UnEpic Review. OLE!
Developer: Francisco Téllez de Meneses and Company
Players: Single player 1, Multiplayer 2-4
Genre: RPG, Platformer
Who doesn't enjoy a bit of Dungeons and Dragons? It requires a great deal of imagination if one wishes to truly enjoy the experience, as well as a Dungeon Master who is capable of not only being imaginative, but very devious. UnEpic does its part to bring the player into this fantastical world.
Our heroic story begins with a group of four guys sitting in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons. After some bantering back and forth which involves killing a couple of skeletons and how the best RPG's use logic, our hero decides to stop the game for a moment while he uses the bathroom. While he is in there, the lights suddenly go out and he is left in the dark, thinking that his friends are toying with him and fumbling around for the door handle. Our hero soon realizes that he is no longer in the bathroom but is instead lurking about the deepest halls of an evil castle. Thinking that these are merely the effects of a hallucinogenic drug that his friends put into his beer, he decides to continue his trek through the dungeons.
However, these delusions soon come to an end when our hero crosses paths with an evil spirit, who our hero will soon come to call Zera, that tries to possess him. It turns out that the spirit was not powerful enough to posses the player and is instead stuck inside of him, the only way out being through the death of his host. Zera reveals to the player that to leave this nightmare, our hero must delve deeper into the castle and slay the 'Guardians' who are standing in his way.
So who, exactly, is this 'hero'? Well, the hero of our charming little tale is the not so charming Daniel. Of all the unlikable main protagonists we come across while playing games, Daniel is by far one of the worst. He can be summed up, in a nutshell, as a misogynistic, obnoxious, horny pot-head. What little charm he does have comes from his references to beloved fantasy and sci-fi classics such as Lord of the Rings, Dune, Space Balls, or Star Wars. Assuming that one can ignore all of the non sense that Daniel spews, these references, in the context of this game, make for an entertaining dialogue between Daniel and anyone he comes across. Thankfully, if one can NOT get past all of that, all cut scenes can be easily skipped.
UnEpic is a metroid-vania style game. This means that there is going to be a lot of exploring and even more backtracking.
There are over 200 rooms to be explored in this castle, each being filled with a variety of enemies, deadly traps, quests and, of course, plenty of loot to be had. Players move from room to room by simply walking down a hall on the left or right or climbing a ladder up or down, as one would expect. One will quickly realize that virtually all rooms are very dark, but this is easily fixed through the players lighter being used in conjunction with an oil lamp or torch mounted to the wall. Some rooms are simply large chambers with little more than a handful of enemies and a couple of barrels which can be broken. Others can become quite a bit more complex, requiring the player to kill off all of the enemies lurking within the room, or going through a sequence of doors in the proper order till you reach the end.
Thankfully, backtracking is kept to a relative minimum due to items which teleport the player to a specific location, or the gate system which links a number of doors found throughout the castle to a central hub. That's not to say that one will never need to backtrack, of course. The items which one can acquire cost a hefty amount of money and the gates which one can find are spread out a good bit. It is most fortunate that these mechanics are in place, however, because it would be rather frustrating trying to navigate the very large castle without it.
Enemy variety isn't exactly a selling point of this game considering that most are similar variations on others, however, specific areas of the castle (such as the gardens, sewers, and mines) do have their own types of enemies. Most are boring, generic creatures such as giant slugs, bats and orcs, but there are some which are not often seen in games, such as the satyr.
The most important question concerning the enemies, however, is whether or not they are any fun to kill. Combat is about as simplistic as one can get without being a turn-based RPG. Players simply move along the rooms until they find an enemy at which point they tap the attack button. Since most enemies are stunned for a moment once they are struck, most can easily be defeated with a few swings of a blade or a couple arrows to the chest. To be fair, combat does become quite a bit more difficult when fighting against several enemies or while taking on higher difficulties. The downside to this, however, still lies within the simplistic nature of the combat. Once things get difficult, one needs to merely whack an enemy with whatever weapon they choose, run away, rinse and repeat. It is worth noting that one cannot move while attacking, meaning that if one is off by just a couple of pixels when they swing, they will be hit instead. Combat as a whole, even when using the bow or a wand, is not something which can be described as 'fluid'.
