Tunic review

Tunic is a game that’s been talked about for sometime, but finally it’s been released and it’s well worth the wait. This is an isometic, Zelda-Souls mash up, with plenty of exploration, puzzles and surprisingly tough boss battles.

When you first start out in Tunic you don’t have much. You are a cute little Fox, but surrounded by a lot of danger. As the little fox you can run, dash and dodge, all the standard actions of a hero in an action-adventure like this. There is one thing missing though, you don’t have a weapon… yet. Thankfully, that doesn’t last too long as you get a trusty stick to whack enemies with.

One of the big inspirations for the game is The Legend of Zelda series, and in those games you generally start out, or acquire a sword very early in the game. Tunic attempts to flip that a little bit by starting you out with a stick, but don’t worry too much, a sword isn’t far away. This leads you into one of the big features of Tunic, and thats exploration. The game does a great job in nudging you to explore, plus it makes it very worthwhile and rewarding at the same time. When you first start out, you are boxed in via the bushes and therefore a sword is neccessary to cut down the bushes and find your way out of there.

Tunic doesn’t really hold your hand too much, it does a great job of using the environment to let you know where to go. Even though the game doesn’t give you obvious pointers, it’s very subtle and skilled in directing you forward. Also, it doesn’t throw huge roadblocks in your way, so you may not know the answer immediately, but through a little exploring, testing, swiping with the stick or sword, then you’ll find your way.

To help you along on your journey you have a little manual. At first this isn’t much use, and it’s covered in what looks to be glyphs and a language we can’t understand. We start out with the instructions shrouded in mystery, however, it’s not long before we start to uncover details of the manual. The missing pages from the manual are items to be found in the game, along with other useful items like keys, bombs and weapons and armour like a shield. It’s not entirely obvious what some items are; there are strange vegetables and valuables to be found. The answers to the mystery items are in the manual, but at first the pages are unreadable. It feels like the manual is inspired by real-life manuals from the NES era of games. I was reminded of game manuals for Super Mario Bros where they would show you an illustration of the moves, next to a tutorial. This is similar. Sometimes you can deciper what the manual is saying without reading the strange language, but more often than not you can’t quite make it out… especially items descriptions.

One surprise about Tunic is the amount of secrets in the game. They are jam-packed in, and the game is full of them. Much like Legend of Zelda games that inspired this, or specifically the original Legend of Zelda on the NES, it definitely invokes memories of playing through that. There are hidden chests, and items strategically placed on the map that just seem out of reach, there are pages from the manual dotted about the map. Similar to the original Legend of Zelda, which didn’t hold your hand in the slightest, you have to test things out. Whack things with your sword, test things out. In the original Legend of Zelda on the NES you’d have candles which would burn down bushes, or you’d have to use bombs on walls with no indication of where to actually put the bomb. This is similar, you’ll have to stress test various items and locations in the game to uncover all the secrets. As to whether this is going to be for everyone, that’s yet to be seen. It has a similar feels to Souls games too, where you’ll unlock shortcuts and secrets through trial and error.

Exploration is one of the most delightful aspects of Tunic. It’s certainly not open world, but you can acarve your way through the game very differently compared to other players. For example, in the opening hours where you find your sword, it’s entirely possible to get through that area where you have to cut down the bush with the sword you are supposed to find. There’s an enemy with a sword, and they can be convinced to cut down the bushes for you, and you can take advantage of this. Although, if you do this then you’re only going to have the stick as a weapon and then progressing in the game is going to be slow and tough. It’s not always clear what you have to do, where you have to go and if you have picked everything up. I didn’t have the shield for a period of time, so make sure you are scouring all the nooks in every level in case you miss something very important.

Other elements of the game are a nice blend of Zelda-likes and Souls games too. Exploration is similar, ad then you have the combat and the ‘souls’ of the game. For example, in Elden Ring or Hollow Knight when you die you can go back to your body and pick up the runes or currency. The same is true here in Tunic. The combat feels good. It’s similar to Death’s Door, one of 2021’s best games. Tunic manages to take the best bits of some excellent games like Legend of Zelda, Elden Ring and Death’s Door and pull it all together into it’s own experience. The timing of the release is very interesting regarding Tunic, because a lot of parrallels can be seen with Elden Ring. These games don’t hold your hand, they are both combat adventure games, and very ‘gamey’ games. There’s not a lot of explanation. That’s another great thing abotu Tunic. When you boot up the game you get immediately into the action. Hardly any explanation at all, just get up and go and figure it out for yourself. There’s no big tutorial, just get out there and on your adventure.

Graphically Tunic is good looking. Similar to Link’s Awakening Remake on Nintendo Switch, the Fox and the other characters in the game have a toy-like look to them. The audio also enhances the experience 100%, so massive props to the graphics and audio team. Tunic has been tested and demoed over the years. I first heard about the game in 2016, and we’ve seen it featured at a few Steam Festivals over the years. Tunic looks very polished these days, the characters are clean, the environments are colourful and the whole experience comes together very nicely.

Tunic is a great game, one that you should be checking out. It’s not easy, and it’s going to try your patience at times, but ultimately it’s a very satisfying game. You can explore for hours finding all the secrets or you can challenge yourself against the latest boss. It’s cut on the surface but Tunic has a tough as nails interior when you scratch below the surface. I thoroughly recommend it, and it’s going to be up there at the end of the year when we’re talking about Game of the Year 2022.

Developer: Andrew Shouldice
Publisher: Finji
Platform: Xbox, PC (Played on Xbox Game Pass PC)
Release date: 16th March 2022