I picked up Epistory – Typing Chronicles [official site] after a reader recommendation on our own Steam Sale recommendation post (it all gets a bit recursive sometimes). I’m so glad I did. John wrote an official WIT earlier in the year and was charmed by it, but I wanted to chuck in my own two cents after an evening spent typing and gawping. I mean, it’s a game which takes an active pleasure in language and typing patterns and that’s so cool.
To recap the basics, you’re a girl riding a fox around an origami/papercraft style world. In order to defeat enemies, open up pathways and generally interact with the environment you go into typing mode by pressing space and then type the letters of the words hovering over an object. Enemies will generally have multiple words you need to get through in order to defeat them before they reach you but you can do cool things to slightly alter how that works.
I unlocked the ability to gradually burn the next word on the list for an enemy so generally I type their first word and leave the second to burn out on its own while I do the same for anything else on the screen. By the time I’ve done a cycle of whatever’s coming at me the second word has generally burned out. If it’s a two-word foe they’re dead at that point, but if it’s a four-worder then I repeat the process.
Zippy little snakes only have two words of three letters to deal with while the slower-moving spiders are four letters and, if memory serves, four words apiece. The changes in length and volume fit with the changes in movement in a really pleasing way. I also felt a real sense of challenge and panic as an enemy appeared onscreen as part of a kind of boss battle with a word long enough and unfamiliar enough that I couldn’t keep it in my head all in one go in the heat of battle.
The horror of “NEUROFIBROMATOSIS” slithering over the horizon and bearing down on you as the fight built to a crescendo and tiny flies with single letters overhead needed swatting away…
It was so interesting to see the developers exploit the relative frequency and familiarity of words to build that sense of challenge. My fingers are so used to typing most of what’s offered up for the smaller enemy challenges that I only make mistakes through lazy fingering*. When it comes to words totally outside day to day usage I get finger panic reminiscent of learning a new enemy fight pattern in a different game.
There are also the treasure chests. You open the bigger ones by typing longer words but not difficult ones. It’s stuff that’s fun to type – almost luxurious. “THOUSAND”. “DIVIDEND”. And the little ones are the best of all. They generally only need you to type one letter and then another letter, alternating between the two rapidly for this lovely, exhilarating burst of action.
Beyond this are flower and tree names which conjure wildlife into being on the map and burning obstacles which are removed by typing a conflagration-themed word. For the latter some of the words reference the fire itself – BLAZE, LAVA – while others invoke other kinds of heat – DESERT, ARID. It even touches on more poetic flame – ARDOR was one. All of this serves to add texture to the world as you type. Every one of those burning thorny obstacles looks the same but the vocabulary lends depth.
Oh! And I almost forgot – there are also doors which you open by just running your finger along one of the lines of the keyboard in this wonderful sweeping motion like you’re signing off with a crescendo on a piano.
I don’t think it will teach my to type any better, but it’s so brilliant to see language, specifically the tactile side of digital language, being exploited in this way.