Remove the 'Un'
Review written by
April 5th, 2014
In short, Unepic is a hardcore action-RPG with a rather steep learning curve and a big payoff. There are many games that one could compare it to: cult gem "Legacy of The Wizard", the more recent La Mulana, the classic PC title "Diablo", and to a degree classics like Metroid and Cave Story.
If you are familiar with any of these games, a few things will come to mind - one of those being that your map will come in handy. Prepare to get lost in various labyrinths until you force yourself to memorize the depths of the castle. The map system in this game is very helpful and many of the key landmarks are represented by icons, making your quest much easier.
The comparison to Diablo made earlier is no joke. The leveling system is very similar. You can choose to become more of a fire mage slash archer, an ice mage slash healer, an all-out melee warrior with potion capability - there are many possibilities. Just be careful with how you spend your experience points on your various attributes such as proficiency in weapons and magic, constitution, armor class, etc. Level-ups do not come easily and you will need to use your points as effectively as possible.
In addition to leveling up your stats, you will need to manage a huge inventory. You will store all kinds of weapons, potions, items, trinkets for potion-making, scrolls for magic spells, etc. Fortunately, if your items become too abundant, you can sell many of them, or simply find a room to drop the items off in to come back and pick up later. Your save points will remember them. You can also press the "Y" button to sort your inventory by item types. It's very helpful.
Speaking of inventory, the Wii U GamePad is truly well-utilized for this title. I couldn't imagine playing this game on any other console. While one can use the GamePad for off-TV play with a simple press of the select/minus button, the game is best played on a large TV screen with the GamePad managing inventory. Unlike most action-RPGs, selecting inventory and other options does not pause the game and you will remain vulnerable at all times. This means that you will need quick access to various items. You will need maces for the undead, swords for non-armored creatures, bows and spells for flying creatures, ice for fire creatures, and various potions for healing and recovering from poisons. Having all of these assigned to points on the GamePad as you command truly validates the Wii U for adopting this Steam title. Play it and see what I mean.
The action is just as important as the strategy. You will need to time your shots and select the right items. Timing of jumps and strikes is crucial, almost to a point where the game resembles titles like Mega Man and Super Smash Bros. Unlike titles mentioned earlier, the AI does not mess around either. Enemies will give chase if you try to run and will find the quickest and most effective path to eliminate you. If you try to single one enemy out, then be prepared, as they will try and all gang up on you at once. They might even run off with your items if you don't watch yourself. Let's not forget that you can bring a friend along as a 2nd player if things get too nasty (or if you simply get lonely).
It's important to mention the story before I start to close the review. The story is really good. It's tied in very well with the gameplay, and if you really don't care, you can skip it with presses of the "A" button. The protagonist is a nerdy type with a hint of cool and is surprisingly brave. It's nice to see a protagonist that calls out enemies and makes fun of them when they try the stereotypical RPG trickery. There's plenty of potty humor, and the dichotomy between the stoner-nerd protagonist and "Zera", the wraith who possesses him at the beginning of the story, provides a fun narrative while you try to survive the huge castle and uncover its secrets.
The graphics are really nothing special. It looks like a ten-year-old PC game, but it still works out just fine. It's appropriate, since the game is a tribute to old-school action RPGs. Thanks to the recent update, one can zoom in and out on both the TV display and GamePad. The music is well-done, providing ambiance for the dark dungeons and pits of despair awaiting, all done in a gloomy, Celtic style.
Finally, I would like to mention the difficulty. If you find games like Metroid or Diablo to be too demanding, then I wouldn't even give this one a try. It's a very demanding game, and it will take most players at least fifteen hours to beat, possibly up to 30 hours. There are additional difficulty levels if you can beat the first quest as well. That's quite a bargain regardless of the investment. The replay value is extremely high, as you could play through this game time and time again with different strategies on the various difficulty settings.
Today, there are lots of pretty role playing games with tons of beautiful CG cut-scenes that seem to play themselves instead of really challenging the player. This game is not one of those. This is a true old-school style action RPG, with old school difficulty, mixed with modern AI and a wonderful gaming interface thanks to the Wii U GamePad. While closing the review, I would like to reiterate that Unepic has a steep learning curve that is incredibly rewarding once you get the hang of it. Those who enjoy this genre or high difficulty please indulge, otherwise approach with caution.
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