Unepic is a game that’s become somewhat famous in the gaming community. Originally created by one person, Unepic exploded into a much larger, multi-personed project and has received acclaim and praise from many countries across many platforms, this particular title goes to show being referential and paying homage to a number of video games doesn’t mean your title has to languish in the “parody and satire” category exclusively. Rather, Unepic unironically created a fanbase and follow all its own, and rightfully so. Now, after being playable damn near everywhere else, Unepic has landed on the Nintendo Switch.
Daniel, our protagonist, was in the middle of a very fun but run-of-the-mill tabletop RPG session when he suddenly found himself inside a dark and massive castle. Rather than panic, Daniel assumes he’s having a dream/hallucination and just goes along with it. In fact, even after a dark shadow attempts to possess his soul (and fails), Daniel still figures this is just his subconscious doing stuff and decides to go along for the ride. Without a clear idea of what to do or how to get out of this “dream,” Daniel does what he does best: plays the game.
Unepic is equal parts dungeon crawler and metrovania platformer, with a fair amount of leveling and experience baked in as well. Starting off with just your lighter, Daniel quickly amasses a pile of weapons, gold and spell components, and starts to realize that, dream or not, his brain is producing some pretty complex stuff to behold. As he delves deeper and deeper into the castle, he runs into several creatures and spirits, each with advice and requests, and Daniel decides that running quests will be the best way to move along and hopefully wake himself up.
First and foremost, the humor and wit of Unepic is absolutely unparalleled. When I first played this game a few years back, I was deeply amused by the banter that occurs between Daniel and the spirit who possesses him (who ends up with the very unwanted name of Zera). The voicework is several years old at this point but still holds up as some of the best character matching I’ve heard in a game. Daniels wants to get out of here but isn’t really bothered by the situation, and Zera pivots wildly from openly hating Daniel to being incredulous that this buffoon has somehow penetrated His Master’s magical dwelling. Even when it becomes utterly apparent that Daniel is NOT dreaming, he still maintains a bit of snarky ideology to compare nearly every situation he encounters to a game, movie or otherwise mundane encounter that he had before coming into this world. While it’s certainly something that keeps the game interesting (even some great Army of Darkness references creep in at moments), it wouldn’t be enough if Unepic were just a funny situational comedy, and the game is so, so much more than that.
I often use the word “sprawling” in terms of high end games that have massive worlds and endless levels, but Unepic is a totally different kind of sprawl. This game, this “indie” game, is so damn long and large it’s incredible to imagine that there’s no procedural generation. The room count is somewhere around 200, but each room is a daunting, multi-tiered situation with plenty of enemies, traps, rewards and torches to light. You cannot simply walk into a room and then just walk out: you’ve gotta sing for your supper. Clearing a room means finding plenty of items that get dropped (magical essences, scrolls, vials), fighting off enemies with any number of weapons (spells, spears, maces) and then making sure that you don’t get murdered by all the traps that may or may not be lying around. The game works in a strange way in terms of acceleration, with a slow beginning to get your bearings, then suddenly blazing along until you hit the next important piece of storywork/next big quest. It’s touch and go, with the going being fast and the touching being a bit more dragged out.
There’s no wrong way to play Unepic, though having a bit of background in RPGs in general will make things clearer and cleaner as you get deeper into the game. When you level up, stats aren’t auto assigned: you gotta work that out yourself on the character sheet, and knowing the importance between “stave mastery” and “higher constitution” will be essential to how you complete the game. You end up succeeding the most when you strike a balance and make sure you are aware of your hotkeys and have variety therein. Since your inventory will balloon to dozens of items, assigning spells and your more choice weapons to slots to have on the fly makes you more fluid, able to go longer without kind of tripping over your own feet. There are plenty of discussions and tutorials on the web of “how to play Unepic,” but even the greenest player should skip them and make their own mistakes. The death sequences aren’t spectacular or long-winded enough to distract you (though a couple are hilarious), so trial and error isn’t going to set you back forever. Just made sure that you save and save when you can: respawning will happen in the room you died in, but turning off the title means getting thrown back to your last save, progress be damned.
The Nintendo Switch does a great job of handing the scale of UnEpic by having a nifty feature to zoom in on Daniel wherever he is and keeping it there until you’re ready to zoom out. My first thoughts were how the grand size of everything would look crammed onto the Switch’s handheld screen, but it actually works out great. Zoom in, deal with skeletons, zoom out and figure out where the hell to go next.
UnEpic is a game that is going to take days, if not weeks, of playing to complete. There’s so many places to go and so much to do and it all takes place in 2D, in a big way, with plenty of referential humor being thrown around but not enough to drown in. This is definitely a game made for the Switch, where you can bring this endless quest with you on the go to quickly do a couple room clears or possibly try and get some UnEpic Bux (love the new currency). All in all, you simply cannot get this much gameplay for this price in another title, and if you have any room in your heart for a fantastic adventure, then get ready for something truly (un)epic.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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