Tunic is an isometric action game where players take on the role of a small fox on a big adventure in an unforgiving world. The game was initially announced during E3 2017 and immediately captivated the audience with how cute it seemed.
However, the first few minutes in the game shed light on the situation: it might be cute, but it is far from soft, presenting a unique, cleverly mixed fusion of Souls-like and Zelda gameplay.
Our little foxy awakens on a sandy beach and… that’s about it. The game has no explanations, hints or guides. However, without having sufficient abilities and weapons you will not be able to set out to the locations that are too difficult for you, the level design is well thought out.
Early on you stumble on a certain temple that serves as a prison to a Fox Goddess. In order to free her, you require 3 keys scattered around the world. As far as the plot is concerned, that is almost all there is to it, laconic and simple.
As you fight your way through the ruined land, you will be able to find pages of a guide. Each includes some information about the game, abilities, skills, story and map. The peculiarity of the guide lies in its deceptive cuteness – most of the information in it is encrypted and only a few inscriptions are written in the language you can understand. Pictograms and drawings in the book show what players can learn about the interaction with the world and the skills, teach about interesting mechanics and more.
But you should pay closer attention to the guide. It contains a lot of various secrets: for example, the locations of all fairies in the game is displayed on the pages of the book. Funny pencil marks on the edges show personal experience of our hero. The design and care that went into the book makes you want to open it again and again.
The mechanic of secrets in this game has been elevated to the absolute. Those who enjoyed going through the puzzles and secrets in oldschool Zelda titles will enjoy them here as well.
Tunic has a variety of little secrets tucked away around the world, many of which will aid you in unlocking secret endings. The game rewards you with checking out everything – yep, absolutely EVERYTHING. Waterfalls? Check for a hidden cave. Bushes? Better try to carve a path through them in case there is a secret door. Suddenly ran into a deadend? Maybe it’s a part of the shortcut to the next location over.
The game is filled to the brim with those little moments that give an unbridled feeling of joy when you move down a small tunnel seemingly to discover a deadend – only to see the activation button pop up at the last possible moment. Tunic rewards exploration and finding those little things, shortcuts, boxes and chests hidden around the locations. On every plateau, in every room you have a chance to run into something interesting. The game knows how to whip up this feeling and how to satisfy it.
Let’s talk a bit about the game’s graphics. Every region has its own style: a forest area with fields and hillocks, mountain ranges with sheer cliffs, a spirit world with its own unique design.
Each location is a unique diorama with its own enjoyable subtle details that interweaves enticing elements until it looks almost like a work of art. Additionally, each zone has its own music, fantastically pleasant in its own way. Frequently I would just stop and listen to the OST while looking at the little details of the zone around the foxy.
Our little furry protagonist has access to the bars of life, action and magic. Life is transparent enough, as you lose health the bar shrinks. The action is used up for dodges and blocks and is restored over time. And the bar of magic is spent on abilities.
The foxy can save and restore health potions at the statues of the Fox Goddess, a bit like Bonfires in the Souls games. Bringing special offerings also allows players to increase the protag’s characteristics. Additionally, our hero can use special talismans that increase or decrease certain qualities – for example, offering a little bit more luck, strength and protection but lowering the running speed in return. It’s up to you to decide what to equip and how to adjust it to your own style of gameplay.
If only the guide had told me earlier that you can toss coins into the wells to increase the number of wearable talismans, it would have allowed me to save so much time. Yeah, the description of the talismans is hidden on the pages of the guide – and even that is not a full description but rather our hero’s thoughts and guesses, filled with pencil on the margins of pages.
The same thing can be said about items – to learn what items do, you need to use them at least once. That said, there is plenty of items in the game: firecrackers to distract enemies, freeze bombs and many more.
You can either find them scattered around the world or buy them from vendors. The first time I met a vendor, I thought I was about to enter a boss battle. What else can you think in a Souls-like game when you are being menacingly approached by a giant… Hm, no, it’s better if you find out who the vendor is on your own!
The combat mechanic of Tunic is closer to Soulslike type – with each new enemy, the game is teaching players new tricks and tactics. By the end of the game the enemies become quite hardcore, too!
You have a way to focus an enemy – however, sometimes it fails to work right. There are dodges, blocking with a shield, three-strike combo, abilities and magic. Each enemy has their own approach in combat and, despite the seemingly simple combat system, you’ve got to be careful when you enter battle.
Studying the mechanics and dying in the process is something you will become intimately familiar with. Fortunately, you don’t lose all your stuff on death – just some money. And even then you can recover the lost cash when you get to the location of your death, Diablo I style.
By the end of the game you will face off against some pretty serious enemies that can piss you off quite badly: they can cut off your characteristics. However, the game still provides you with multiple strategies in dealing with them, by chaining your abilities in a cunning way.
And there are quite a few of them: a hook that allows foxy to pull enemies towards himself, a freezing dagger, a staff that shoots small projectiles, a cannon that will eat up almost all your mana but deal devastating damage, and much more.
I want to mention the map separately. Sure, Tunic has it, it is hidden among the pages of the guide and every little drawing is filled with details, BUT… there is not even an opportunity to put the simplest market to mark where you’re at. So prepare to get lost.
Note: the game is a verified purchase by the author.