I got this in the recent Humble Bundle for peanuts and vaguely remember it being mentioned on the Internet when it was first released. Just don’t make the same mistake I made thinking that Epistory stands for Epic Story and also that the game would be any good.
The game follows a girl traversing the land as she rides on the back of a fox, requiring our touch typing ability to defeat waves of enemies and interact with local objects. She provides a narration through the story as you encounter all of her whimsical metaphors that are supposed to show ‘difficult’ parts of her life. All you’re really doing is having to bear through an excruciating recollection of some privileged white girl who had to actually live life and put one foot in front of the other just like the rest of us.
The game starts out with a quick tutorial on controls and how to interact with the world. There are two ways to control this game, either using efji so both hands control movement, or wasd which is also a pain in the ass as you then have to move your hand back into its typing position every 10 seconds. You get this wrong when coming across a sudden encounter, and your spamming your keyboard like an idiot. It would have been nice to have an option to change movement to esdf so your hands are already in position to type (there is a mod for this, but I only found it towards the end of the game and couldn’t get it to work anyway). Also, my right hand sits on hjkl whilst typing rather than jkl;, so some of the typing exercises didn’t make much sense to that hand, making it more awkward than for someone who would be more comfortable typing from a jkl; perspective, but that’s just me being the retard I was, when I was teaching myself to touch type aged 7. I always wondered why there was a small bump on the j key and not on the h key.
When in comes to clearing obstacles and enemies, by pressing the space bar, the game goes from exploration into combat mode in which you will type the words on the screen to remove those objects. There are certain points in the game, usually as end of level encounters, in which you stand on a nest and are attacked by waves of various enemies. Throughout the game, you will unlock abilities that make use of the elements, activating that elemental skill on an enemy to destroy them and help towards boosting your combo which will reward you with more experience for unlocking skills. The game does have adaptable difficulty, though I’m pretty good at typing, so was at the harder end of the game, which requires during the encroaching waves that your spotting enemies early and typing fast, perfectly using abilities to help reduce their numbers quickly before they reach you.
One of the problems with the game is that it’s played isometrically, so the fixed viewpoint for most of the game becomes a pain to control diagonally using wasd as direction keys. What’s even more annoying is that in boss encounters, the camera angle changes to a different depth that you’ve been used to, making it much more difficult to determine the surrounding enemies distances from the character, so that some enemies look further and others closer than they actually are. I don’t mind a challenge, but hate anything that tries to fuck with my eyes.
The metaphors are nothing more than ideas the developers already had lying around and were squeezed into matching the themes in the story, yet are never properly executed and leave us with how an old unused warehouse is supposed to represent her time through college (which she worked really, really, really hard on and yet she did it all by herself (which most times means that if someone has to boast that they’ve worked hard, usually they’ve just mooched off everyone else, getting them to do most of the work and she only had to do the hard work of understanding what the submitted work contained incase she was ever questioned about it)). Now I’m going to spoil the ending for you, but at the end she wakes up in a hospital bed from a coma, which means that only one of the eight dungeons made sense to her circumstance, a mine full of linking tunnels where you had to turn on the lights, which try to constantly switch off again until you beat the darkness that was enclosing it.
The problem with her mentioning all of her problems in the game, is that we’re playing the game in the first place to get away from our own problems. We don’t want to be lumbered with her emotional issues, which then reminds us of our own, breaking any immersion in the game, which really is just a playthrough of a boring, weakass diary.
The protagonist has a knack of saying random metaphors stolen from a range of publications, “The foamy sea spray whirled around her in it’s biting cold grasp” (that one I actually came up with), etc, etc. It grates having to be forced to listen to sentences that a child came up with in its creative writing sessions, that again, have just been forced into the game, not making much sense in the context. The protagonist doesn’t do much but yap and pretend that she’s casting fireballs even though we’re doing all the work of typing. She can’t even be bothered to walk, getting a free ride off the back of a fox which for all the metaphors, is the only actual one that isn’t even mentioned or made sense of in the game. I think it’s supposed to represent her boyfriend, and I think the fact that she’s riding on its back is to represent all the free lifts she got in his car with no thanks, whilst he supported her doing her really, really, really hard college degree.
What I’m interested in, aside from how she became a lazy cow, is how she ended up in a coma in the first place. Was she involved in a car crash, did the boyfriend finally snap and beat her up, was she raped (which was where I was expecting this story to go with all the tribulations she’d suffered so far)? How the fuck did she wake up in a hospital from a coma without a single mark to her head, bandages, or hooked up to breathing apparatus, appearing as though she’d just woken from a nap? It seems it’s perfectly acceptable to be able to throw around cliché mechanics like comas and dreams as though all that time I’d spent on this rubbish had never happened, apart from those immersing realistic and hard hitting parts where she emphasised on about how really, really hard life was. So yeah, took me til this point to finally realise Epistory was not short for Epic Story.
To be honest, I’m not sure why her progress through the coma is related to words and having to type. In the pictures that you collect of her from each level, she’s portrayed as an artist rather than an author, so again, not sure what the theme is, if there ever was one and normally when I’m comatosed, I tend to dream in pictures and colour than seeing large articles of text hovering over objects. I think the whole story might have been more realistic and made much more sense if she’d been sucked into a computer than being trapped in a coma. Again, I think (most of this review is just me making assumptions of wtf the developers were thinking whilst making this rubbish) they’re trying to portray that the character is a very creative being, which is hard to see when nothing in the game is original. To be honest, I think this whole story is just a recounter of a drug fueled bender.
The only thing this game really has going for it is the origami graphics. They look alright. When exploring the world, you do have to stop and wait awhile for the next area to transition in, which can be a pain when I’ve been speeding through the entire game. The artwork that you collect looks nothing special, pretty sure someone just traced over some photographs and took the credit. For some reason, the Steam overlay wouldn’t work with this game, so there aren’t any screenshots for me to showcase.
I was actually surprised when I accidentally completed the game, knowing that I still had two dungeons to complete. Having already unlocked all the skills halfway through the game, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to tackle next, with no hints of navigation and ended up completing the end mission rather than the two dungeons that might have been the saving grace to this story, which they weren’t ofcourse when I did finally get to them after the credits. After 5 hours of gameplay I’d amassed 366834 points in total, nearly twice as many needed to unlock all the skills, so bothering to keep any combos going in combat was for me pointless and unrewarding. And 5 hours was more than enough, I wasn’t going to spend any longer on this rubbish to gather mind-numbing achievements in the Arena mode.
The only reason you would want to play this game, is if you want to spend more time typing a review up for it than you did spend typing in the game itself. There are much better games out there that offer a challenge to those that like typing games, like The Typing of the Dead Overkill containing better action and story sequences. Epistory also won’t teach or help you with your typing either, and you would be much better off using an online tool for learning and practising. The most this game has to offer is to watch an orange Fiat 500 run around in the form of a beautiful guardian fox.