Wot I Think: UnEpic

By John Walker on July 30th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

UnEpic has been around for quite a while now. Adam first played a demo of it in October 2011, and it’s been in Early Alpha for a good while since. But now it is, they say, complete. Released as a final version, feature complete. I’ve played it a few times over the years, but started from scratch with this final build. Here’s wot I think:

I’m not sure if memory is playing tricks on me, or whether they’ve slightly subdued the overtly obnoxious nature of UnEpic. It remains extremely obnoxious – you play a complete arsehole, who when going for a pee-break from his D&D evening, finds himself in an ancient castle, and rapidly possessed by an evil spirit. Defiantly believing his friends must have drugged him, he takes the peculiarity of the situation in his pace, which of course only adds to quite what a self-satisfied wanker he is. In fact, he’s such a git that the demonic possession can’t take either – something about his not having any faith whatsoever – such that the evil ghost dude thing is trapped inside him, unable to control him.

This provides a sort-of-Metroidvania-ish platformer, that looks an awful lot like a rogue-lite but absolutely isn’t. Death’s only setback is to the last auto/deliberate save, and objects remain in your inventory. And, as it happens, that’s one of the game’s highlights.

I adore rogue-lites. I’m currently obsessively playing Pixel Dungeon on Android, and recently loved Traps N Gemstones on tablet too. But there’s something very refreshing about getting to explore a sprawling dungeon without constantly feeling like I’m experiencing setbacks. It’s good to have both in my life.

Playing arseholes is always problematic, and I’m not convinced this game gets it right. He’s both not a very convincing arsehole, and also sometimes a little too revolting. A particular sequence in which you’re “challenged” to have sex with three orc women in quick succession is both entirely incongruous with the rest of the game, and more than a bit creepy. Then turn another corner and the guy’s making smart, witty arguments to trick the grumpy demon stuck inside him, utterly unlike his previous behaviour.

But it does get the dungeon exploration right. It’s not special, and while that sounds like a criticism, here it’s actually a compliment. There isn’t overly-elaborate platforming, there isn’t any need to become an UnEpic master-player to enjoy playing through, and the inventory, weapon, spell and potion systems are unceremonious. Improving your specs on levelling up isn’t a terrifying balancing act, but rather a plain choice in which weapons/defence to specialise. There’s something peculiarly refreshing about a game’s just being straightforward.

One of the smartest ideas in the game is the need to light each screen. Reach all the torches in a location and it becomes permanently lit on the map – it adds almost nothing, other than ensuring the room is light the next time you go through it, but it creates a constant sense of progress. Lighting up the map, feeling like you’re moving forward, as you expand the locations you can reach. And to make moving about the increasingly huge map more appealing, you can buy scrolls that teleport you to specific locations, or save up enough coin and you can get artefacts that teleport you as often as you wish. It makes it hard to stop playing, basically.

Until it crashes, that is. Sadly, even after all this time, I’ve experienced a crash to desktop after it pops up a “map not found” message. Only one in quite a few hours, and the auto-save meant it wasn’t a big loss. Still though. My only other large complaint are that perennial failing of games, the ladders. They’re particularly poor here. Jumping onto them, and off of them, is possible, but incredibly fiddly and erratic. Even just straight climbing up and down is glitchy. This desperately needs improving, as it often introduces glum moments of unnecessary failure.

There are other improvements to be made. The inventory is a real mess, with no useful way to see which weapons are currently set to keyboard/gamepad shortcuts, which are the weapons in your active rota. There’s a nice ability to have the inventory instantly tidied, which is fairly essential, but you’ll still be frustrated by not knowing which of three near-identical maces is the one you’re using. However, that shortcut system I mentioned is really splendid. I’ve been playing with a gamepad, and even with that you’re able to set up twelve different shortcuts for changing weapons, drinking potions, or activating devices. (But then, there’s also the utterly lovely silliness of being able to get leeches in your inventory after wading through water.)

There’s no mighty gimmick. There’s no unique twist on the genre. And I think this might be its biggest gimmick and its unique twist. It’s just a well-made platform RPG. That it’s created by just one person is extremely impressive. I don’t like the art at all – it’s far too much doodles-in-the-back-of-a-maths-exercise-book for me – but that’s a personal taste thing. The key is, I do enjoy playing it. I’m still far from finished, but have played for an awfully long time. For a tenner, that’s a lot of game. It’s somewhat obnoxious, but special for just getting on with being a game.

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33 Comments »

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  1. benexclaimed says:

    I love this game. My only gripe is really that the writing is annoying and obnoxious. Aside from that, I had a lot of fun and was surprised at how much time I was sinking into it over the course of a couple of weeks.

    • SomeDuder says:

      I’m wondering how this game came to be – from the way it plays, it’s put together by a very competent developer. But when you come across the terrible lines of dialog and the sex-jokes/events, it’s almost as if the developer’s 14-year old cousin was asked for his tasteful input and the dev’s just went “Fuck it, Pulitzer material right there, let’s do this”.

      But yea, it plays very nicely, combat is fun, and the voice-actors are easily muted (There’s a dedicated option for it, so I guess I’m not the only one who can’t stand the grating voices). I played it a while ago though, and I gave it a rest when I got stuck at some point where I couldn’t figure out where to go next, by which point I had gotten distracted by other vidya.

      It’s had quite a few updates in the meantime though, and I’m hoping to pick it up again where I left it.

  2. lordcooper says:

    That last paragraph caused my money to fly away.

  3. Kestrel says:

    I just found it too vulgar for my tastes.

    • rpsKman says:

      Only two lines of dialog in a screenshot and I think I’ll stay away. Takes some mighty talent to make that kind of stuff work.

