Have You Tried… the cute Elden Ring, Tunic?

It’s not often that I’ve spent the majority of my time with a game with my eyes half on a Discord of fellow journalists unraveling a game’s mysteries. But with Tunic, I became obsessed with watching our minds come together to figure out what lurks between the pages of its story. Quite literally in fact, as part of Tunic’s loop is to find new pages of the in-game manual that will offer up more hints, tips, or secrets to discover in the game. 

So while Tunic may look cute and fuzzy on the outside, inside it has the heart of a Souls game and the spirit of Legend of Zelda. While everyone else in the world has been playing Elden Ring, I’ve been playing Tunic, and I’ll tell you now, I’m not sad about it. 

Understanding how Tunic works is a bit like learning a new language. It’s frustrating at first because you have so little understanding of what the rules are – and it doesn’t help that the words you do find in the game are literally incomprehensible, written out in an alien language that neither you nor our little fox hero can understand. But, as you explore and discover a new page of the manual, things and places start to make more sense. 


(Image credit: Finji)

It’s beautifully done as you (deliberately) won’t always find the pages you need in the right order, so a double-page spread may remain incomplete for many hours in your journey. That may seem counter-intuitive, and yet it always gives you enough info to try something new, retread your steps, or finally figure out how something works. I’m being deliberately vague, of course, because my little notebook of real-world scribblings of ideas and reminders from my time with Tunic has become a prized possession, as have my screenshots of the journalist Discord that’s now been retired. 

It’s not a game that you won’t be able to play alone, but watching the flickers of recognition across a little community was so touching. With Tunic launching on Game Pass, alongside Xbox and PC, I really hope that translates to Reddit threads and other collaborative unravellings. Plus, there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about becoming near-obsessed with a game manual again – even if it is only in digital form. I ended up knowing the pages by heart, flicking between them in a way that I knew the real-life counterpart would have had folded corners and a worn spine by the time I was through. 


(Image credit: Finji)

Of course, that’s all for much later. Initially, you’re just an adorable fox in a strange world who finds a stick, and then a sword and a shield, to protect itself against the weird and wonderful monsters you’ll come up against. But, like Souls games and classic Zelda titles, it doesn’t stay like that for long. Soon you’ll be balancing mana for spell-casting and stamina for dodging among the melee swipes, figuring out how best to use your shield without losing your advantage. The combat isn’t always rewarding, but it’s very Souls-like, which won’t be for everyone. Nor will your ability to level up and become more powerful, which is only possible through finding specific items to trade-in at the statues where you can save or respawn after death (which also revives all the monsters).

Apart from the time you’ll spend trying to defeat the bosses, there is no grinding here. It’s all about discovery. From the camera angle that hides away hidden chests and secret paths, to the layers of discovery you’ll unlock through the manual pages. You’ll be gleefully backtracking through the game’s different landscapes, from cutesy forests and temples, to underground lairs and glimmering beaches, armed with a new piece of knowledge to propel you forward. 


(Image credit: Finji)

And it’s about experimenting too. You’ll pick up keys and items that are never really explained to you in your native language, but you’ll figure them out through trial and error – sometimes more error still. Tunic is never too quick to give you an answer, instead letting you find rewards in solving its puzzles in your own time. Tunic is truly a masterpiece, a slice of everything that’s wonderful about the Souls and Zelda games, with just a touch of Death’s Door for good measure. The fact it’s the work of just one man, Andrew Shouldice, just makes it even more bewilderingly good. 

Tunic is available now on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC, and via Game Pass too. 

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