Take the 2D sidecrolling RPG Terraria, delicately carve out the building and creative stuff, replace those things with a NES-era Metroidvania styled dungeon crawler and sprinkle in liberal handfuls of self referencial nerd jokes and pop culture references and you’ve pretty much got Unepic, a one-man project from Spanish developer Francisco Téllez de Meneses. Unepic is a re-release of a four-year-old PC and Wii U game of the same name, but is this an adventure worth taking or a spear trap to be avoided? Read on young sire, read on.
We first meet Unepic’s main protagonist Daniel sat with friends around a table, drinking some beers in the middle of a routine match of D&D. Daniel needs a pee, as one often does when drinking beers, and wanders down the corridor to syphon the old python. The lights, however, go out mid-flow and Daniel is left in the dark, literally caught with his trousers down. Initially, Daniel suspects that it’s just his friends playing a silly prank on him, but when he lights his Zippo lighter Daniel discovers stone walls, traps and skeletons strewn across the cobbled floor. At first, he thinks he’s simply hallucinating, however, he soon realises that he is trapped inside a mysterious castle and that the only way out is by exploring its dark dank corridors, defeating the castle’s beasts and unlocking the various secrets hidden within the darkness.
To be honest, Unepic doesn’t make the best first impression. It’s extremely dark, not thematically, but physically. Thus, it’s really hard to see your player character. Even on a 50-inch TV, I had to strain my eyes to make out what was going on. The initial camera view is also zoomed way out which only makes matters worse. Thankfully, there is a zoom button (LT), which helps alleviate the problem, but the game seems to zoom too far in – out of the frying pan, into the fire. Switching the view becomes a necessity, but to be honest, it is something you get used to. I do really dig the idea of lighting torches as you progress through the castle, which also helps you to mark physically where you’ve been and where you need to go. I just wish there was a little more light in the game in general and a halfway camera view (in-between the far away and up close view) that could be toggled to avoid having to switch the camera view every few moments. It’s a minor quibble, I know, but I feel that it’s something that could be easily fixed in an update.
Once you’ve gotten used to Unepic’s fiddly camera, there is a lot to enjoy. Unepic is a deceptively deep RPG with tons of customisation, leveling and loot. It’s a Metroidvania dungeon crawler with a lot of heart and this shines through in its humorous and entertaining writing that often left a big Cheshire Cat grin across my face. The numerous pop culture references come thick and fast and riff on the likes of Metal Gear Solid (the joke at the very beginning left me in stitches), Star Wars, Zelda and Castlevania to name but a few. It’s a self-aware, silly, confident, tongue-in-cheek and playful game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and I found the writing to be pretty good overall, especially when you remember that the game was written, coded and designed solely by one individual.
Like many Metroidvania games, the main crux of Unepic is exploration and combat. Find a boss, defeat him and you gain a key to unlock other parts of the castle. It can, unfortunately, get a little dull; the environments, for the most part, are all very samey and there are times when even after sifting through, what feels like, every nook and cranny with a fine tooth comb you may, unfortunately, be still left scratching your head, not sure where to go next. Unepic does not want to hold your hand, which is something I respect, but some players may see this as either a boon or a curse depending on your own personal preference. Be prepared to use your map a lot. It’s a big castle and you will get lost. Luckily, there are lots of shortcuts to be found which really takes the edge off backtracking through the castle to find vendors or other places of interest.
Ultimately, Unepic is a solid little RPG with a ton of heart. It’s playful humour is refreshing, it’s filled to the brim with content and there’s a lot of depth beneath it’s deceptively simple veneer. For those looking for a deep RPG adventure a little off the beaten track, Unepic is ready when you are.
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