Tunic artwork showing off the main character and logo

Like any great adventure, Tunic begins with a light bit of grave robbing in order to arm yourself, immediately followed by a spree of vandalism as you run into the nearest temple to smash all of their priceless pottery. Needless to say, Tunic is an action-adventure heavily inspired by the classic Zelda games, something it's so proud of it wears it as a shirt!

So if you're curious just how deep that comparison runs, as well as what sets Tunic apart from the rest of the genre, allow me to give you my thoughts after spending the past week getting thoroughly lost in its world.

Video version of this review (~12 minutes)

World Design and Exploration

One of my favorite things about Zelda games has always been the sense of wonder and exploration, and Tunic has managed to replicate that perfectly. Every single inch of its world is filled with interesting things to discover, and thanks to the highly interconnected levels that offer many branching paths and secrets, finding stuff is just as much fun as grabbing it!

I really cannot praise Tunic's level design enough, because it's the type of world that only gets more interesting the more you run around in it. Even the simplest of routes, the ones at the very beginning of the game, eventually start offering you a myriad of different traversal options thanks to freshly unlocked abilities and items. As such, each time you wonder through an area you've previously explored you'll likely find something new that will lead you to a couple of secrets, or even a whole new area to rummage through!

Tunic screenshot of a scenic overview and a secret

There's a lot of things to do and find, so keep your eyes peeled

So even though I spent a fair bit of time lost in Tunic's world, I never felt frustrated about it. All I had to do was strike off in the vague direction of my goal, try some of the pathways I didn't see before or couldn't access, and sooner or later I would wind up exactly where I needed to be.

Tunic does also try to help you out a bit in this regard, though in a very peculiar way. By finding floating pages scattered throughout the world you will unlock pieces of the in-game manual which contains everything from cryptic clues on where to go next to handy maps of areas you might want to comb through. The pages are carefully placed so you'll only get the relevant bits at the time you need them, so it's less of an actual guide and more of a hint book. Either way, I would advise against downloading the full thing as you will spoil much of the experience for yourself.

If you feel like you need a bit of extra help, however, I've also made a brief and spoiler-free Beginner's Guide covering some of the highly useful things I had to learn the hard way.

Tunic screenshot of the in-universe manual

The manual is a strange addition, but I must admit I kind of like it

Secrets and Shortcuts

When it comes to the secrets, it doesn't matter if we're talking about a suspicious set of shrubbery or a path that seems to lead directly into a wall, if you encounter anything out of the ordinary in Tunic it's almost guaranteed to be a hint that you should pay close attention to. Some of these secrets are fairly easy to find and mostly serve to keep you supplied with items, while others are so deviously concealed that I had to put in some serious effort into sniffing them out. So as someone that loves to diligently explore every single part of every single level, Tunic and its myriad of optional routes, fake-outs and ridiculously well hidden secrets was a pure delight!

Besides the thrill of finding each and every secret, another aspect of Tunic's level design that I adore is the simple fact that these secrets sometimes offer faster routes to locations you've already visited. I don't mean this in the sense that they unlock previously inaccessible doors or create new bridges, but rather that they show you roads that were always there, just hidden in plain sight and simply waiting for you to discover them! Best of all, not only does this help you navigate the world more efficiently, but your knowledge of these hidden routes will be greatly awarded in the end-game as you'll be able to avoid the newly created obstacles and secure powerful boosts for yourself.

In case all of the many, many secrets sprinkled throughout the world just weren't enough for you, it's also worth mentioning that there's a massive treasure hunt you can undertake at the very end. I obviously won't go into details here in order to avoid spoilers, but let's just say that if you're a fan of deciphering cryptic clues and trying creative solutions to bizarre problems, you'll be right at home. All of this is completely optional though, and while it does lead into an alternate ending it's not something you need to do in order to have a good time with Tunic.

Tunic screenshot of secrets within secrets

There are often secrets within secrets, so explore every nook and cranny!

Combat, Difficulty and Items

Even though Tunic is staunchly proud of its Zelda heritage, there is a fair bit of Dark Souls' DNA mixed in here as well, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the combat system. Yes, I'm well aware how much of a joke comparing everything to Dark Souls is, but this time there's a very good reason to do so!

Both you and your enemies deal large amounts of damage, while the stamina system limits how many attacks you can dodge or block before becoming vulnerable. As such, the best way to fight is to be precise and methodical, striking only when the opportunity presents itself and then pulling back before the enemy can retaliate.

Dying also makes you drop a portion of your totally-not-rupees onto the floor that you can then pick up by collecting your ghost, you heal by slowly chugging potions, and if that just isn't enough, there is also a parry ability lifted straight out of Dark Souls. It even makes you do the same kind of awkward, slow swing with your shield! And much like Dark Souls, getting the timing just right and smashing your enemies into the floor feels amazing!