      • Blackcompany says:

        In context the wanker is kind of making fun of himself here. Its not the best joke and really could have been left out. But is really is pretty self deprecating to be honest.

        In all seriousness, if you like 2D dungeon crawlers I really do recommend it. It is very straightforward indeed, but given the number of platformers and roguelikes out there right now, this really is, as the review says, one of its major strengths.

  4. TheRaptorFence says:

    You forgot the best part of the game: the co-op campaign. I enjoy being able to play a separate campaign that has a separate player scale (a la Two Worlds). It’s about the same length as the regular game, but a riot to play with friends. It brought back the LAN-party for a couple of our flatmates.

    • derbefrier says:

      yeah coop in this game is really fun. I am glad workshop support finally went up so we can has more coop levels. I love how some of the traps work

      “ohhh a switch let hit is guys!”

      I flip the swtich and the floor dissapears underneath my buddies killing them. lol

      “oh another switch, okay everyone stack on me in case its a trap”

      pull the lever and we all die :)

      good times

  5. JFS says:

    It’s a good game. I preordered and sort of got hooked on it. Happens rarely. However, it just got too difficult at a certain point, there were heavy knights with poisoned weapons running around everywhere and I just couldn’t muster enough skill to pull through. It was a great adventure up until then. Doj’t remember the writing much, though, and I believe I didn’t get my Steam key till this very day.

    • dE says:

      I’m not even sure it’s actual difficulty… at some point it just gets too annoying to progress. Too many annoying enemies and traps on screen and you need to do all sorts of things to not get damaged. Over and over again. Whereas in the beginning it’s easy to make progress, clear a few rooms, find hidden things, see new equipment and spells – later on it’s a long and dull slog through 3-4 rooms, fumbling with your inventory to pick the right tool for the right job.

      The writing didn’t save it either. I’m a roleplayer person, I do roleplay or rather I did roleplay. So a lot of those jokes should be somewhat relatable through subject matter… but with some very few exceptions, I just groaned. It’s not a clever play on Roleplay, like Order of the Stick. This is more along the lines of that infamous Chick Anti D&D comic. And that seemingly includes idiotic sex scenes, dull oneliners and just overall cliché male basement teenage hormone syndrome.

      • derbefrier says:

        It was pretty juvenile but i did giggle when the DM would mess with you on certain parts but yeah the story is largely not great and forgettable but the game itself is a joy. I didnt even play through the single player to be honest. I have like 50 hours in the game and its all been(mostly) co-op

  6. Premium User Badge

    Riaktion says:

    I’m confused. I bought this game from GoG and finished it over a year ago… and… now it has been released? Whaaaa…. !?

    • Kein says:

      Singleplayer was completely finished back then, however, the game also had in plans multiplayer tied with Steam Community/Workshop in mind so it was “still kinda in early access”.

  7. lylebot says:

    Giant Bomb played some of this in a video a while back. I hated the dialogue, I found it obnoxious and (for lack of a better phrase) “try-hard”. But then the Giant Bomb guys went to the “language” menu and picked an option called “UnEnglish”, and it was much better. Not in terms of English grammar (that was fairly bad, though not so bad that you couldn’t understand it), but a lot more charming.

    I sort of got the feeling that the developers are not native or fluent English speakers, so they outsourced the English localization, then didn’t much like the result but rather than get it re-done (which I’m sure would be expensive) just included their own stab at it and called it “UnEnglish”.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Other way around. The original dev-made translation was found lacking by many players, so they got an actual translator for the updated release.

  8. derbefrier says:

    Remember always bring a lighter when going to the bathroom.

  9. Frank says:

    It’s a metroidvania without a computer virus? Sold.

    Oh wait, somehow I already own it. Well, into the queue it goes now that it’s finished.

  10. InternetBatman says:

    This review pretty much matches my own impressions, although I do think the second to last area is a bit ridiculous.

    • mouton says:

      You mean the fukken elves? There were some crazy places in that game alright.

  11. Heliocentric says:

    It ends on a rape joke. Yeah..

    • chargen says:

      [face of 9 Bizarre Video Games It’s Hard to Believe Exist guy]

  12. secuda says:

    Its kinda sad that this got a wait list so long and even greenlite, while Air control got a zero of that.

  13. Michael Fogg says:

    I think the ‘obnoxious’ humour is mostly a case of cultural differences. The game’s originally in Spanish and that type of humour suffers from being directly translated into English.

  14. Halk says:

    John, could you say something about how the last section of the game works in that final version?

    I have played this game before, but never completed the final challenge. It was absolutely horrible. You were basically expected to play TWO games at the same time. A “normal” level plus bossfight, and a tower defense part, in parallel. You were expected to switch back and forth between the two, but TIME KEPT RUNNING in the inactive part, i.e., you would most likely die without even seeing what was going on. It was one of the worst design decisions I have ever seen in any game, so I half-heartedly tried a few times, but then gave up.

    Has this been changed in the final version? If yes, I might want to go back and complete the game. Thanks in advance!

    • mouton says:

      It was pretty hard, but I really liked that. The tower defense part was actually really intense and I enjoyed that.

  15. nemryn says:

    Also you can make notes on the map to remind you to come back when you have the sewer key or whatever, which is a feature that should be mandatory in Metrovanias.

    • SavageTech says:

      “Also you can make notes on the map. . . .which is a feature that should be mandatory in Metrovanias ALL GAMES THAT ARE NOT SET IN A SINGLE CORRIDOR.”

      Fixed that for you.

  16. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Where on the asshole scale is he, 1 being a monk and 10 being Dink Smallwood.

  17. MellowKrogoth says:

    Love this game, the unusual screen perspective as well as the unusual humor. Loads of stuff in the RPG system, even pets.

    Not really a Metroidvania though, you seem to unlock areas very linearly.