Challenge takes indie game form in Unepic, the first release from fledgling developer Francisco Téllez de Meneses. An interesting mix of platforming, non-linear gameplay, and silly references definitely make it one worth checking out if you’re the type who yearns for a game that doesn’t just hand you solutions.
The game starts off with a bunch of friends playing a tabletop RPG. Your character is having a bit of trouble with the strategy of it and is on the receiving end of a bit of ridicule. Suddenly, you black out and find yourself in the dungeon of a castle with no idea how you got there. Those jerk friends of yours must have slipped something into your beer. You come across a dark spirit who decides to possess you, only to find that he can’t control you once inside your body. No worries for him, though, because he’s pretty confident you’ll die before you find your way out.
The funny thing is, he’s actually kind of right. Dying is something that happens a lot in this game if you aren’t careful. Many people will go into it having just played something that auto-saves every five seconds, gives you a marker for your quests, and generally holds your hand. Unepic is epically unforgiving in this respect. There are four difficulty levels: easy, medium, hard, and hard++. Fans of retro gaming (particularly NES) will appreciate it even more when they find that hard actually means hard. And if you play on hard++, I salute you because I wouldn’t even consider doing that.
After you get through the tutorial area, you can explore the dungeon, take on quests, and generally try to figure out what’s going on through some incredibly cheesy dialogue laced with fun geeky references. There are plenty of items to find and it’s clear that plenty of thought has gone into creating the combat system. Blunt weapons like the mace are effective in some situations, while magic is just plain awesome in others. Too bad you’re probably going to die a lot in the process of figuring that out.
The keyboard controls are all pretty simple, “i” for inventory and “m” for map, etc. You also have the option of using an Xbox controller if you prefer, though I’m not sure how that would work with the hot key functions. These are pretty important because you’ll be switching between weapons, using a variety of scrolls and potions throughout the game. Going into your inventory doesn’t stop combat just because you need to guzzle down a potion and change your armour.
One handy thing that is provided is the ability to put notes into your map. When you’re exploring, it’s important to take notes on where you’re heading because all the hallways and rooms look pretty similar thanks to the simple graphics, so you can head in the wrong direction through enemies that respawn for quite a while before you realise you’ve gone the wrong way.
Another fun aspect of the game is the multiplayer mode, where you can join together with friends or strangers to explore even harder dungeons together. I can’t think of a more perfect way to annoy others than to introduce them to the game and watch them die over and over in multiplayer, especially since you get pushed back to the start of the dungeon when you die.
I must admit I did get frustrated with aspects of the gameplay at times. Visually, it’s very dull and sometimes the mechanics simply didn’t feel as though they were fine-tuned enough. When melee attacking in early sections of the game, I could just slash away without getting hit as long as I stood in the right spot because enemies paused when they took damage. Other times I would jump and attack but the attack wouldn’t register until I had already hit the ground again. Thankfully, one of the best things about indie developers (this one in particular) is that they’re far more likely to spend time fixing these problems.
While it’s obviously not polished to the standard you’d expect if it were made by some AAA developer, there’s no reason why you can’t sink hours of play into Unepic and still have a great time. It might be that you or someone you know still yearns for the good old days when games were actually difficult and required some thought. I know you’re out there. Go out there and select hard++. I’ll laugh when you fall but I’ll be proud when you get back up again.
- Incredibly challenging
- Hours of gameplay
- Has multiplayer mode to add replay value
- Incredibly challenging (if you aren’t in the mood)
- Slightly clunky mechanics
- Dull visually