REVIEW – This is a decent, isometric game, unique in style, and perhaps that’s why it’s so captivating. It can be deceptive to control a fox in a tunic, but it can still be a fair experience for younger players. And all of this is practically created by one man!?
Andrew Shouldice is likely to get some serious plaudits for achieving such a feat.
Tunic doesn’t tell you everything outright, as it has a strong emphasis on an exploration-based game experience. There is no complex intro to explain every detail of the lore or the critical events in the past, which seems unusual, but it’s still acceptable. There are some cliché locations and areas (snowy mountains or ruined landscapes, for example…), but it’s primarily up to you which direction you try to take because I wouldn’t call this game very linear. So there’s no hand-holding involved, which can be somewhat confusing in some places (examples could be given… such as Milestone’s earlier motocross games that just threw you in to ride a bike to set up the difficulty level), but not here. Here and there, we get hints that there are some big secrets on the island, and we piece together our story from these, but we don’t know what exactly we’re heading towards in the story, even though it seems more basic than not. You can use a sword to get rid of bushes, a grappling hook to get up to a spot where you haven’t been before, and so on, and a manual is also being “built up” as we go further. You can always turn to this because the backstory, maps and explicitly important gameplay mechanics are illustrated here. And it is not compulsory to look at it. It’s not forced on you. I like this approach!
Oh, and the gameplay uses an isometric view. So it doesn’t go sideways (in 2D in Shadow of the Beast, and 3D in… the same game’s remake), and it’s not something utterly 3D like, say, ELEX II, but if you’re familiar with Diablo‘s camera angle, you get the same thing. It might be tricky, and it does make good use of the angles with a few puzzles. Perhaps the isometric view inspires the player to turn over all the figurative stones, which is worth doing. If there’s an object in an inaccessible position, who knows, we might find it in a later detour. The sense of discovery is even more significant for the world itself. It allows you to slowly learn about each shortcut and become more transparent about how the different parts of the island are connected. Yes, this is… as stupid as it sounds, and I hate to say it: a Metroidvania-style game, where the product somewhat expects us to connect to its world, because it’s also worth mentally storing where we’ve been, as there’s less chance of getting lost and not having a clue which way to go, which means we’ll find ourselves in a familiar location. Tip: areas are not reset. Sword, grass cutting. I’m not going into further details than that.
Tunic is dirty deceptive. I mean, it’s true, I could call its visuals somewhat charming, but beneath the surface, there’s a pretty darn tricky combat system waiting for the player. Admittedly, the opponents don’t give in so quickly, and I can’t believe it, but the Souls clone feeling is there. It sounds silly, but if the fox bites the bullet, we respawn at the checkpoint in the previous location, and we have to get back to where we died so we can pick up our lost money.
Also, these savepoints replenish our health, but not for free: in return, the game respawns every opponent on the map. The implication is that we need to find an essential balance between managing our health and magic levels so that we’re not running around to a save point because we’ll keep beating the same opponents at the same point, which sounds repetitive even in text format. But there’s an option in the accessibility settings that will take you back to where you got it wrong instead of checkpoints for those who don’t want to risk it. This option does not equal an easy win. No, it’s still an excellent way to learn to put the different types of opponents in their place, so even though you still have to get through the combat, Tunic remains playable. So you can’t expect to win everywhere immediately… and that’s okay.
Tunic gets an eight out of ten because ONE MAN created it. PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series, this is the place to look for the game. It’s worth it because while it won’t be as mainstream as Toby Fox’s Undertale (speaking of which, I should make time for the second chapter of Deltarune, but I’ve been putting my scalpel into other things so that it won’t happen before 2034), it’s a passion project that should be a lovely refreshment compared to the titles coming out of the less than creative gaming industry of our time. It is comfortable, but it can also be challenging. You can lean back while you play, but it also provides a sense of controller tightness. Although the inspiration from The Legend of Zelda is overtly apparent, compared to Link, the fox has marked a different direction. And I’m glad he did.
+ Excellent art style
+ Provides a decent experience
+ It leaves us to experiment
– Slightly clichéd locations
– You have to learn to fight!/strong>
– Souls-inspiration, really…?
Developer: Andrew Shouldice
Genre: Action-adventure RPG
Release date: 16 March, 2022