Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UnEpic Review

Recently, I’ve been looking for games to keep me occupied between my irregular working schedule and had UnEpic suggested to me. Always willing to try out new indie games, I threw caution to the wind and bought it from Steam for a wonderful $7.99. To my unfortunate discovery, I found the game lives up to its name, UnEpic is actually un-epic.

The first issue I encountered before I even began playing was trying to run it on my computer. Admittedly my Alienware is older now, and has a harder time running the new and shiny software, but upon booting UnEpic, I was greeted with a black screen and menu sounds. To my dismay, it was a problem that could only be solved by updating my graphics drivers, which are now out of make and no longer have supported drivers. After dealing with this error, I got in to playing the game.

What struck me first about the game was the hand drawn title screen, which was well animated and lent a sense of foreboding about the game to come. Would I be thrown in to a gritty and dark adventure with monsters to slay and quests to complete? The scene opens with a group of players playing a tabletop RPG, where our protagonist excuses himself to the bathroom. Thus our adventure begins.

UnEpic places you straight in to the action with a rudimentary starting story, basic introduction to your inventory and equipment. There is also a severe lack of basic movement tutorials, and I was left to figure them out on my own. The controls however, feel well tuned and you have good response from the character, which is great when compared to other metroidvania style games.

As I progressed through the game I was provided with many more basic tutorials for looting items, and how to split my bag in two to make sorting easier. I'd have preferred an inventory option to sort my items by type, or have some other form of inventory management instead of having to do it manually. I found myself spending a lot of time in the inventory comparing weapons and armor, locating potions to bind to hotkeys and sorting potion ingredients that dropped with sheer abundance.

UnEpic does implement a crafting system, so you can make various potions with effects that are very useful - 3 levels ago. Potion crafting is learned by purchasing a recipe from any of the vendors that are located throughout the dungeon, for exuberant amounts of money that you must then learn from your inventory. The entire process from learning to creation is too long and drawn out, with the final result of creation being handled poorly. Many of the crafted items are simply dropped on the ground and must be reacquired before leaving the area, instead of the items being added straight to the inventory. This is frustrating, especially if you take in to the account the random encounters with thieves inside the dungeon, that steals any item left behind on the ground while you are away from that room. Yes, this adds an element of life to what is essentially a stagnant dungeon crawler, but often it is easy to lose those essential items that have dropped or been crafted.

The combat in UnEpic is enjoyable, with a very hack and slash feel. There is not a whole lot of opportunity to dodge, and most of the time it's easier to soak up the damage. There are definitely areas where crouching to dodge incoming missiles would be handy, but if you can equip yourself with enough healing potions, and are savvy enough with getting yourself to a save point, you won't need to worry about avoiding damage. This can be frustrating as it does take time to drink a potion, which can often mean the difference between life and death. Poison is a commonly occurring status effect, with many creatures able to stack instances of poison on you, which can dramatically and quickly drain your health.

UnEpic also implements weapon type switching to get the best damage out of your weapon against specific enemies. For example, a mace is excellent for breaking those deadly barrels that sit in the corner and glare at you and a sword is good for stabbing living things. It's great that the developer thought of trying to add a little more complexity and meaning to weapon types, but after putting a handful of points into my sword skill, I could take down pretty much everything that sniffed at me funny with either magic or a well placed sword swing to the everywhere. of the big issues with UnEpic is that there is a sheer amount of backtracking involved in the game. Not only do you have to retrace your steps to complete side quests as you adventure, but you need to backtrack to get to save points, fast travel gates, and to progress to different areas. Out of the seven hours I played, two hours were actual story content, the other five was spent trekking back and forth completing side quests, shopping and saving the game. All this traveling became monotonous and boring, and I soon found myself getting tired of navigating ladders and corridors. I nearly freaked out walking down my own apartment corridor after seven hours of this, thinking a ladder and another corridor awaited me.

Verdict: UnEpic lives up to its name; it is very un-epic. Combat was well tuned, and it definitely promotes exploration and character progression in classic RPG fashion. What it lacked though was a well developed story, natural dialogue and too much backtracking. I found myself having to retrace my steps often, and I would often ignore the weapons mechanic for my sword which was pretty effective against everything. UnEpic has charming graphics reflective of many older metroidvania games, and the sound design is pretty good. UnEpic is good for those afternoons where you don't have much to do and want to kill an hour or two before you go out, or are just looking to chill and not think too hard.

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