Monday , May 20 2024

Videogame Review: ‘Tunic’

Why is it always a beach? I am lost in my memories and it seems I always wake up and start anew on a beach; it must mean something.

All I know is I need to find a way to get my memories, thoughts and actions back., Standing I ruffle my fur, straighten my tunic and look for a weapon.

All that’s handy is a stick. With a quick flick of my wrist and leveraging my tail for balance I make some elaborate movements with the sturdy stick. ‘This will do,’ I think, and I head out to look for a path or a purpose to this freshly woken moment in my journey.

I find a shrine, dedicated to a lost hero I am starting to remember. She is striking, powerful and glorious. I need to remember all of this. A piece of a mystical book, almost a manual, guides me to further remembered bits of the past, but more is needed.

I close my eyes feeling the breeze ruffle the tufts of my ears. I sniff and the smells of decay, spiders and orc like creatures invade my senses. There will be many battles, but it starts with the Bells. I remember, if I ring the East and West Bells the way forward will open.

With a purpose in mind I wipe the dirt of my outfit and start finding my way forward. There is always a way forward, even if it means sometimes taking a step back. 

Tunic is a fantastic new game from developer Finji that will immediately summon comparisons to The Legend of Zelda series. Zelda similarities are there in spades, but with plenty of Souls-like and Metroidvania elements also mixed in it is a game that is as impressive as it is challenging.

Tunic centers on a fox-like creature that bears a striking resemblance to Link from the Zelda series, from his green tunic to sword and shield combo and general move set. This is a great hook to get the game noticed and appreciated, but as the journey unfolds there is so much wit, charm, innovation and pure joy that Tunic sets itself apart from the Zelda series.

First off, the art style of the game is amazing, with vibrant colors, large characters and a varied set of biomes: dungeons, seaside, forests among many others. There are so many little touches in the environments, monsters and locations that make this game a visual treat.

The gameplay of Tunic is the other star, with simple yet satisfying combat that relies heavily on dodges and shield parries making this feel more like a Souls game despite the cute aesthetic. Further adding to that Souls vibe is that death means some lost wealth that can be recovered by heading to the place of death.

The game also has a slow burn on items being located, such as the shield, a lantern, ice dagger, healing potions – examples of items that shift the gameplay or allow new locations to be explored. That plus ample shortcuts that get discovered make this also a stellar Metroidvania experience.

Aside from a few beats there is relatively little outright storytelling; the world is understood via exploration and reading notes. There are also scattered pieces of a digital manual that shows tips and tricks but also has the incredibly cool mechanic of showing you where the character is on a given map.

It is not explained and I only noticed it by chance but there is a little fox icon that moves around as areas are explored. It’s a very cool way to show a path without holding the player’s hand too tightly. 

There are tons of little hidden bits to be discovered, such as items that seem to have no use till they are offered at a shrine and provide a buff if coins are spent. I also randomly found a shop that I initially thought was a boss battle, but instead it offered bombs and other useful bits for sale.

The key to Tunic is to explore, to plan and to battle smart.  Head-on encounters will rarely go well and bosses have to be fought with tactics, further adding to the Souls games comparisons.

Tunic was a surprise game to me. I got a few releases but actually started playing it on Game Pass as it was there day one and I have to say it is one of the best gaming experiences in years.

Tunic is charming, challenging, innovative yet familiar and has one of the best art styles I have seen in ages. It is a must=play and available right now on Xbox systems and PC via Steam, GoG and Epic Games Store.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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