Treachery Among the Platforms
RPGs hold a special place in my heart. They have provided me with hours upon hours of fun, acting as perfect distractions to the stress of the real world. I will admit, sometimes I’ve wanted to pull my hair out trying to defeat impossible foes, like Kingdom Heart’s Sephiroth or the Final Fanatsy series’s Ultimate/Omega Weapons, but obtaining an 100% completion makes paying for hair plugs worth it. Looking for a challenge, I was glad to find it in UnEpic; a complex platformer-RPG with retro-NES style graphics and a nasty sense of humor. This blast from the past indie RPG was crafted in Barcelona, Spain, by developer Francisco Téllez de Meneses with the help of a few friends.
In the middle of a friendly game of Dungeons and Dungeons, our hero Daniel races to the bathroom with a bladder full of beer. While peeing, walls and toilet disappear leaving Daniel in complete darkness. Striking up his handy lighter, Daniel discovers he is no longer safe and sound in his buddy’s apartment. Gaining control for the first time, players begin to explore a massive castle while lighting torches and climbing ladders. Convinced everything is a hallucination or a dream, Daniel doesn’t seem too concerned when meeting a mysterious specter named Zera. Zera attempts to possess Daniel, but instead finds himself unable to control the boy and is trapped inside his body. Now the fun begins!
I thought harboring an evil specter inside my body would give me power in the way of dark magic; maybe a few devastating spells or possibly the ability to possess other beings for short periods of time. Oh so wrong I was. Right after my first weapon pick-up, I learned the hard way just how devious UnEpic can be:
UnEpic holds no sympathy for the gullible and it’s awesome! As I explored the halls of Harnakon, Zera was constantly trying to trick me into killing myself. Acting a fool, I died multiple times from his trickery and it became clear the danger in UnEpic wasn’t just the monsters around me, but the evil inside me as well.
Players are given a wide array tools to help deal with such danger. Besides the basic jump (X) and attack (square) commands, players are given 12 different quick select slots, also known as “hot keys” to computer players. I don’t believe I’ve played a console game before that lets you customize to this extent. As you can see in the videos and pictures throughout this review, the bottom-middle of the screen displays what you have quick selected and to what button it is assigned to. Just about anything can be assigned to quick select: weapons, potions, scrolls, and spells. These are assigned by either holding L1, R1, or L1+R1 and then selecting a button (X, O , Triangle, or Square). This becomes particularly handy when needing to quickly switch to a weapon more effective against certain enemies. A sword works well against foes that are fleshy and can bleed, but barely leaves a dent on armored baddies. A mace on the other hand will mash an armored enemy into a bloody pulp. There will still be instances where running is the best option:
UnEpic’s game screen is organized to keep players informed on their current status. Keep a close eye on your health and level bar that appears on the top left of the screen. Status effects like poison or fire will quickly diminish your health, but those too can be tracked via the “Effects and Spells” box to the right of quick select display. Once poisoned, a slowly decreasing green meter will appear in the “Effects and Spells” box. You will remain poisoned until that meter reaches zero. If struck again by a poisonous enemy, a brand new poison meter appears under the first, even if it’s the same enemy that struck you the first time. Spell duration is also displayed in this matter, helping you time much needed speed potions or heat aura scrolls. You can see just how this works below when I use two scrolls to survive a hard encounter:
The last box on the display is the “Quantities” box on the bottom left corner. This keeps track of all the crafting supplies you acquire. Players can find cooking pots at various locations on the map, usually accompanied by a salesman to purchase recipes off of. In fact there are many store location across the map; some for magic and others for general gear. Players can purchase cheap scrolls that can be used to teleport instantly to shops, or purchase infinite-use teleportation “sea shells” for a higher cost.
If you are finding it hard to survive while exploring the castle, try completing one of UnEpic’s hilarious quests. Quests can reward players with some truly amazing swag such as: weapons, armor, rare scrolls, and best of all pets. First off, once a quest is accepted players can track active quest requirements in the lower right hand corner of the screen. All items and actions taken are displayed in a box to the left of the quick select display, but the quest box will actively keep track of quest items and actions. Quests aren’t simple collection tasks, but rather well contrived tests of mettle and usually play host to laughable easter eggs: an Oracle name “Yogurt” that speaks like Yoda or an African salesman from the “Wachati” tribe that says “Bumble-Bee Tuna”.
Quests may be fun, but it is not your main goal to complete them. Players are tasked with killing Lord Harnakon, but in order to do so will first need to slay a series of boss monsters, each of which holds a key need to proceed further into the castle. In order to help players succeed in their voyage of terror, Pure Spirits locked in giant golden boxes are placed throughout the map. Completing quests for each spirit will imbue the player with a new magical spell such as fire, ice, or healing. The first spirit you meet is by far the most useful as he acts as a free health and save spot location. Players can be instantly teleported to from anywhere on the map using a halo the spirit gives you when you first meet. The addition of the “Return” scroll is a big bonus as well, because it would teleport me back to my active quest’s issuer. I found teleporting from place to place an amazing tool to cut out the tedious treks back and forth from store or save point.
In trying to look like an NES game, UnEpic succeeds, but with a lack of flare. Vibrant colors, killer soundtracks, and impressive enemy designs are what makes early games like Metriod or Super Marios Bros unforgettable. In UnEpic, you only find vibrant colors within item and spell icons, the sound tracks basic and short, and enemy designs are average at best, except for a few bosses. This could be due to the size of the artwork, but the game feels blurry. It could also be a side effect from how dark areas can be, but I found using L2 to zoom was my best friend. In fear of traps, I often remained zoomed in when exploring new areas.
All this said about presentation, I can’t help but wonder if UnEpic was meant to look… well.. unepic. Was the game named before or after it was completed? Regardless, what will stay in my memory is UnEpic’s gameplay, not it’s atmosphere. I did find this particular boss battle visually appealing:
In an era where indie games are plentiful, creating a unique game can be hard. Someone once told me that there isn’t a thought you could think that someone hasn’t already thought. Whether or not that’s true, UnEpic is a creative and challenging game that feels like a new-brewed idea. If you find your first playthrough too easy, I recommend trying one of UnEpic’s harder difficulties. Harder difficulties mix up the rules: manual saves required, non-invulnerability after being hit, and better vision for the monsters. There is a lot of value in replaying the game. Not only is there multiple endings, but players can complete various challenges to receive UN Points. UN Points stay with your character, even for new playthroughs. Using UN Points at the Gualix Shop, players can purchase useful items, all of which seem to be easter egg references to various games and movies:
What I love most about UnEpic is the variety of gameplay styles I can try. I can spend an entire playthrough focused on wielding magic, another on shooting at enemies from afar with a bow, a third only using scrolls, or I could just laying waste to everything after purchasing some over-powered UN gear. There are still many secrets for me to discover and different endings to conquer. Maybe once I’ve solved every mystery my fingers will become unglued to the controller, but as for now I continue to shed light on the desolate halls of Harnakon.
P.S. Does anyone know what this quest could be referencing:
Thank you for reading. Nolan — Totaltoad
P.S.S. I’m still trying to incorporate better videos into my reviews. Any and all feedback is helpful and appreciated.
UnEpic gets a 7/10 (Average)
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