Nintendo has done well with the launch of the Switch, and it seems that every week there’s another dozen or so games added to the system. A genre that is far from underrepresented is that of the Metroidvania, and I have played a fair number of them this year. Some of them new, and some of them are ports making their way to Nintendo’s hybrid console. Unepic is one of these ports; originally coming out back in 2011 on PC, it’s even been on the Wii U, and it’s now on the Switch for a whole new audience, myself included. I’ve been aware of the game, and it caught my eye back on the Wii U, but I never got a chance until now to try it. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Unepic starts off with the protagonist Daniel, gathered together with a bunch of his buddies playing some good old fashioned Dungeons & Dragons. They all crack jokes, and his buddies mock him a little bit. Daniel pauses the game to go to the bathroom, and while he is there, the lights go out. When he finally gets the lights back on, he’s no longer in his friends bathroom, but in some foreign castle. As he explores the castle with only his lighter at first, he encounters an evil spirit that possesses him. However, the spirit, whom Daniel names Zera, is trapped in Daniel’s body and must wait for him to die to be able to escape. This leads to plenty of snicker-worthy chuckles as Daniel and Zera banter back and forth. Sometimes Daniel reminded me of Fry from Futurama and this character made it a little bit more enjoyable if I imagined it was Fry with say the Robot Devil trapped inside of him. Anyways, back to the story. Daniel finds out that someone named Harnakon is the master of the castle, and the only way for him to get home is to kill him, so off he goes on his quest to get home. The story is kind of interesting, and again there is some chuckle-worthy laughs throughout the game, but more often than not, I just wanted to unlock some new areas and grew tired of some of the dialogue that happens in the game.
Unepic is very much a Metroidvania game, with all of the side-scrolling, item-collecting, backtracking action that you would expect. However, it’s got a lot more RPG aspects to it than other games in the genre, and that I did enjoy. The movement in the game is OK, though sometimes Daniel feels a little too floaty as he is jumping around. There is quite a bit of material gathering and crafting that can be done, to upgrade Daniel as you progress through the adventure. The weapons tend to fit into one of a few categories. You have swords that are good for hacking up traditional enemies, maces, which are good for smashing barrels, and the bow, which is good for shooting at faster or harder to reach enemies.
The game has a pretty decent button-mapping setup, so it’s easy to assign various weapons and items to one of three different button setups. The menu systems in general are very easy to sort through; however, the game doesn’t pause when you go into your menu, so you need to make sure you’re in the clear if you are going to be poking around and seeing what you’ve picked up and what you can turf. It is nice that the game keeps the item info and such on the screen at the bottom, and if you’re playing in handheld you can turn that off. Yes, losing that information probably isn’t for the best, but if you want to play in handheld it helps free up as much screen space as possible.
Visually, Unepic is fairly bland throughout. The highlight is definitely the dialogue, which is barely a highlight, but the castle is pretty uninteresting and not very memorable. The enemies consist of your typical bats, snakes, skeletons and so forth, what you would expect to find in a game like Unepic. Some of the bosses look pretty cool, and fill up the screen but sadly their patterns are incredibly predictable and those fights aren’t the toughest in the game, especially compared to some of the tougher rooms you’ll end up in. The music is pretty typical as far as a fantasy Metroidvania type game goes, and in general isn’t too awful. I ended up humming a few pieces here or there, and it’s another slight standout in a fairly mediocre game. The game runs well either in docked or handheld mode for the Switch, which is to be expected as the graphics and game aren’t really pushing the system in the least. However, this is the type of game that you can easily spend a good chunk of time just wandering around, and having it playable in handheld is a point in favour of the game.
In the end, Unepic was just an OK gaming experience for me on the Switch. I’ve played a number of Metroidvania games this year, especially on the Switch, and ultimately, the story and dialogue was what really stood out for me versus some of the other games I’ve played. Sadly, the overall experience of exploring and fighting and backtracking just didn’t seem as satisfying as I hoped it would have been. If you’re craving another action-adventure type game for your Switch, and want some RPG-style material finding and crafting mixed in with your adventures, this probably is for you. If you like smarmy main characters that like to crack jokes about assorted video games, but still somehow fall a bit flat, again this is probably for you. In the end Unepic was basically just that, not very epic, but it may still be worth your time if you’re a fan of the genre.
A digital code for Unepic was provided courtesy of Francis Cota for the purpose of this review.