Tunic screenshot of the parry knockdown

Don't forget the obligatory "Git gud!"

Don't take any of this as a complaint, however, as the elements from the two series have been masterfully combined together to create an engaging combat system that's simple to learn yet deep enough to remain interesting throughout the whole adventure. I also have to commend just how much effort has gone into making the enemies feel fair, because once you learn their patterns and how to abuse them, it's possible to get through the entire game without so much as a scratch.

This is especially noticeable with the bosses, all of which draw heavily from the Souls series as well. Fighting them is like an elaborate dance, you're constantly ducking and weaving in between attacks in order to score a hit or two, never too far from complete annihilation yourself. Each one might seem impossibly hard at first, yet as you keep going at them you'll eventually find yourself in a situation where you can practically read their mind and where their attacks are nothing more than brief distractions. Moments like these are exactly the reason why I play action-adventures games, so I was more than happy to keep smashing my head against the proverbial wall until it finally cracked!

Tunic screenshot of the giant Siege Engine boss

Bosses will feel instantly familiar to any Souls veterans

If there is one thing I disliked about the combat, it would be the simple fact that you just don't have enough inventory slots to play around with all of the toys Tunic gives you. There's multiple magic weapons, utility items like the grappling hook, consumables and even different flavors of bombs just begging to be chucked at the nearest skeleton mosh pit, yet it's just never convenient to do so.

The problem here is that your sword occupies one out of the three inventory slots and you're obviously not getting rid of that. Then the second slot is most likely going to be used for the grappling hook since it's an integral part of navigating the world and is also highly useful in fights. This then leaves you with one measly open slot for over a dozen items, which is nowhere near enough. So as much as I'm aware this is a standard for the genre, I can't help but feel like a lot of Tunic's fun little side-items are simply left to rot since swapping things around is almost impossible in the middle of battle.

Tunic screenshot of lots of different items

There's a lot of items, but sadly only three slots to use them

Visuals and Performance

While the whole problem with items is somewhat annoying, it's hard to stay all that angry with Tunic as it's simply adorable from start to finish. It doesn't matter if you're sneaking through a long-overgrown fortress or jumping from stone to stone on the sandy beach, Tunic's world and characters are practically oozing with charm.

The art style is intentionally simplistic, with most of the objects and enemies being made out of straight lines and geometric shapes, with just enough details to make each one stand out without ruining the whole aesthetic. Combine that with a relaxing and highly atmospheric soundtrack, and you've got yourself an adventure that's very easy to sink a lot of time into without even realizing.

That said, not all of Tunic is cheerful, though it's not the wretched swamps or the forsaken graveyards that gave me the fright of my life - it was the item shop! Instead of having a friendly villager offer you goodies in exchange for gold you find throughout the world, Tunic has a gigantic skeletal demon burst forth from the unending void in order to drag you into the depths... or perhaps just offer a great deal on potions! If this is some sort of negotiation tactic, I must admit it's quite an effective one as I wasn't particularly inclined to haggle after witnessing all of that. Either way, it certainly made for a memorable moment!

Tunic screenshot of the giant skeletal shopkeeper

I'm sure there's nothing sketchy with his wares

The only aspect of Tunic's visuals I was disappointed with was the overly aggressive use of the Depth of Field effect. One part of it heavily blurs out objects on different elevations, and the other slightly blurs elements in the distance, with the combined effect mostly just making me feel like I'm going both blind and crazy. Thankfully, it's possible to remove it entirely, and I would highly recommend you do so. After all, Tunic is far too charming of a game to cover half of its visuals in virtual vaseline.

In terms of performance, I'm happy to say that Tunic ran without a hitch for me. It didn't matter if I was fighting a single enemy or running around in a blind panic from twenty skeletons, the performance remained rock solid regardless.

I also didn't have any trouble with bugs for the first 90% of my playthrough, though that did change slightly once the teleport-dash ability got introduced. As it turns out, rapidly teleporting in random directions and onto scenery makes the physics engine very, very upset. All of that was a fairly minor inconvenience, however, and did very little to distract from just how polished Tunic truly is.

Tunic screenshot of the problematic Depth of Field effect

The blurriness really gets overwhelming at times

Closing Thoughts

With stylish visuals, an exploration-first mindset and some tight combat mechanics, Tunic has been an absolute joy for me to play. Outside of wishing the experience was a bit longer, I only really have minor quibbles to complain about.

So if you're a fan of action-adventures, and especially the Zelda games of old, I feel I can comfortably recommend Tunic to you. Just don't go into it expecting a revolution, because it's more of a compilation of all the best parts of the genre rather than something entirely new. Either way, it's good fun!