The question still remains, however. Is combat in UnEpic, well, epic? Epic certainly isn't the word one should use, but a more fitting word is simply 'fun'. Something about the clunky combat, the simplistic animations just make it a fun experience. It is hard to pin point what makes it fun, actually, since one would expect a combat system such as this to get in the way of any potential enjoyment.
In addition to simply whacking away at enemies or firing arrows from afar, players will come across a number of 'Gods' trapped inside of large cubes which can bestow their powers upon the player, in exchange for completing a short collection quest. This will grant the player spells which require their respective essences to be cast. Each spell has its own accompanying effects such as the Fire Bolts burning DoT, or the Frost Bolts slowing effects. These same spells can be obtained through the use of a wand, but wands quickly become useless due to their limited charges.
While mowing down enemies is plenty of fun, merely slaughtering them will not be enough to stay alive. The player will often take a blow from an enemy, be poisoned by a snake that they didn't see, or set on fire from a trap. To restore one's health or quickly remove a status effect will require potions. Looting chests and barrels or killing enemies will net the player ingredients which can then be used to create potions. However, to do so requires not only a magical cauldron, which can be found in the kitchen, but the recipe and empty vials. These recipes can be bought from Chefs and Mages who also sell some of the ingredients required for these potions. One will scarcely find empty vials, but once a potion is consumed the vial remains to be used again.
The single player experience, according to the developer, is 100% complete, but the multi-player component of the game is still in the beta stages, hence why the game is currently holding an 'early access' status.
The multi-players primary campaign is significantly different from that of the single player. Everything is scaled up difficulty wise to accommodate additional players and the story plays out very differently, this time being much more linear and at times predictable. This time around players will be playing a game led by the Dungeon Master rather than moving through a fantasy based realm. It follows, of course, an entirely different plot which has little to no real direction. The story here is also split up into several chapters rather than one continuous story, allowing one to simply skip a chapter which they aren't particularly fond of. Many occurrences are unexpected and have hilarious outcomes. One should expect to die quite a bit, even if all players involved are working together.
Much like the single player campaign, the multi-player side of things is not without its problems. Players will come across coffins which, when activated, act as re-spawn locations for whoever used them. The problem here is that there is rarely ever more than 2 coffins in any one place and these locations are spread out much too far. The first couple of times that someone dies due to a trick boulder, for example, and has to trek all the way back to where everyone else is fighting is incredibly funny. It does not take long, however, for this to grow old, the trekking through empty dungeons that one has already been through several times.
Another big problem is with the boss battles. The second boss that players will come across involves climbing a ladder (which is VERY buggy) to a platform and then jumping off and hitting the boss on the way down. Once this boss takes enough hits, it will start shaking and spawning enemies. To give you an idea of how incredibly ridiculous this can become, at one time there were 5 kobolds with explosives strapped to them, about 7 giant turtles, and over 10 poisonous bats flying throughout the screen. It is actually possible to be trapped at the entrance to this room because kobolds are sitting there waiting to kill any who come along.
Hopefully these issues are merely a result of the multi-player being in the later beta stages.
There are also Deathmatch, Conquest, and Race game mods available in the multi-player, but most of these are very dull. The only one worth really trying is the Deathmatch which puts players in a flat arena with lava on either side. It's very simple, mindless fun.
When all is said and done, the single player game will take up about 20 hours of your time. Is it worth it? Most definitely. It offers a nice challenge on the lowest difficulties, and can become mind shatteringly difficult at the highest. There isn't too much variety to be had here, but that doesn't do much to take away from the enjoyment. The multi-player, while still a work in progress, has incredible potential once some bugs and balance issues are fixed. It is quite a bit of fun seeing your friends die due to what is essentially the warped mind of a Dungeon Master.