Tunic — No Fail, Much Exploring – Big Boss Battle (B3)

Tunic is a lesson in tempering expectations for me. First shown off in teaser form back in 2017. Tunic promised ambient music coupled with gameplay through a familiar inspiration. All was quiet until a couple of years later, ISOMETRICORP Games launched a demo alongside a developer Q&A. Ever since then Tunic has been on my mind. I’m happy to say that it’s been worth the wait with a few caveats.

Soon enough during your playtime, you’ll find a page. Then slowly more and more pages will trickle your way. These pages amount to Tunic‘s in game instruction manual. Easily, this detail will make it one of the most memorable mechanics in a game this year. Every page has at least some nugget of useful information or some revelation of an ability you could do all along. One example is the use of teleporters. Even before collecting this specific page, you can use this ability.

I’ve not found all the pages in Tunic† There’s a rewarding feeling to finding a new page and connecting new dots. There are also bigger layers of mystery inside these pages that I’ve yet to figure out. These mysteries can be obtuse but I appreciate the way this challenge is presented in-game manual form. This game manual is an important mechanic of Tunic and it wouldn’t feel the same without it.

Tunic - Fox protagonists taking a hidden path behind a waterfall.
I spy, a little fox.

It’ll be fascinating to read the different theories of the meaning behind Tunic‘s story. For me it was left on the back burner. Mostly because I was enjoying playing what was on the surface. I do believe there’s a deeper layered story being told, maybe even one of a time loop.

Combat in Tunic feels good but isn’t rewarding. The slash of your sword and rolling into a dodge is snappy. One of the coolest things you can attempt is to parry an attack. The issue I had with parrying an attack is the timing. There’s a difference between anticipating and predicting. It feels unnatural the need to predict an incoming attack. If you parry as soon as an attack was incoming you were too late. If you do land a parry there’s at least a satisfying chime plus a window to dish out damage.

As you move through Tunic‘s beautiful areas you’ll pick up different weapons, gadgets, and spells. I stayed true using old faithful, sword. You can find an unexpected weapon type in one of the later areas. I didn’t feel incentivized to use anything outside my sword and shield. Anything outside these two was being used as a last resort. Either to clean up or to escape a tough situation. There’s even temporary stat boosting consumables, keyword temporary. I can certainly appreciate Tunic is subtly catering to different play styles. I only wish the core gameplay received another pass or two.

Tunic - a game instruction book layered over the pause screen.
CRT about everything, oh and game manuals.

Each of the boss enemies in Tunic feel unique. One of my favorites is one that was alluded to through the booklet before I even reached that area. It’s some huge mecha spider tank that takes up nearly your entire screen. The fight feels exciting and intense as you try to land that final smack less you restart.

You’ll possibly hear Tunic be described as a Souls-something. It only flirts with that genre. While yes there’s a fail state and you drop currency used to upgrade I never felt like I couldn’t recoup. You’ll recoup health and such at prayer statues which also resets the enemies in the area. I never even felt the need to farm said currency. Just a fox and their sword was enough for me.

relying on Tunic‘s invincibility toggle dubbed “no fail mode” assisted with some pain points. I turned to this feature in the later half of the game. For my own experience I don’t believe it detracted much from what I wanted out of Tunic† I was able to kick back and absorb the last few areas. My new focus was solving puzzles as I put the combat in auto-pilot.

Tunic - a fox looking at ruins across a body of water at night.
Do foxes dream or polygons?

Even with “no fail mode” there’s a certain area in Tunic that nudged me along. You’ll eventually reach a mining area. The crystal being mined releases some damaging energy. This damage still affects you in this mode and depletes your health all the way to one. I thought this was strange and started to think why. Combined with my trusty manual I figured out there’s an item you can equip to protect you.

I had a great time with Tunic and I’m excited to get back to figuring out all its hidden mysteries. Tunic didn’t need to wow me; most of the fun derived from its atmosphere and charm. Tunic should be well worth the wait for those who kept tabs or curious for a new action adventure game.

Tunic is available now on Xbox and PC.

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