It’s quite hard to sift through games on Steam Greenlight. There’s always the risk of wasting your time voting on a game that may or may not be worth playing. I’ve seen so many poorly made cover arts that are not even worth clicking to see the description. On a platform where anybody with £70 and the slightest knowledge of game development can submit a game to be voted on, there’s bound to be some ridiculous titles. Unepic, however, is an exception.
Former Ubisoft developer Francisco Téllez de Meneses has spent the last two years of his spare time creating Unepic. The full game was made available by Meneses in October 2 2011. Despite being awarded 6th place in Indiegamereviewer.com’s Top 10 Best Indie Games of 2011, Steam Greenlight rejected Meneses’ initial submission on the grounds that the game did not fit in Steam. On August 31st, however, Meneses successfully submitted Unepic and it is now currently being voted on by the public. So far it has only gotten 5%of the necessary votes it needs to be officially approved and distributed by Steam.
Unepic is a 2D action RPG ‘Metroidvania’ platformer. It was originally supposed to be a sequel to The Maze of Galious released by Konami in the 80s. Fans of games like Castlevania will quickly get familiar with the game’s old-school style gameplay. However, this does not mean that Unepic doesn’t deliver a unique experience. The story in particular is something atypical of RPGs.
The player takes on the role of Daniel, an average guy from the 21st century. He is an avid gamer – a huge sci-fi fan – a pot-head and is somewhat of a newbie at RPGs. The game opens with him playing a tabletop RPG with some friends. He decides to take a bathroom break when suddenly somebody turns the light off while he’s inside. He finds himself transported to a castle. Daniel tells himself that he’s having some sort of hallucination and that he must be crazy high. After exploring the castle for a bit, Daniel finds the oracle: an old castle dweller who looks exactly like Yoda. The oracle tells him that his goal is to kill Harnakon, the master of the castle, in order to free Pure-Spirits.
The dialogue is entertaining but only as entertaining as a game developed by one guy can be. The game makes a lot of reference to videogame culture as well as popular books, films and TV shows. The jokes, however, get quite old later on. Often times Daniel compares the castle and its monsters to certain games he likes to play in the real world.
As a big fan of the old Castlevania games, Unepic came to me as a massive relief. The game progresses by unlocking new areas by acquiring keys and doing quests for creatures you come across. However, this is not as easy as it sounds. The castle is immense and is littered with many different types of monsters and bosses. The farther you go from where you started the stronger the monsters are. However, it is quite inconsistent. I can sweep through an advanced area unscathed then suddenly end up in the beginning area where the supposed weak monsters suddenly do high damage. There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to balancing out the combat scale.Each monster and boss behaves uniquely. Some fly, some crawl on the walls, some entangle you in leech infested waters.
Navigating through monster infested rooms requires carefully dodging and platforming. However, the control scheme is somewhat of a problem in this game. Default controls are set to the arrow keys or the mouse for movement and the spacebar for attack. Jumping around trying to dodge attacks and getting around the map gets quite frustrating when playing with a keyboard. I saw this problem and decided to plug in my Xbox controller. I used this program called Pinnacle Game Profiler which basically lets me map out my keyboard to my controller. However, not many people are willing to spend money on third-party programs that let you do this. It would be great if Unepic was controller compatible; hopefully that is something that Meneses is interested in incorporating in the future.
With each level you complete you are rewarded with five skill points which enable you to mold your character according to how you want to play. You can choose to either attribute those skill points to upgrading your constitution, armor or potion effectiveness or you can use them to upgrade your skill level at different types of weapons. There are seven different types of weapons: axes, swords, maces, bows, pole arms, daggers and wands. You can also attribute these skill points to level up your spells. Each time you complete a major quest you are awarded a different spell. For each casting of a spell, a certain type of essence is consumed. These essences can be acquired as random drops from enemies, from chests scattered throughout the castle or bought from the kitchen.
Unepic has four different game modes: easy, medium, hard and hard ++. Easy and medium mode saves the game automatically. The biggest challenge in hard mode is that the game does not save automatically and save points are not exactly in every corner of the castle. Each major area will only have one save point so exploring without proper planning can lead you to a far off place in the castle with low HP and no potions and we all know how that feels. As mentioned above, the castle is huge. There are over 200 rooms and 7 sections and they are all filled with side-quests, vendors and secret rooms that contain special items. In this game, the map is your best friend. One room left unexplored could contain a key essential to progressing to the next section of the castle so forgetting to clear out a room could cause you to wander around aimlessly for hours. Travel is made somewhat easier by a room that’s full of gated and locked passages. This room lets you access most of the castle but each passage can only be unlocked from the other side. This encourages the player to make sure each nook and cranny is explored to avoid having to backtrack to the save point without using shortcuts.
The games graphics are very reminiscent of the 8 bit era. Considering the game was developed by only one guy, the character models and the scale of the game is quite impressive. The soundtrack, however, could have used more work. While it does contribute to the overall ambience of a dark castle, the music is not very impressive or memorable. It’s not exactly the most fulfilling music to listen to when you’re running through a castle possessed by a dark spirit and slashing monster throats with your sword.
Unepic still needs plenty of work but considering its current state and the fact that it was created by just one guy it’s still very impressive. If you’re a fan of running around dark castles, platforming and feeling almost all powerful then I highly recommend this game. I’ve spent around 17 hours playing; I’m still not bored with it and I don’t think I’m anywhere near the end.