Tunic’s quick ryeveal at Microsoft’s E3 2018 presentation was one of my favorite looks at a new upcoming title for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, which is why I was happy to find out that I’d get some hands-on time with it during the media showcase event that took place after the show. While there were many other new games to play, I immediately went in search of Tunic before the lines got too long, and I’m glad I did, because it definitely has a classic SNES-era Zelda feel to it with a splash of StarFox. No, there are no spaceships, but your main character is a fox, so there’s my weak explanation for comparing this game to a Zelda/StarFox hybrid.
Anyway, the demo starts at what I have to believe to be the beginning of Tunic. You take control of the hero Fox, who has no items or weapons on his person for you to use against a few blob enemies that appear as you arrive on an island setting. Like the original Zelda, the first thing I had to do was explore to find some sort of melee weapon to get past these enemies. In another nod to Link’s adventures, I did find a stick to wield in a cave, so with that in tow I proceeded to explore the rest of the world now that I could get past the blobs blocking my initial path.
This gameplay mechanic of needing to explore open parts of the world while others are closed off made up the bulk of the demo. Like other action-RPGs one must find key items that will allow them to proceed past previously closed off areas in Tunic. I ultimately found a legit sword, which in turn granted me the power to lop down bushes that I couldn’t get past with my stick weapon, so once I found the sword, I was able to backtrack to the areas I wasn’t able to get past the first time I came across them without the bush-hewing sword. With that in my inventory I was able to unlock new paths, which in turn led to new areas, enemies, and items to find such as a shield.
Like I said Tunic is very Zelda-like in its exploration and progression in that one must eventually backtrack to early areas to get past previously impassable blockades after finding new quest items that imbue you with abilities that allow you to do so. It also helps that the game’s visuals are quite unique and beautiful looking, so exploring is welcomed to see new areas and how the color palettes shift, as well as how lighting, shadows, and other graphical tricks are used to make the world feel as alive and vibrant as possible.
Outside of exploring combat and puzzle solving round out Tunic’s gameplay tropes. Combat again feels very old school Zelda-ish, especially the A Link to the Past entry. You can equip three items to the controller buttons of X, Y, and B, which when equipped are then tied to that button. The melee combat has a lock-on mode like Zelda titles, and for the most part just requires well timed button presses and dodges. Although, the combat is much more strategic than just being a button mash fest, so one must be adept in attacking and dodging to have success.
The demo concluded with a boss battle, which kicked my ass on purpose to end the demo and not reveal anymore of the story, so fighting big bads will also come into play in Tunic. I definitely enjoyed what I got to experience with this title, and am looking forward to seeing more of it in action. It looks great, it feels solid and well thought out, plus it’s just one of those titles that is hard to put down, so I’m eager to learn more about over the coming months. Plus, the fact that it’s been developed by a one man studio is also very impressive based on what I played, so that fact alone should garner your interest if you’re into these types of games. One thing is for sure, and that’s the fact that Zelda fans will undoubtedly enjoy what Tunic has to offer, so if you’re a huge fan of that franchise, you’ll definitely want to follow this title’s journey towards release.
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