Tunic Review — Smart as a Fox

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When I first started Tunic, it took me a few minutes to understand its intentions. When I took over the player’s character, a cute fox, I instinctively waited for the game to give me an instruction. I am so used to seeing tutorials or other tips on the screen. So when I didn’t receive that, at first I thought I was missing something. So I did some exploring and still didn’t get any information – I discovered the basics of combat and navigation myself.

Then I came across a piece of paper. It was part of an old-fashioned game manual, which came with instructions for how to play. But here was the catch: they weren’t in English. Instead, I had to get to the essence of the photos. Then I realized that Tunic wouldn’t give me more than that. The rest I had to figure out myself.

I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Tunic has some control issues, and sometimes it enjoys being hard to understand too much. But it’s a nice and fun game nonetheless, and I would recommend it to fans of puzzles, exploration and Dark Souls. Yes, you read that right.

Fox-like cunning

Tunic is an open-world isometric game that bears a striking resemblance to The Legend of Zelda. You play the Fox, a green tunic carrying sword and shield who is stranded in a ruined world. You have to roam the land picking up bits of the game manual to help you along the way.

You’ll explore verdant forests, pitch-black caves, snow-capped peaks, and more. The settings are beautiful, with a favorite being a sun-filled library of books the size of the Fox. Tunic’s art style may be a bit of an acquired taste, but I found it cute and especially welcome after weeks of more realistic (and darker) open worlds.

As you’d expect from a similarly fantastic indie game, there’s no dialogue and everything is written in an unfathomable runic language. Even most of the man pages you get are in this language. It’s not uncommon for an indie game to begin with “You’re a small creature on your own in a ruined world with no dialogue and only the suggestion of a story and greater conflict.” I can think of half a dozen games off the top of my head with that exact premise.

What makes Tunic different is how it presents this scenario as part of the challenge. It wants you to figure everything out with contextual clues and guesswork.

The secret of Tunic’s charm is the quiet way it rewards creative thinking and thorough research. When you find a hidden way to navigate the world there is no fanfare, but your reward is a shortcut through a difficult area or a hidden treasure chest. It’s designed to make you feel smart because you’ve explored, because you’ve tried.

Carry a big stick

The combat of the game is another part that looks simple, but if you pay close attention it is more complex. The Fox has a melee weapon and a shield, along with a few other magic-based tools. Typical combat consists of melee attacks and rolls, with the occasional use of an explosive or elemental item.

It gives a sense of accomplishment to determine what kind of weapon or item is best for each encounter. As always there are no instructions or directions. You get the simple pleasure of dropping a freeze bomb in the middle of a huge group of enemies and you realize, “Oh yeah, that works way better than just chop and dodge.”

The boss fights are a treat. There aren’t many in the game, but each boss is huge, hits hard, and has a large health bar. There’s a sense of trial and error as you figure out what their attack patterns are and where best to hit them (and what to hit them with). These are the only parts of the game that I found really difficult, but not in a way that made me stop or get frustrated.

Obviously the game is trying to look and feel like a Zelda title, but it played more like a Souls game. The checkpoints, the enemy’s patterns respawn, return to the area where you previously died to retrieve a lost item – it all feels more Souls-esque to me. But again, this may be because it was released so close to Elden Ring. I don’t think I’m the only one who will jump from one thing to another.

Running in circles

But it’s not really in comparison where Tunic struggles. Instead, most problems center around the user interface or controls. Also, his stubborn refusal to give more than the tiniest hint is sometimes more of a roadblock than a delight.

There were times when I wanted to give the game a figurative shake and say, “Yeah, Tunic, you’re very smart, but seriously, what am I supposed to do now?” This is especially true when Tunic is so picky about what does and doesn’t appear in the manual and the included maps. Even something as simple as a little check to show that I’ve fully explored an area would have made the experience much more enjoyable.

One of the biggest problems with Tunic is that the lock-on feature often doesn’t work the way I would like. It will often be “stuck” on an enemy or point of interest that is either not close to the Fox or, in combat, is not currently attacking it.

This becomes especially problematic later when the fox gets a grappling hook. The grappling function is linked to the lock-on function, which means that you have to lock onto a grappling point. More than I can count, I would have to run the Fox up and down near a grab point to try to pry the feature from an enemy on the other side of the screen.

Too much stuff, not enough hands

Another problem is that the game stubbornly tries to keep the controls limited to as few buttons as possible. I understand this is probably because the game is designed to be used with a controller – I played mouse and keyboard – but it does work in certain situations.

For example, while healing potions are assigned to their own button, healing items are not. To use a healing or healing item, I had to open the inventory, assign it to an active slot (which usually meant undocking a weapon or projectile), exit the inventory, then press that slot’s button to unlock it. item to use. After that I had to open the inventory, reassign the original item or weapon, etc. If there was a faster way to do this, I never found it.

I think you can see why this can feel awkward, especially since opening the inventory doesn’t pause the game. This inventory management system is better done by other games. In the case of Tunic, the effect on gameplay is similar to extracting your entire wallet to find your keys.

A nice adventure

I enjoyed Tunic and was satisfied with the game for most of my time. It is challenging, but also calm. It’s a little piece of puzzle-like goodness in the middle of multiple massive open-world releases, and for that I’m thankful it exists.

I wish Tunic would meet me half way sometimes and not leave me frustrated, neither with the controls nor with the reconnaissance.

Tunic launches March 16 on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One. Finji has given GamesBeat a code for this review.

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was original published at “https://venturebeat.com/2022/03/16/tunic-review-clever-like-a-fox/”