By Mento 1 Comments
|01/12/12 - Ballistic||05/12/12 - Mutant Mudds||09/12/12 - Slydris|
|02/12/12 - Band of Bugs||06/12/12 - Oniken||10/12/12 - Soulcaster|
|03/12/12 - Escape Goat||07/12/12 - Outpost Kaloki||11/12/12 - Squids|
|04/12/12 - MiniFlake||08/12/12 - Reprisal||12/12/12 - UnEpic|
December the Twelfth
The game: Franfistro's UnEpic
The source: The Indie Royale July Jubilee Bundle
The pre-amble: UnEpic, from Spanish developer Franfistro, is a Metroidvania with a much heavier emphasis on the sub-genre's latent RPG aspects. A regular nerd is transported to an immense castle of horrors on the way to the bathroom and must survive in this deadly new environment with only a sarcastic ghost that failed to possess his body as company (who is dubbed Zeratul by the hero, because references). You can level up and upgrade skills, find treasures and equipment, light torches to mark your progress through the dungeons, find gateways and special transportation items to get around the massive dungeon easier and listen to reams of inane "nerd culture" in-jokes from the protagonist.
The playthrough: UnEpic is a fairly solid example of an Indie Metroidvania. It's far more deliberate; areas tend to be full of traps and side areas to explore and combat tends to be predicated on whoever gets the first swing, whether it's waiting until they're right in your face before striking or hitting them unawares either from a distance or from a stealthy approach. I've only explored the first couple of areas in the castle after several horus, with many more evidently waiting just beyond, so it's certainly not a short game either; easily the match of its many retail contemporaries in size.
However, UnEpic is sort of like Borderlands 2 in that in order to appreciate its excellent gameplay, you kind of have to suffer its sense of humor. It's quite atrocious at times. While it does focus on video game reference humor rather than the far less bearable internet reference humor of Gearbox's latest, it becomes grating after the dozenth Blizzard shout out. But it gets worse - the screenshot below comes from a quest in which the "hero" can interrupt the orcs' mating process by stealing the fertility totem from an orc alpha male and using it to impregnate three female orcs, rationalizing it with such enlightened comments as "hey, a hole's a hole". The reward for doing so was a pretty gnarly axe which continues to be useful, so I kind of went along with it. I'll have to take a couple more showers tonight to compensate, I think. Conversely, I may well be unreasonably denigrating another culture's idea of humor needlessly, so... whatever. It's not a deal-breaker. Star Control II had a similar plot thread and it's one of my favorite games. Besides, that axe is pretty great.
Something I've noticed while catching up on Chrontendo is that the larger the sprites in those old 8-bit and 16-bit games, the better regarded the graphics were at the time. Being able to so clearly see the main character sprite and those of their enemies has many gameplay advantages and tends to be more visually impressive besides. UnEpic goes against the grain in this regard, zooming out so your character is a speck among several dungeon floors full of tiny details. It works in its favor more often than not, since the effect of being so minuscule really does emphasize the size of the oppressive oubliette you've been unceremoniously dumped into. As with many Metroidvanias I've played, the temptation to keep exploring is a strong one, and any game of this type that is able to pull that off - Indie or no - is ultimately doing something right.
The verdict: As long as the character cuts down on the whole "quoting World of Warcraft" and "fucking other species" rigmarole, I'm happy to continue.