Unepic is a liar. There — I said it. Why is it a liar? Well, look at the name — the game implies that it’s \”unepic,\” but in actuality, this is one of the most epic quests seen on the Wii U eShop. The name actually helps set the tone because, while the gameplay is for the hardcore gamer, the game manages to lighten the tone with excellent and funny dialogue.
Take the story, for example: you are sitting around a friend’s house, playing a tabletop RPG game. After a few beers, you need to use the bathroom. You go into the bathroom and, the next thing you know, the lights don\’t work and you are now in a castle, battling for your life. If it sounds absurd, well, it is. That is the charm of the game. It never takes itself seriously, but the core gameplay is so tight and solid that you have to.
Upon exploring the castle, you quickly realize what kind of game this is. The castle has a huge layout with many areas locked by keys that must be attained from defeating the big area bosses. All rooms have torches that must be lit in order to fully see the room. Inside of the dark rooms are a plethora of enemies; from your standard worm and bug types to more intricate spell-casting monsters and axe-wielding fiends. The enemy variety is solid with each area containing new types to defeat.
The Metroidvania comparison is a fair one because of the largeness of the castle. There is a hub-like area that allows you to transport to gates within the castle, leading you to different sections of the map. Side quests and hidden chests, walls, and items are littered throughout, making exploration both fun and rewarding. The graphics are beautiful 2D sprites with fluid animation. The boss battles are huge and really add an \”epic\” sense to the game. The music is a bit scarce but, when it is there, it is fantastic, especially the Garden section track.
The game also features a voice-acting cast and, as stated in the title, the writing is very cheeky. The game touches on pop culture and other games, such as Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania, and just downright lowbrow humor. Some people may be put off by this, but it really adds to the game’s charm of not taking itself too seriously. The lead character can come off as a bit too \”BroDude\” at times, but for the most part, the writing is excellent and is easily the best I\’ve seen in 2014 thus far.
The meat of the game is the gameplay and Unepic allows for a great sense of freedom. When your character levers up, you assign your points to specific areas you want to improve in, similar to Diablo. As you progress through the game, these points allow you to use better weapons and spells — depending on what you level up in — which allows for real character customization. The Wii U GamePad is also used well in this manner because it allows you to map up to twelve items (weapons, potions, scrolls, etc.) to quick use so as to not break up the flow of the game.
As glowing as everything sounds, there are some minor problems with the game that might frustrate. This is a true throwback to classic games and in turn, that means it can be very difficult. The game doesn\’t hold your hand and, while that’s not a problem, I personally would have appreciated a little more direction in the game.
For example, I had gone through two boss fights with no health items. The second fight was a very taxing experience and became a bit frustrating because of my lack of potions. I visited the local merchants scattered throughout the castle and, while they offered me weapons, spells, and armor, none offered me potions. It wasn\’t till later in the game when I was exploring a previously visited area that I noticed I hadn\’t gone a certain direction and found the Kitchen, the only place you could create potions. The overworld map doesn\’t label anything for you and it would have been nice to know that is where the potions had to be made, instead of me trying to make the most of my paltry life bar.
Another issue I had with the game was in how it is displayed. When playing on your TV, you have a large view of the section of the castle you are in and your sprite can be a bit small, along with enemies. However, when using Off-TV mode, you have the ability to zoom in on your character, which allows you to see things much clearer, along with the main zoomed-out view. It’s perplexing as to why it wasn\’t offered in TV mode, because things can tend to be a bit small. My television is 47\” and I felt like I shouldn\’t have to sit so close to see things at times.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a fantastic eShop title that fans of Metroid and Castlevania should not be without. For the $10 you spend, you get an epic quest with superb writing and deep engaging gameplay. Just know that the game can be frustrating at times and you really need to pay attention to any clues that are given by the NPCs in the area. Unepic? More like \”FreakingEpic.\”