Tunic PS5 review. Between the twee, yet stunning isometric visual presentation and the bushytailed, bouncy demeanour of its primary protagonist, it’s fair to say that’s somewhat impossible to not fall in love with Tunic. And like all the best games that initially hook you with that infectious warmth, Tunic’s excellence is far more than skin deep thanks in no small part how expertly it combines old fashioned Legend of Zelda and contemporary Dark Souls gameplay beats and mechanics to fashion one of the best PlayStation indie games of the year.
Tunic PS5 Review
A Mesmerising Blend Of Legend Of Zelda And Dark Souls That Ranks As One Of The Best Games Of The Year
The fashion in which Tunic begins is somewhat emblematic of how the game carries itself from the opening minutes all the way through to its final moments. Finding our bushy-tailed protagonist washed up on the shore of a mysterious island, Tunic provides no dramatic narration, scrolling wall of text or even a set of obvious UI indicators that gently nudge you in a direction to proceed. Instead, Finji’s latest has players picking up our charming hero and proceeding further inland where the mystery surrounding both his identity and unfortunate circumstances slowly come to light.
A single-player adventure that unfolds from an isometric third-person perspective, Tunic immediately brings to mind Nintendo’s legendary Legend of Zelda series as our furry hero cuts about the place, performing dramatic rolls and swishing his way through hapless patches of grass and other such flora that are unfortunate enough to be in his way.
Tunic’s ode to the Legend of Zelda series goes deeper than that, too. In their quest to uncover long lost secrets, our diminutive fox will routinely come across barriers that prevent progression into the deeper reaches of the island. Certain thick growths of local flora which barricade off certain areas can only be done away with a sword that our hero picks up early on. Meanwhile, a magical whip allows our cunning fox to latch onto distant hooks and propel themselves to previously inaccessible areas, encouraging you to revisit travelled areas as a result.
Where Tunic really excels though, is not just in how it pulls off the whole Zelda/Metroidvania thing of sending you off to pick up a particular trinket or weapon that’ll allow you to progress further, but also in how it invites players to take in the environment and enemies around them. Long before you pick up the blade that you’ll need to cut those stubborn growths, you’ll observe that enemies which also carry blades can do the same. Brilliantly, you can then use this knowledge to progress by essentially baiting enemies to take a swing at you, before dodging at the last second and watching them cut down the barrier behind you, allowing our fluffy fox to continue their quest unimpeded.
This sort of out of the box thinking is where Tunic shines, because make no mistake while it is a roundly challenging affair that becomes highly difficult if you try and make an attempt to get Tunic’s ‘good’ ending, the path from beginning to end is as much defined by observing the world around you as it is racing and carving your way through it.
What’s also especially notable about Tunic is just how much of its narrative is told through visual storytelling. With little in the way of descriptive text and no voice acted performances to fall back on, Tunic again falls back on this idea that it wants players to explore and peel back the corners of its world on their own terms, rather than having every concept and aspect of the game force fed into them from the beginning.
This also beautifully plays into another wildly innovative concept that Tunic boasts. You see, throughout the game you’ll discover loose pages from Tunic’s instruction manual and as you start assembling the final article, not only will you become increasingly clued up in the various aspects of how the game works (Tunic uses an indecipherable symbol based language for describing the items that you’ll collect), but you’ll also gain access to special skills, abilities and eventually, deep secrets about the world itself. In short, Tunic never stops making you strive after these wayward pages and you’ll often find yourself wandering off the beaten path with glee as you seek them out.
And this is yet another great thing that Tunic embraces – not only does it revel in letting players explore every inch of its immaculately constructed world, but it makes them work for it too. Sure, there are some areas that require various tools and weapons to reach, but there are also a whole heap of secret areas and locked away treasure chests that you can reach right away – you just need to look a little harder than you might otherwise do.
If that sounds cryptic, that’s because many of Tunic’s hidden areas take advantage of the forced isometric perspective that the game employs. As such, the developer routinely obscures hidden path entrances and treasure chests with tree branches and other such objects, encouraging the player to inspect every part of the scenery and naturally, the feeling of satisfaction when you find one of these perspective obscured secrets is palpable to say the least. Quite simply, exploring every part of Tunic is an unfettered joy and something that you won’t want to stop doing until you’ve been everywhere and unearthed every secret that Finji’s latest has to offer.
Of course the other part of Tunic’s excellent offering is the combat that dictates the on-screen action when you’re not exploring and solving puzzles, and it’s here that influences from the Dark Souls games can be most keenly felt. Combat is both immediately responsive and demands the sort of split-second, mid-fight calculations that FROM Software’s output has long expected from players since the term ‘Soulslike’ entered the gaming lexicon.
Not only do most enemies do a bucket load of damage as a general rule, but the emphasis is also very clearly on blocking and evasion, with the former only being able to performed a desperately finite number of times and the latter being subject to a rapidly dwindling stamina bar. Much more than just an inhibitor of your physical movement, if your stamina hits rock bottom not only will our furry hero slow down to a crawl, but they’ll also take much more damage too – providing even more of an incentive to manage your precious stamina reserves during a fight.
This also plays into the fact that some of Tunic’s boss battles are right up there with some of the most tense encounters in titles like Dark Souls too, thanks to the knowledge that just one slip up can result in you losing huge chunks of your health. Luckily, accidentally rolling off a cliff isn’t really the sort of omnipresent hazard in Tunic that it is in the FROM Software games, but the fact remains that just about every boss fight follows that same trajectory of understanding your enemy’s attack pattern, avoiding all of that massive damage and chipping away at their substantial health reserves in return. It’s great stuff, quite frankly.
Beyond the combat side of things, the influences of Miyazaki’s generation defining Soulslike genre is also felt elsewhere in Tunic. After dying, you can backtrack to where you fell to reclaim the precious gold left on your corpse (dying again before you get there naturally results in you losing all of it). Handily placed bonfires on the other hand, can be used to not only replenish your health and save your progress, but also prompt all of the monsters to respawn, as well.
With its super crisp visuals that are characterised in turn by an overabundance of vibrant colour and some tremendously lively effects work, Tunic is simply gorgeous and handily illustrates what a successful synergy of tremendous art design and technical excellence can look like on a contemporary gaming platform. A beguilingly beautiful and practically pitch-perfect mixture of Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls mechanics, Tunic is a boundlessly charming and highly challenging adventure that gets so much right that it borders on ridiculousness.
Tunic is out now on PS4 and PS5.
Review code kindly provided by PR.