Mocked by his friends for his lack of understanding the intricacies of Dungeons & Dragons, Daniel takes a trip to the bathroom only to find himself suddenly transported to the cobweb-ridden halls of a huge medieval castle. Oblivious to the significance of his predicament, and immediately only equipped with a Zippo lighter, Unepic‘s apathetic protagonist believes his surroundings to be a mere hallucination and that his friends have tricked him by placing psychotropic drugs in his beer.
Everything looks as if it is about to get a whole lot worse when a looming shadow attempts to possess Daniel’s body. Although as he has no faith in his soul, the shadow, which he soon nicknames Zera, becomes trapped and may only escape such a fleshy prison when Daniel dies.
Such a situation soon makes itself known as lending the greatest level of humour to Unepic’s script, with Zera regularly providing false clues to serve as misdirection in the hope that it will inadvertently lead Daniel to his death. The depiction of such relationship is largely aided by voice work from Kyle McCarley (Daniel) and Jonathan Jones (Zera), who clearly each get a kick out of their respective characters.
With a smattering of nerd culture references throughout, whether that be Battlestar Galactica, Metal Gear Solid or Harry Potter, creator Francisco Tellez de Meneses can be thankful for the translation efforts of Christopher Mathieu and Joshua Zweigart, even if it perhaps borderlines on being too crude all too often.
When not treading the foreboding turmoil of death, Unepic broadly succeeds in formulating the platforming and role-playing concoction that it seeks to achieve. Exploration naturally plays a pivotal role, players required to secure keys to broaden the corridors that they can wander throughout the castle, whilst traipsing around gathering items and ingredients for side quests. Torches adorn each wall, able to be lit as a way to mark rooms that you have already visited.
Unepic hides plenty of tricks. Wandering through the darkly lit halls, I suddenly noticed that I was permanently losing health. Completely baffled as to the source, I scoured stores for antidotes believing it to be a permanent poison, flitted through my recipes, and then searched through my inventory. There I discovered two squirmy leeches, promptly flicking them away from their gleeful sucking.
Artefacts become your lifeline to help you survive tricky situations, repeatable use items such as the Halo and Pilgrim’s Shell that allow you to teleport away from danger – either back to the Healing Spirit’s golden box which acts as the game’s central save and starting point, or to Zoran’s shop for supplies.
Combat can feel a somewhat stagnant affair but places more emphasis on selecting the best weapon to use against the enemies that cross your path. There are purportedly more than 100 within the game, swords being more effective when fighting monsters that bleed, daggers becoming lethal when attacking foes from behind, whereas polearms are useful at fending off foes at a distance – therefore being particularly useful against poisonous snakes. Add in maces, axes, bows and wands, not to mention a 70-strong magic spellbook, and you can begin to see that variety is most certainly the spice of life.
Everything that you do leads into Unepic’s more RPG-orientated elements, which sees Daniel levelling over time with players able to choose whichever areas for him to grow his skills. Whether that be improving weapon specialities to increase damage dealt, your potion-making prowess to grant access to more effective recipes, or let you wear more reliable, stronger armour. It’s this freedom that lets you seize control of your own quest, but can also threaten to leave you unstuck in places if you don’t balance your choices.
The Wii U GamePad receives considered implementation, becoming a necessity in aiding you throughout your quest. This can be used to display the castle’s rooms and your location within them, whereas players are free to map items and weaponry from their inventory to certain button combinations – either that or tap them on the touch screen to switch. Off-TV Play also receives support, although this is an experience that remains far more engaging with the TV and second screen.
Best for those that let curiosity often get the better of them, Unepic is a game that is well met by those who always wonder what lies waiting for them within the next room. Never holding you by the hand, it is the game’s repetitive visuals that largely detract from its small victories. Whilst it isn’t an experience that successfully strikes a home run, Unepic holds plenty of neat ideas that help to drive you through its well-humoured grounding in its entirety.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by EnjoyUp Games