Tunic Review: A Dive into the Foxy New Indie
*Writer's note: This post isn't sponsored-- I just like to write about popular games and gaming news! I also make all of my reviews spoiler-free.
A first glance at Tunic may lead players to believe the isometric game is a cute, casual indie with callbacks to early Legend of Zelda designs and move sets. After all, a fuzzy fox protagonist doesn't sound like he'd be up against much of a challenge-- but don't let looks fool you. Tunic balances Souls-like combat with challenging puzzles and charming environments.
For fans of Hollow Knight and classic LoZ titles like Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, you'll find Tunic hits on many of the same notes; but don't let my game comparisons convince you that Tunic is just a remix of past great hits. Tunic has taken elements of what made those games great and polished them, adding its own mechanics and flair in what has resulted in a unique, contemporary title.
Playing Tunic, I was almost immediately in awe of the attention to detail in level design. It's pretty apparent how much love and dedication went into crafting the world. There's a sense of wonder and earnestness to the environment encompassing Tunic's clever level design; every hidden niche, path, and crevice feels significant and intentional. Part of what makes me appreciate the details in the game is the lack of apparent details in explanation and lore.
Tunic has an entire esoteric language that makes most signs and manual entries unreadable. Don't worry; the important stuff is illustrated or in English, and for especially curious players, u/Scylithe made a translation tool. (Speaking of the manual... its artwork and construction are gorgeous. If you're a game art nerd like myself, you may appreciate this article by Rock Paper Shotgun that details more of the art's similarities to early Zelda art.) The protagonist fox does not speak and is not spoken to, so players will navigate the world without much input from the game itself.
Tunic doesn't give players any breadcrumbs to follow, and although equipment gaps and skill differences will keep players on a fairly set path, the world still feels open to roam at your own pace. It was refreshing to get lost and just explore at my own pace. (I'd recommend playing the game without referencing the map at all.) Players won't have to worry about getting bored, as the game is always giving more to chase; you'll spend almost as much time backtracking to old locations as you do exploring new ones, grabbing new kinds of equipment to better face new types of enemies and environments. If this sounds frustrating, well, the truth is it can be-- but it's also incredibly rewarding. Bosses beat and progress made feel genuinely earned, so if you're the type of player who likes to earn their keep in a game, Tunic is one to check out.
Tunic's lack of handholding in their exposition holds true to their gameplay as well. Like many classic games, Tunic is easy to play but difficult to master.
Players will initially start the game with nothing but a stick, and work their way up to acquiring better weaponry and items. The Souls-like gameplay I mentioned earlier is definitely apparent in the game, but rest assured Tunic is not as difficult as Elden Ring. The only time players can save the game and heal are at Fox statues, however, the detriment to this is that enemies will reset as well. Players also run the risk of dying (frequently) and losing their "soul" and collected coins, however, you can earn your coins back by going back to where you were slain and reclaiming your soul. You'll want to keep those coins handy for buying upgrades and equipment.
In the realms of equipment and combat, LoZ fans will notice many familiar move sets and controls. Players can use TNT, similar to Link's bombs, and other magical items. Attacking, defending, and dodging all felt akin to early LoZ mechanics as well, and the variance in enemies helps keep gameplay fresh. The enemies mirror their environments in that most of them appear bright and welcoming-- even the spiders I encountered early on were somewhat adorable, despite trying to rip me to shreds. Their looks can be deceiving, and even the easiest of enemies can whale on you and deliver heavy damage. Expect to die more times than you'd like as you figure out enemy behavior and the world set up-- there are a lot of hidden surprises and moves that will undoubtedly leave you excited for more.
All in all, I think Tunic is a lovely game that I recommend to anyone who enjoys Legend of Zelda games, or anyone looking for a good, challenging single-player game.
What are your thoughts on this new indie? Have you played Tunic yet?