The biggest flaw with Tunic is that it stealth launched a mere three weeks after the release of Elden Ring. As we all know, From Software's epic is a strong contender for Game Of The Year. Some folks are proclaiming it the greatest game ever made. People are talking about Elden Ring. Blogs, podcasts, fans, critics... It's Elden Ring all the time. And because of that hype train, it's a little hard to take notice of a new indie game that looks quite a bit like the Link's Awakening remaster. But here we are.
Although the look and tone of Tunic is nothing like Elden Ring, it's hard to not find comparisons. Especially given that Elden Ring hangs so heavy in the gamer subconscious in 2022. So let's take a look at Tunic for a moment. It's cure, sure. But it's also an action RPG that drops you into a giant world with almost nothing to protect yourself. It gives you no clear direction about what to do or where to go. Combat is brutally difficult. More and more, the comparisons feel apt. I'm only saying this because for those of us who have spent countless hours in Elden Ring, it's sort of hard to just immediately jump into a game like Tunic. I can't help but feel a little fatigued.
That's probably why I felt zero guilt turning on the included easy mode in Tunic. I'd like to experience this game. But I'm not in the mood for masochism. So whatever. As soon as I started to feel overwhelmed by the clunky combat, I knew it was time. You can decide at any moment to turn off death, and to have unlimited stamina. I did both, and Tunic became a different sort of game altogether. I don't care if this means I'm not hardcore. But it's a pretty game and an interesting game, and if these cheats are the only way I'll see it, then so be it.
I'm not going to say the combat is bad, because it's not really. But it does sort of throw you off. This game looks like Zelda, so I can't help but want it to play like Zelda. Instead, the combat strives to be like Dark Souls. And in turn, that makes it feel clunky. Things did start to improve once I found a shield, but far too often I found myself trying to parry or look for openings in defense only to be swarmed by three or five enemies at a time and it just put me into pure panic mode.
I probably would have given up on Tunic after an hour if it weren't for one compelling addition. There's a conceit that you must find pages of a missing game manual throughout the world that serves as your guide forward. This is brilliant. The pages look like they're torn from some lost Famicom game. Most of the text isn't in English (or any real world language) but the pictures can serve up hints if you study them. Slowly the pages become your maps and your explanations of where you need to go, what you need to get, or how you interact with the world. This faux manual is so cool that it makes me wish that Tunic had gotten a physical release with a physical manual, though I guess that would have blown the whole point of needing to collect the pages in game. Oh well.
But if I'm being honest, about three hours into Tunic the game really started to wear out its welcome for me. I don't know that it's anything that game does wrong exactly. But more, my own expectations can't really be satisfied. There's this part of me that looks at the game, and just wishes it was more like Link's Awakening - mainly because of how it looks. That wish just nags at me as I struggle with the combat and roam the world. The thought of firing it back up to continue has a level of tedium to it that bums me out. I keep saying "I should get back to Tunic," but I keep finding excuses to not. So I think that's telling me something and it's time to just accept that this one wasn't really for me.