Tunic review — Clever like a fox

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When I first booted the tunic, it took me a few minutes to figure out its intentions. When I took control of the player’s character, an adorable fox, I instinctively waited for the game to instruct me. I’m used to watching tutorials or other onscreen tips. So when I didn’t get it, I first thought I was missing something. So I proceeded to explore a bit and still I found no information.

Then I got a piece of paper. It was part of the old-school game manual that came with instructions on gameplay. But here’s the catch: they weren’t in English. Instead, I wanted to find the gist of the pictures. At the same time I realized that the tunic would not give me more than that. Everything else I had to decide for myself.

I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The tunic has some control issues, and is sometimes a lot of fun because it is difficult to understand. But it’s a beautiful and fun game, and I would recommend it to fans of puzzles, exploration and Dark Souls. Yes, you read that right.

Clever as a fox

Tunic is an isometric open-world game that bears a striking resemblance to The Legend of Zelda. You play the role of a fox, a sword-and-shield driver wearing a green tunic trapped in a ruined world. To guide you on the journey you have to wander on the ground, selecting pieces of the game’s instruction manual.

You will explore lush forests, peach-black caves, snow-capped peaks and more. The atmosphere is beautiful, my favorite sunshine library has books as big as a fox. The art style of the tunic may be a bit acquired, but I found it adorable and especially welcome after the more real (and darker) open worlds of the week.

As you might expect if you played an equally weird indie game, there would be no dialogue, and all the writing would appear in a vague runic language. Most of the manual pages you choose are also in this language. It’s not uncommon for an indie game to start with “you’re a little creature on your own in a ruined world without dialogue and just a story and a hint of a big conflict”. From the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen games with that exact base.

What sets the tunic apart from that is how it presents this scenario as part of the challenge. He wants you to find everything with reference clues and conjecture.

The secret of the tunic’s charm is its quiet way that it rewards creative thinking and thorough research. When you find a hidden way to navigate the world, you get no fanfare, but your reward is a shortcut from a difficult area or a chest of hidden treasures. It’s designed to make you feel smart about exploring, trying.

Keep a big stick

The battle of the game is another part of it which seems simple, but more complicated if you pay attention. The fox carries melee weapons and shields along with some other magic-based tools. Typical combat involves melee attacks and rolling, with occasional use of an explosive or improvised explosive device.

You get a sense of satisfaction from deciding which type of weapon or item is best for each encounter. As always, the game does not give you any instructions or hints. You get the simple pleasure of dropping a freeze bomb in the midst of a huge group of enemies and realizing that “oh yes, it works better than just slashing and dodging”.

Boss fights are a treat. You don’t face many of them in the game, but each boss is huge, hits hard and has a big health bar. It’s trial-and-error because the pattern of their attack and where they hit best (and what to hit them) are the only parts of the game that I found really difficult, but not in such a way that I stopped or got frustrated. .

It is clear that the game is trying to look and feel like the Zelda title, but it is played more like the Souls game. Checkpoints, Enemy Response Patterns, Returning to the area where you died earlier to retrieve a lost item – all of these make me feel more like a soul. Then again, this could be because it was released near the Alden Ring. I don’t think I’m the only one who jumps from one game to another.

Running in circles

But that’s not really where the tunic struggles. Instead most of its problems are centered around UI or controls. Also, his stubborn refusal to give more than the most common sign is sometimes more of a hindrance than a pleasure.

Sometimes I wanted to shake up the game and say, “Yeah, tunic, you’re very clever, but seriously, What can I do now?This is especially true when the tunic is very picky about what to show and what not to show in the instruction manual and its contents. Even a simple thing like a little tick mark to show that I have thoroughly explored an area will make the experience more enjoyable.

The biggest problem with the tunic is that the lock-on function often doesn’t work the way I want it to. He will often get “stuck” on an enemy or a point of interest that is either not close to the fox or, in combat, not currently attacking him.

This becomes especially problematic later when the fox gets the hook. The grappling function is combined with the lock-on function, which means you have to lock on the grappling point. More times than I can count, I have to move the fox up and down near the grappling point to try and try to block the function from the enemy on the other side of the screen.

Too much stuff, not enough hands

Another problem is that the game stubbornly tries to limit its controls to as few buttons as possible. I understand this is possible because the game was designed to be used with the controller – I played on the mouse and keyboard – but it works in certain situations.

For example, when healing positions are mapped with their own button, healing Things Not at all. To use a healing or restoration item, I had to open the inventory, map it to the active slot (which usually means unmapping a weapon or projectile), exit the inventory, then press the slot button to use the item. Then I had to open the inventory, rebuild the original item or weapon etc. I’ve never found a faster way to do this.

I think you can see why this sounds clumsy, especially since opening inventory doesn’t stop the game. This system of inventory management has been improved by other games. In the case of a tunic, its effect on gameplay is like unpacking your entire purse to find your keys.

A beautiful adventure

I enjoyed the tunic, and I was happy during most of my time with the game. It’s challenging, but it’s also quiet. It’s a bit of a puzzle-y goodness in the midst of multiple huge open-world releases, and I’m grateful that it exists.

I wish sometimes the tunic would find me halfway through and not disappoint me with restrictions or research.

Tunic will launch on March 16 on PC, Xbox Series X / S, and Xbox One. Finji provided GamesBeat with a code for this review.

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