every level up, depending on what difficulty you’re playing on, you’re given 5-7 points to specialize and power up your options. I highly recommend saving points and spending them as options become available to you, but about halfway through the game you’ll be given a chance to reallocate your points in case you mess things up. Having the wrong build can lead to a lot of frustrating trial and error as you try to jam your square block into a circular hole; with enough effort it will eventually happen, but you may get severely bruised in the process. Some options are downright impossible to use even if they seem like a good idea. For instance if you don’t have any investment in the fire school of magic, you can still benefit from the heat aura spell by using a scroll, but scrolls take a long time to cast by comparison, and you’re always interrupted by even the smallest amount of damage. Using a scroll when you also need to be dodging means you’ll be relying entirely on a lucky moment where you can complete the cast. Thus every zone in the game becomes something of a puzzle box as you find the dominant strategy against each individual monster.
UnEpic’s focus on monster weaknesses is what keeps its predictable pattern from becoming completely boring. Completing the castle is a matter of unlocking a new zone, fulfilling a quest for a local magic teacher, and killing the guardian – repeat this seven times. Every zone opens with a frightening introduction to its new gimmicks, and while it doesn’t take too long for the difficulty to level out again, it makes moving forward continually intriguing – or continually frustrating depending on your attitude.
While UnEpic lacks the ability gating that can provides a player with a sense of mastery over his or her environment like most Metroidvania games, it somewhat makes up for it by making the castle start out completely dark and having you light the way gradually as you progress. You can only see a small radius around you using your lighter, but scattered throughout each screen are torches you can permanently light up. Light up all of the torches on a single screen and you get a satisfying magic sound and an indicator on your map that you’ve lit up that room. Every room in the castle is much more inviting when you can actually see where you are going, and when exploration leads to backtracking it creates a sense of completion. Exploration isn’t rewarding just because it’s fun to light up rooms. You will also find doors that lead to optional quests, as well as shortcuts to older areas, and of course a lot of treasure.
The optional quests are part of what is the main draw of the game for me, which is the story. The UnEpic team got some great voice actors for both the protagonist and his partner anti-hero, and watching their relationship evolve is quite entertaining. The dark spirit is always trying to get you killed, and the lovable protagonist just wants to be friends. You can never quite tell if what the dark spirit is saying is true, and I’ll admit that I was fooled once or twice by him – and I can’t even be mad about that. There are parts of UnEpic that can definitely be a slog, whether it be a boss that just has too many HP, or a section with instant death that feels less than fair. But when the going got tough I always remembered that just around the corner I might get to see another banter between the characters, or meet up with another humorous NPC. There’s a lot of referential humor if you like that sort of thing, but more important to me is how much of the humor holds up on its own. Like all comedy, not every joke induces even a chuckle, but I personally got enough laughs from UnEpic to make the worst parts of the journey worth it.
Parody often relies on the audience having a shared experience with the author, and that’s definitely the case with UnEpic. As a standalone video game there are going to be a lot of people who just won’t get it. Some players will find its focus on character building frustrating, and maybe playing on too low a difficulty will reveal repetitive feeling castle. In this way it could be argued that the UnEpic Team’s second game, Ghost 1.0, is a stronger experience thanks to being inclusive of a wider audience. However, UnEpic is a little more focused in my opinion, and if you are in that target audience I think there’s a good chance you’ll have a lot of fun with it. I’m definitely in that boat. I really like what UnEpic was going for, and it’s really unique as far as 2D platformers go.
Also, “Wow, the ending of UnEpic is really cool!”
Relies heavily on execution of preplanned strategies rather than imposing a dexterity challenge on the player. This is good, but the interface can be clunky.
Platforming never gets too complicated. Like most of the designs in this game you're rewarded for utilizing the tools provided to you rather than exercising manual skill
It's strangely satisfying just lighting torches around the castle. Exploration is never challenging, but completionism is highly rewarded with sidequests and associated treasure.
Building your character to address the situation is sort of a ''puzzle'' but not the kind that is usually identified with this category. Surprisingly there's a lack of riddles or spatial reasoning puzzles, for better or worse.
The story is very fun, with some great voice actor performances. Plus the ending is really cool.
In-Game graphics are done just well enough to convey exactly what it needs to, with CGs and character portraits filling in the gaps for story sections
Catchy and appropriate for every scenario
While not every character build is equal, you have a lot of options for how to approach this game, plus three difficulty modes and three endings to achieve.