With some games, expectations can be so high that when you finally get to taste them, you crash into reality with a thud. Sometimes hype can be bad, and arriving quietly, recycling already invented mechanics yet distilling competence, well that can becone the best advertising. Unepic belongs to the second group, standing there by its own merits and entertaining us with an adventure most certainly aimed at those who are at least two or three decades old.
It starts with Daniel, our protagonist, playing tabletop D&D with his friends. Mid-game he must depart, with the unlikely hero forced to answer the call of nature and take a trip to the bathroom. After a blackout where he thinks his friends have played a trick on him, he finds himself taken to Harnakon, a huge castle filled with traps and enemies. Soon after, the young hero is possessed by a spirit that acts as his unwilling companion and constantly tries to kill him throughout the adventure (and succeeds from time to time). As you can see, the premise behind Unepic is thoroughly absurd, it aims at comedy, and continues in that vein for the duration of the adventure.
The mechanics of Unepic are based on typical side-scrolling platformers like Super Mario Bros. In fact, it is within the so-called 'Metroidvania' family, games with a labyrinthine element, where a developing player-character can access new areas as they improve/evolve in a RPG-lite manner. Daniel can attack in many ways, each with its own pros and cons, and divided mainly between weapon and magic attacks. The game is based on exploring with the simple aim of escaping from the castle, defeating enemies and solving quests, all while levelling up and improving Daniel as you go. It would be easy to say that Unepic is just jump, attack and heal, but you'd be forgetting the most important thing: there are many ways to do each of these things, and all are justified.
This game doesn't innovate or do anything new, but manages to offer a balance between variety, challenge and fun, and so the finished product is surprisingly solid. In addition, there's the irreverent nature of the story and Daniel's many conversations are filled with continuous references to movies, TV series and video games, most of which many of us have grown up with. Francisco Téllez, the game's creator, mentioned that Unepic was initially devised as a game to play with friends, so it is inevitable that the game will draw smiles with its carefree character. Still, the Wii U version is slightly sweetened in order to qualify as PEGI 12 and the younger audience that classification brings with it.
The game is challenging, especially on difficult, which requires manual saves and saving at specific/strategic points. However, it should be noted that the enemy AI has serious shortcomings and focuses solely on chase and attack once Daniel walks into view. With regard to the bosses, it's way more difficult to get to the bosses than the actual fight with them after, and they don't measure up to the quality present in the rest of the game. Unepic is one of those games where every mistake or careless misstep is punished; you must constantly monitor Daniel's health bar, consider the pitfalls lurking out of sight, and know that most of the enemies will kill you if they attack in groups and you are not vigilant.
The visuals are neither striking nor brilliant; you'll get more enjoyment from playing the game than from the action that plays out in front of your eyes. While the sprites are somewhat simple in detail, no aspect deserves to be pointed out as a shortcoming. The sound is not the game's strongest point, with a somewhat limited musical selection featured depending on each situation. Regarding the voice of the characters, there's an exaggerated tone that can hinder the adventure, but this matter is as subjective as this game's sense of humour.
The transfer to Wii U provides a few interesting points. The functionality of the GamePad ensures that nobody will miss the hotkeys from the PC version, thanks to them now being in a fully customisable, light and ergonomic menu system. In addition, the Off-TV console function offers the option to zoom in on your character and get a more detailed and fluent experience. The version on Nintendo's console is offered at an acceptable price for a digital download, especially considering the inflated prices that are usually featured in the eShop. If you're thinking of expanding your digital collection, it's well worth considering thanks to the quality and price.
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