Tunic Is So Much More Than a Zelda Clone
Tunic is an Isometric Action-Adventure game that is clearly inspired by old-school Zelda games; the main character, a fox, is donning his best Link cosplay, you wake up and must find a weapon and shield, and solve a fair amount of environmental puzzles.
As someone who recently beat their first Zelda game, ever; the Switch remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (post coming soon), I had been keeping an eye out for a modern version of an old-school Isometric Action-Adventure game to play before I dive into The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. The opening moments of Tunic reassured me that I chose the correct game, but the longer I played, the more “wait, what?” moments I uncovered.
Tunic Has Numerous WTF Moments
The first clue that there is more to meets the eye in Tunic — the statue save points. Upon resting, the fox’s health was fully recharged, and all the enemies respawned. Later on, after I had acquired some potions and a magic staff, resting at a statue subsequently refilled their charges. Okay, so Zelda and Soulsborne cross-over; that’s not so weird.
There are plenty of games taking influence from the ‘Souls’ games these days; typically the whole everything respawns when you die, and you need to grab your soul from your point of death. Don’t die along the way of your retrieval, unless you want to lose them forever.
I don’t need Soulsborne elements in every video game.
While I love From Software games, such as Elden Ring, I’m not always in the mood for the pressures of the systems in these types of video games, due to the extreme punishment for dying. Luckily, Tunic is not nearly as harsh on the player, as you only lose a small number of coins you have discovered upon death, and successfully recovering your spirit leaves you with no loss of currency. One caveat to this system in Tunic (and Souls-like games), I have found myself simply running past enemies when I can (with caution as enemies in Tunic will follow you across the world), as some of the combat encounters in Tunic are pretty brutal.
Alas, these elements have not been a deterrent from me playing more of Tunic. In all honesty, I’m thinking about playing Tunic whenever I’m not.
Tunic Gets Weird, In A Special Way
Things started to get weird in Tunic when I found an item that was essentially a page of an NES-style instruction manual, mostly written in some odd, rune language. As I continued to play and encounter more secrets, I was reminded of two games; Fez and Journey.
Fez, unfortunately, is one of my biggest gaming regrets. I did not play Fez back when it was released in 2012 (I haven’t played much until this week); I regret not being part of the zeitgeist around Fez, as there was a big gaming community effort to figure out all of Fez’s secrets, as it is chock full of them.
Initially, I thought there was just some in-game language that the community was deciphering, but I learned there is much, much more to solve in Fez; I’m not going to get into details because, in the coming weeks, I’m going to experience Fez for myself (without spoilers).
Tunic has the same elements of mystery and wonders that Fez radiates. Now, I found a few posts where people have apparently, already deciphered the language of Tunic; so while I can’t speak to their accuracy, fully translated instructions and in-game dialogue seem to be out there.
But looking at these spoilers would be a disservice to the game, as Tunic is meant to be discovered blindly.
Discovery is built into the game. Yes, with the aforementioned instructions manual that you’re piecing together, the language that you can attempt to translate; but it’s not just these elements, there are so many secret paths and passageways, almost hidden in plain view, to discover!
In the first hour of the game, this was almost enough for me to stop playing the game, as I found a secret passage that brought me to an area before I even found the sword. I was in an that I was not “supposed” to be just yet, and boy, was it brutal.
Later, when I had more of a handle on the game, I would gasp out loud when walking in a certain direction while hugging a wall led to a dark, hidden passageway with a chest at the end. Lowering a bridge to open a shortcut back to the main path was extremely satisfying (more Dark Souls elements).
I have been wholeheartedly enjoying engrossing myself in the world of Tunic with zero help.
To simply call this game an isometric Zelda-clone with Dark Souls elements would be a huge insult to Tunic.
Hopefully, I can complete Tunic without any help, as unfortunately, I couldn’t keep myself from walkthroughs with Link’s Awakening; the final Dungeon and final boss fights were just a little too much. The Dungeon moreso, as I started to get fed up after walking around for nearly 3 hours one night, not understanding what I missed to advance the puzzle.
Journey is an extremely special game for me; I’m so happy that I have this blurb saved on my “Best of 2012” list on Giant Bomb.
“What an experience this game was. I played through it in one sitting, then immediately played through it 2 more times. I even came back a week later for that trophy and played it again. Amazing world, look, feel, music, everything. Just an amazing experience.”gla55jaw (My Giant Bomb Username) – Best of 2012 List
Tunic gives off the same vibes as Journey does, and it’s very much because of the lack of communication from the game. In both, I examine the environment and decide, “I need to go there and explore.” The music, vibes, and honestly, emotions I took from said combination in both games are, unreal.
The whole instruction manual system plays towards this feeling of wonder. Yes, it is a way that Tunic is communicating with the player, but just barely.
It’s not a tutorial, a concept that games have (in my opinion) gone too far with. How many times are games still introducing concepts 2 or 3 hours into your playtime? In Tunic, as pages are found in the environment, we staple them together and they’re extremely helpful at explaining the game’s concepts and systems, even if they’re mostly not in English. What’s wild to think about; you could have stumbled upon some of these techniques or secrets before unlocking the related page.
For example, instead of just hoarding a consumable item I found inside a treasure chest (which is what I would typically do), in Tunic, I just say screw it. I see this one is labeled a bomb, let’s test it out on this group of enemies and see what happens. Now I know that this one consists of AoE damage, and this one is a status effect. Awesome.
I didn’t think I’d encounter a game in which I would experience that special sense of wonder and emotion again, as I felt with Journey. But alas, here I am with Tunic.
Tunic has been a one-of-a-kind experience so far, and I truly, hope you check it out! I can’t wait to finish the game and see how it all plays out. Look out for a full review in the future.
Let me know if you checked out Tunic or will be. I can’t believe this is a free Game Pass game. I’m really excited to see what everyone thinks about this special game.
If you have more isometric Zelda-like games I should check out, I’d love to hear them, as well! I took a quick glance at Death’s Door recently and I am looking to play that next after, Tunic. It seems more Zelda than Dark Souls, and that sounds good to me.