You guys, this one was a doozy! I started playing Unepic on January 19th, 2014, but almost immediately got stopped in my tracks by a bridge I had to cross while avoiding falling boulders. I tried and tried, but simply could not cross this bridge so I put the game aside, having only played it for maybe 15 minutes.
Coincidentally, it was exactly one year later, on January 19th, 2015, when I picked it up again. I finally got across that goddamn bridge (and felt like Atreyu passing through the Sphinx statues), and started to play Unepic in earnest. Thus began a loooooong journey. For context, I started this one immediately after finishing Swords & Soldiers, and didn’t finish it until two months later! And that wasn’t the result of playing sporadically – I put time into this fucking thing nearly every day!
So what is Unepic? It’s a bit difficult to explain. It’s a platforming action-RPG where the player’s success is dependent on carefully manipulating their inventory and stats, something I’ve never been particularly good at. But in terms of structure and level design, it is extremely reminiscent of old Commodore 64 games like Montezuma’s Revenge. It looks like this:
Plot-wise, the game is about a regular nerdy dude who, during a game of Dungeons & Dragons, gets whisked away to a fantasy castle and has to find his way back to the real world. The wise-cracking protagonist, and the general tone of the game, reminded me of nothing more than Army of Darkness, a fact which the developer was clearly aware of:
Above all, the game is fucking hard. The beginning was especially a struggle for me, as I didn’t have enough experience points to be sufficiently powerful, and I wasn’t especially careful about the experience points I did earn. I was applying points to my sword skills when I didn’t even own a powerful sword yet, for example. Eventually I got sliiiiightly better at this aspect of the game, and became pretty sufficient with an axe. At that point, I was finally able to defeat the game’s first boss.
Take that, Drakonius!! After that, I was able to slowly make my way through the game. Here is a sampling of some of the achievements I unlocked along the way. I am posting them simply because none of this was easy for me at all, and I am pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished:
Still primarily using an axe, I made my way through most of the game’s earlier sections. Once I got to the later areas, the challenge spiked considerably, and I realized that I hadn’t prepared myself, skill-wise, to properly explore these areas. So I did what I usually do in these types of video game situations: I plowed through at top speed, ignoring side-quests and avoiding enemies like the plague. Dying over and over and over again until I happened to get lucky enough to make it through in one piece. And so, eventually, I found myself at the game’s final challenge. I don’t want to spoil the nature of the endgame, because it’s really cool and unique, suffice to say that if you go in improperly prepared (as I did), then you are simply fucked.
After playing and failing this section countless times, I came to the realization that I was lacking in two absolutely essential skills necessary to get through it: the ability to cast healing magic, and proficiency with ranged weapons (which, in this game, means a bow and arrow). My usual tactic of plowing through and relying on melee weapons was simply not going to cut it. I asked for some advice on miiverse, and this was the response I got:
Great strategy, Strateg1st!! Thanks for fucking nothing! But after a few more unsuccessful tries, it became abundantly clear that I really only had two options: (A) take Strateg1st’s advice and just give up, or (B) spend countless hours going back through the gameworld and grinding for XP, just so I could finish the final 10 minutes of the game. Well, I was unwilling to surrender to this fucking game, so I decided to go with Option B. And since grinding is a painfully slow process in Unepic, I was at this for WEEKS. Along the way, however, I did manage to unlock the full map:
It eventually became obvious that, at this point, no amount of grinding would allow me to achieve the skills I needed. My early-game carelessness had set me back irreversibly far. But then, in my darkest hour, a miracle happened: I got my hands on an item called the Orb of Rebirth. The Orb of Rebirth allows you to reset your statistics, and redistribute the experience points you’ve earned in any way you want! However, the Orb can be used one time and one time only, so if I fucked it up again, it was all over for me. At this point I shut off the game and spent days agonizing over how to configure my stats.
Eventually I trepidatiously took out the Orb and made my decisions. Here is a Before & After image of my character’s stats:
As you can see, the skills I got through most of the game with were a thoughtless mish-mash of a little bit of everything, without mastery of anything. I used to Orb to focus on a few key skills (healing and bows chief among them) and ignored everything else. Then, taking a deep breath, I headed back into the final area… and I beat it after three tries! With my bow in hand and my healing magic at the ready, I plowed through this area with no issues, and then the final boss turned out to be the easiest in the whole game! For the record, the ending I got was the “fate of perpetual slavery,” for those of you familiar enough with the game to be aware of what that means.
Unepic is a truly difficult game (and I didn’t even play it on the hardest setting), but it is also one of the most creative and fulfilling video game experiences I’ve had in my life. I highly recommend it (it’s available for the PC as well as the Wii U), but please learn from my mistakes and take great care in how you apply your experience points!! Bows and arrows, people, bows and arrows!
As my final word, dear readers, I’d like to pass this original thought on to all of you: Wow, the end of Unepic is really cool!