It has been a long time coming for Tunic. Since 2015, Andrew Shouldice has been developing the game solo. Revealed initially as Secret Legend in 2017, it was released five years later as Tunic. Telling a mysterious tale of a tiny fox in a big world, this is a title that offers a memorable journey that deserves to be experienced.
Tunic Is a Game About Exploration
Inspiration from Legend of Zelda and FromSoftware titles are everywhere here. The world of Tunic invites you to explore every nook and cranny, leaving no stone unturned. Your exploration is often rewarded. Sometimes it leads you to obtain a valuable item. Other times you’ll receive essential upgrades to strengthen your character. There is even the chance that the path forward in the game’s campaign awaits you, hidden in plain sight.
The game’s isometric camera angle enhances Tunic’s emphasis on exploring. I wasn’t kidding when I said the path forward would often hide in plain sight. There are several times when I’d have to navigate behind the scenery to move forward.
Including both bonus and necessary objectives behind these “hidden” paths actively encourages the player to always be on the lookout. As someone who prefers to stick to the primary campaign, I didn’t expect to enjoy searching and exploring as much as I did.
I want to make sure I emphasize that last point. Whenever my wife and I co-op games together, we butt heads due to our different playstyles. I’m looking to complete the game as soon as possible. She wants to explore 100% of everything regardless of how frustrating it is. As I’ve been playing Tunic, she’s screaming in frustration over trying to 100% Super Mario 64. “I can’t move on to the next star until I get this one,” she tells me. So when I say that Tunic has me enjoying searching for every secret within the game, I want to truly emphasize how good a job it does to encourage the player to explore.
It is so enjoyable that I can’t recall any moments when I was punished for adventuring off the beaten path. There is always something valuable and beneficial waiting for me. I’m always rewarded and never punished, pushing me to search for the following helpful item. One of the major hooks for the game is that I often have no idea what said things do.
Tunic Is a Game About Mystery
A large majority of dialogue or prompts on the game are written in an alien language. The game’s instruction booklet, collected in-game two pages at a time, is primarily written in said unknown language. Picking up valuable items does the same thing. When I pick up a blue potion-looking thing, I have no idea what it does until I try it out.
This leads to an exquisite sense of discovery and trial by fire. I’m encouraged to mix and match items, skill cards, and stats by simply using them. This is an absolute breath of fresh air in a world where just about everything has been min-maxed and made as efficient as possible. It calls back to the older days of gaming, where you had to figure things out.
Comparisons to both Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring will be unavoidable. At the top, I mentioned that Tunic seems inspired by games from those respective franchises. One thing it does arguably better is finding the right balance of helping the player move along without holding their hand.
As you compile Tunic’s instruction booklet, you obtain maps and indications of where to go next. Keep in mind that most of it is in an alien language. While you can’t fully understand the presented information, you get a general idea of where you should go next.
Combined with the game’s emphasis on exploration and adventure, Tunic presents a world worth exploring. Its vibrant colors and beautiful soundtrack invite you in deeper. Every time you discover something new, more questions arise. These are all questions you want answered to, so you press on. As you’ll find out, though, it will not be as easy as it sounds.
Tunic Is a Game About Bravery and Courage
The game has you assume the role of the world’s most adorable anthropomorphic fox. Despite its small and precious stature, it’s thrown into a big, scary world. Danger lurks behind every corner despite the desire to adventure into uncharted territories.
Tunic throws a beautiful combination of larger-than-live environments, punishing bosses, and clever enemies at your face. You’re already on your toes as you explore the map, flexing your mental fortitude. Combat will do the same for your physical skill as well.
Remember that most of the game’s dialogue and instructions are incomprehensible. You’re forced to brave the unknown constantly. As the game progresses, the environments become more hostile and mystical. You start to get the feeling of being out of your element. As the story progresses, things become not what they seem. Secrets meant to be kept hidden are revealed — the mood changes.
None of this works without the attention to detail within Tunic. Your character is constantly taking in the world around them, approaching impressive structures results in the fox looking up, in awe of what lies before them. The stronger the enemy, the bigger they appear by comparison. Bosses in particular loom over the player character. The intimidation factor is real.
Rounding out the game’s central themes, you’ll need that bravery and courage to explore the mysterious unknown.
Tunic isn’t an open-world game; you play in self-contained environments connected via an overworld. Because you’re playing through dungeons and not one gigantic map, a little extra guidance from the game would have been nice. I’m not asking for complete hand-holding, but there are times I find myself backtracking through each zone more than necessary.
The worst is when I explore a little too much and pass points of no return. I wasted a solid twenty to thirty minutes before realizing I could not complete a section of a dungeon that unlocks the next step forward.
For a game that rewards players for continuously searching and navigating every corner of a map, it’s frustrating to know that sometimes I have to hold back.
More issues arise as well, but they’re all minor complaints. A handful of times, I became stuck in the terrain, resulting in me resetting back to a save point to resume progress. This isn’t that big of a deal; save points are well placed throughout each environment and dungeon about 95% of the time. However, 5% of the time when they aren’t is beyond frustrating.
Spending five to ten minutes repeatedly retracing your steps during one of the game’s more challenging dungeons made me want to pull my hair out. It’s a testament to how great the game is that I kept pressing onward.
Minor Issues Don’t Take Away From an Incredible Experience
Tunic is a wonderful experience. Its three themes work together in harmony, creating a memorable gameplay experience. I cheer every time I defeat a boss, not just proud of my accomplishment but excited to see what awaits me next.
In a world where once-in-a-lifetime games seem to come out every couple of months, Tunic is worth your time.