Tunic is one of those games that popped up unexpectedly during an E3 one year and was promptly added to my Steam wishlist. All I knew back then was it starred a cute as a button fox protagonist and was some sort of adventure game. What I know now, after struggling to make my way through the first major section of the game, is that Tunic is secretly an ode to Souls-like games. Basically, it’s Elden Ring, but cute.
You’ll notice the Souls influence almost immediately. Our young fox starts out empty-handed, but soon finds a twig to thwack enemies with. There are no objectives or missions noted in your menu. If you want to figure anything out, you need to explore and pray you stumble across instruction booklet pages. They’ve scattered all about the world and you will not pick any of them up in order. Most of the notes and things you want to read will not be in your selected language. Should you locate the right pages earlier on, there are some clues, sure. But once you have followed all the clues you have, you are on your own again.
Locating the right pages helped me find my way to an actual sword and shield. It was not very fun playing without some way to block attacks. Roll dodging is fine in a pinch, however when your stamina bar is practically two rolls and you’re out of breath? As soon as I found the notes that led me in its direction I was running as fast as my tiny legs allowed.
Don’t misunderstand. I love exploring in games like Tunic. But I also appreciate a decent mission/objective log, instead of floundering around and retracing my steps a dozen times. Which is why while I get the thought process behind the use of a cryptic language, what is the point when it can’t be translated at all?
While you might not be able to teleport (as far as I know) via the statues the same way you can Grace points in Elden Ring, they function in a very similar fashion. When you die, you respawn at the last statue you rested at. Statues also serve as upgrade points. Upgrading each stat (health, stamina, attack, etc) requires both cash and the correct item scavenged from a chest. Short on coin? Rest up and let the monsters respawn.
I’m not finished with the Elden Ring comparisons just yet. Don’t let appearances fool you. These bosses can be a real challenge. The second boss I ran into, the Garden Knight, kept pushing me into the corners of its garden where debris pinned me in. Thirty-some frustrating attempts later and I did the unthinkable: I turned on No Fail mode. Even with items I bought or acquired via chests, such as dynamite and a magic frost dagger, in hand the Garden Knight required way more attempts than my one and done Soldier of Godrick battle.
Even immortal, it’s been a really rough journey. After getting as far as I could with the pages I had, I wandered into territory where I clearly wasn’t meant to survive. No Fail kept me alive, but lost and frustrated. I eventually turned it off just so I could die and escape the nightmare. The stress isn’t worth it if you aren’t having fun, no matter how adorable it looks. My time and sanity are precious to me.
There’s a reason why I don’t spend much of my time playing games in Tunic‘s genre. Partly because the white hairs aren’t worth it. But if these sorts of adventures are what get you to roll out of bed in the morning and you already finished everything there is to do in Elden Ring, a certain adorable fox is waiting for you.
Tunic is available for the PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.