Tunic - Zelda With a Side of Dark Souls
Tunic is an isometric, Zelda-like game that was in development for some seven years. Most of the development of the game, including programming, 3D modeling, and map design, was all done by one guy: Andrew Shouldice. Andrew would later recruit other team members to help with the music and sound effects.
Tunic released a few weeks ago on Steam and Xbox. Here’s my thoughts.
You play as an adorable Fox, clothed in green garb (a nod to Link in the Zelda series). Like a lot of adventure games, this fox will rove about in the in-game world from an isometric perspective and will eventually come across weapons that will aid him in his journey. He’ll start off with a stick to fend off the baddies, then that stick will upgrade to a sword for more serious damage. It takes a while before he gets a shield, but boy, that shield will be a lifesaver when dealing with aggresive enemies.
Tunic, in a lot of ways, is a throwback to the games developed in the mid-80s. For example, the instruction manual in the game (which is very important, by the way, to help you on your journey) is reminescent of the physical manuals provided in NES games, with hand-written symbols, places to go to, buttons to press and what they signify in-game, maps of specific areas, with little detail about what each thing does. The game also does not walk you by the hand as to where you should go, how to attack, how to defend, or how to use items. The instruction manual will hint at this, but you’re mostly on your own to figure things out. The manual isn’t complete; the fox has to collect scattered pages throughout the map to add to it and give the player a better hint at where to go next or how to use a certain mechanic. Some things in the game have indecipherable text as well.
Later on, other weapons will be retrieved, including ranged weapons, dynamite, and others that will become a massive help in combat. The fox just has a three-attack combo string with his sword, and this won’t always be the best strategy for dealing with a horde of bad guys. Dynamite, for example, takes a decent chunk of the enemies’ health and can reach multiple enemies. Just don’t get too close to it, and be careful where you throw it; you could end up throwing it overseas and it will become useless.
As adorable as the fox is, and as relaxing as the beautiful soundtrack might be, don’t take the game lightly. Tunic will not go easy on you. That’s where the Dark Souls element comes in. Usually it only takes two or three hits from an enemy to kill the fox. They attack frequently, and certain sword strikes from the fox won’t flinch them. Defending is key here, but bear in mind the shield can only take a few hits within a certain period of time. If the gauge for it depletes, the fox can no longer defend, neither can he dodge out of the way. It’s a sure recipe for death if you try to hold yourself down like a fort.
This is in addition to certain areas that will slowly drain the fox’s maximum HP if he gets too close to a certain object. Some enemies possess candles – if the fox gets hit with it, he will gradually lose HP until he dashes a couple of times to shake the flames off. Enemies can also sometimes come in hordes. Don’t even get me started on the boss fights. Tunic will truly test your every wit, much like Hades, and that’s certainly something I will praise the game for.
Health can be recovered with potions and certain items, but these come in limited quantities. Health, potions, and Magic power can be fully recovered by visiting one of the various altars scattered throughout the world, but the downside there is any enemies that you have defeated will respawn. Various stats, including the fox’s HP, stamina, MP, attack, defense, and the number of potions he can use at a time can be upgraded with these altars using the in-game currency. This again is very important for the difficult encounters.
I’ve put a little over six hours to the game and haven’t finished it yet. According to the reviewer at IGN, he mentioned it took him 15-20 hours to finish it. So I guess I have a lot more to look forward to.
- throwback to the 80s with instruction manual
- a nod to the classic Zelda series, with weapons and exploration
- excellent Souls-like difficulty
- cute, furry fox with an excellent soundtrack
- apparently 15-20 hours of gameplay before the conclusion
- can sometimes get lost on where to go next
- difficulty can at times make you frustrated
While Tunic works out of the box, I’ve found that I have better success with GE-Proton7-10 than Proton 7.0-1. The latter had quite a few lag spikes; I’m not sure why. With GE-Proton I have GameMode and FSR enabled, and the framerate remained at a stable 165 FPS.
If you want a throwback to the classic Zelda titles, while at the same time crave a challenge, Tunic is certainly the way to go.
Note: review key provided by developer.
Cover image credit: VG247