Tunic In-Depth Review: A Beautiful 2D Souls-Like

Souls-like games are a specific genre carved out by From Software. Indie developers have also put their own spin on the genre resulting in some frustratingly awesome games!

ESG Quick Review:

Tunic was released only a few weeks ago after many years of development by the sole creator, Andrew Shouldice. Even now, looking back on my playthrough of the game it blows my mind that this game was created by a single person. After playing through Elden Ring a couple times in the weeks before this game was released, it even managed to remind me of the AAA title that had hundreds of hands on deck for development. 

Tunic is currently priced at $29.99, a rather steep price in terms of indie games on Steam. That being said, the amount of time this game took to develop combined with the fact that it was a singular person that made this game come to fruition, I don’t mind paying a bit more to reward someone else’s efforts. The amount of content in the game will likely bring you over the ‘dollar/hour played’ motto many people live by for purchasing games on Steam. Now that you’ve got a bit of background on the development side of Tunic, let’s jump into the in-depth review that will focus on the following categories (also, spoilers ahead, beware):

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Difficulty Level
  • Overall Opinion


fox atop some stairs in Tunic
While not too diverse in mechanics, the core gameplay is clean and the hitboxes feel fair. Overall, the gameplay is good enough to justify exploring everything the land has to offer! Image courtesy of gamerant.com

I’ll split this section into two paragraphs, the first being about combat mechanics and the second pertaining to overall gameplay mechanics for progressing through the game. Combat is generally quite simple as there are not a ton of options for weaponry in the game. In total, you’ll get two different melee weapons and a few different options for ranged attacks. As with many souls-likes, there is a button to roll that gives the player some ‘iframes’ to work with. The player character is completely immune during the iframes provided by the roll, so it is necessary to learn the proper timings to dodge attacks. With your sword out, there is really only one combo to do by spamming the primary attack button. This is the one area that is lacking in the game as a diversification of weaponry and weapon combos (specifically melee weapons) would really add to the gameplay.

As for overall game mechanics, it also works generally how a souls-like is expected to play. There are ‘bonfires’ at the start of each new area that allow the player to heal up, reset enemies, or simply respawn at. There is also a leveling system that takes place at the campfire but I’ll leave that up to you to figure out. Fast travel works a bit differently in Tunic, as you cannot travel to any bonfire. Instead, there are yellow platforms that work as fast travel points and there are only one per major area. This makes sense given that the game is not quite as big as a typical From Software game or even Zelda game (if you think it is more representative of the Zelda games, let me know! I feel like there is an argument for both sides). Finally, there are major bosses in each area along with some higher tier mobs scattered throughout, just as any good souls-like would have.

“This is the most fun game I have played in a long long time. This game made me fall in love again with a challenging single player game. This is one of the smartest games I have played in a long time game design wise, the way you discover more about the world naturally makes this game a serious masterpiece. 10/10” - Ashwin on Steam


Tunic Map
The subtle introduction of in-game lore and the way the developer reveals the story is one of Tunic’s greatest strengths! Image courtesy of gamesradar.com

The story is quite possibly the best part of Tunic. Not so much for the literal storyline itself (which is great, don’t get me wrong), but the way they introduce the ‘culture’ of the world is through a much more rewarding (in terms of player satisfaction) system than typical narration. As seen above, there are fragments of the instruction manual scattered all throughout the lands. These work as both tutorials for the player and a chance to learn more about the lore. The fragments are in places you’ll likely go throughout a playthrough, but just in slightly more secretive spots making them that much more rewarding. 

Admittedly, I googled a few of the puzzles in my first run, but looking at the complete manual after beating the game made me realize everything I googled could have been answered by finding the page. Typically, the pages that you find will help you with a relevant task in the area you find it, so it is important to look at the fragment as soon as you pick one up. It may seem like it is impossible to progress at some points, but going back over your manual will usually lead you to whatever you need to do next. 

There is an overall narrative the manual explains (loosely), but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

“This game is good. Resist all urges to google anything or ask other people anything. Just play it and try to figure it out. Trust me here.” - Sandwich Maker on Steam

Difficulty Level

You Died
While certainly much more difficult than the average video game, Tunic has found a nice level of balance for a game in the souls-like genre.  Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com

While the game does not have nearly as many bosses as a game like Elden Ring (it was made by a single developer so it is to be expected), the difficulty level is quite comparable. I honestly struggled more on the final boss of this game than the final one of Elden Ring. To go even further, the game caps you at a certain level of upgrades meaning the final boss is the same difficulty for everyone. This also plays a bit into the lack of diverse weaponry, but it does do a really good job at ensuring the final boss is a challenge. 

Whenever I beat the final boss of Elden Ring, I was about 30 levels too high and using a stupidly broken build. I beat it in two tries. This one took me nearly forty tries even after going back to max all of my stats. This leads into another important topic for difficulty: ease of grinding. 

Grinding in souls-likes are a nearly necessary mechanic to get the player better at the game while increasing perceived content levels. Grinding in this game does not feel too bad as the level upgrades are not *that* expensive. That being said, if you want to completely max out before the final boss, you’ll be spending a few hours touching bonfires over and over. Overall, a good balance of necessary grinding without going too crazy. 

Also, if you’re struggling with a boss, parrying exists. Simply double tap your shield to start the parry animation and time it to block their incoming attack. You can get a ton of free damage in and you’d be surprised how many boss attacks are parryable. 

“A puzzle game disguised as a Souls-tinged Zeldalike. Cute fox. No idea what anything says. If I told you much more it would ruin the experience.” - Hupfen on Steam

Overall Opinion

Facing off against some magical creatures in Tunic
If you’re a fan of the genre, Tunic is nearly a must-buy. If you’re on a budget and not a huge fan of difficult games, I’d recommend looking at other indie games! Image courtesy of steampowered.com

Overall, I’m extremely impressed by Tunic. The amount of content there is to explore, all made by a single developer, is staggering. The combat and hitboxes feel clean with plenty of room for expansion. The story is paced well to keep the player motivated to continue playing and learning more about the world they’ve found themselves placed in. It certainly doesn’t hold your hand, but with a bit of persistence it’s even more rewarding to figure out all of the finely tuned details and mechanics of Tunic.

Now, the thirty dollar price tag does leave a bit to be desired. If you have plenty of money in your Steam wallet, it is certainly worth the time and money required. However, if you are on a budget, I would honestly wait until the game goes on sale. I’m not sure if the game plans to go on sale anytime soon, but stay on the lookout. I simply cannot recommend it for those on a tight budget as there are a multitude of cheaper games out there worthy of your attention, many of which are already reviewed here on ESG!

“Everything about this game is relentlessly charming. It gave me the feeling of being a child, playing a videogame for the first time and exploring a strange new world in a way that other games just haven't done in years. Combat is fast and fun, the music is understated while complimenting tone perfectly, and the visuals are a treat. Don't look up anything about this game, go in as blind as you can, and lose yourself in it. You won't regret it.” - Fennexen on Steam

Heading image courtesy of polygon.com

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