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‘Tunic’ Is Super-Cute ‘Dark Souls’ Mixed With Zelda, And I Love It

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‘Tunic’ Is Super-Cute ‘Dark Souls’ Mixed With Zelda, And I Love It

Ever since we first saw Tunic, the gorgeous isometric role-player from Canadian solo dev Andrew Shouldice, the assumption was that it'd be borrowing liberally from old-school Zelda. The perspective, the cute characters, a lil sword and a lil shield - plus there's the need to find a certain object to open each new area, and dungeons to boot. Zelda, right? But now it's playable for everyone, via a new demo on the Microsoft Store, it's clearly not Nintendo's adventure series that this game about a tiny fox in a big world is leaning most heavily on.

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Rather, Tunic is just about the cutest twist on the Dark Souls formula you'll ever play. There's a very Estus Flask-like potion for you to swig from, to top up your health. This can be refilled at shrines - but resting at these points, which also take your health back to its max level, cause all the enemies nearby to respawn. Opening your inventory will not pause the game, so swapping between items in the heat of battle is always a risk. There's a stamina gauge to pay attention to, so you can't simply hack away at those monsters. What's more, those monsters can quickly kill our foxy friend if you're not smart and take them on (mostly) one at a time.

Get a taste for Tunic in the gameplay video below...

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The demo isn't exactly linear, and straying from the path can land you in trouble - turn right when you should have continued straight on and you'll reveal a huge (I mean, relatively speaking) enemy that it's best to run away from, fast. Dodge-rolling to avoid incoming attacks, which are telegraphed, is key, and so too is using your shield both to protect yourself from projectiles and stun certain opponents - but you start with neither shield nor sword, or any weapon at all, which is a lot more Zelda-like. Also from the Nintendo side of the influences spectrum are the pots (no hearts or money in these, though) and treasure chests dotted around the environment, as well as small residences that seem long abandoned.

The Tunic demo - available until June 21 for Xbox consoles and Windows PC, as part of Microsoft's suite of Summer Games Fest demos (which also include Sable and Lake) - can be beaten in about 35 minutes on a first run. Well, that was my mileage, but I made a few silly, very-Dark-Souls-like mistakes, and learned from the experiences - I could shave a fair bit off that, now. But it's such a stunningly pretty, immediately inviting thing that it's impossible to not want to start over as soon as you're done, and poke around more in this world of mysteries and magic.

Tunic / Credit: Finji, Andrew Shouldice
Tunic / Credit: Finji, Andrew Shouldice
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That Tunic is a lot more akin to Dark Souls than an actual Zelda game did rather blindside me. But don't be tricked into thinking this is a hard game. It's just very exacting with what it gives you to play with - actually a lot like Zelda at moments, then - and the enchanting visuals (think the Link's Awakening remake, meets The Touryst) and sweet soundtrack should ensure you don't rage-quit and throw your controller against the wall.

We all came into E3 2021 expecting Elden Ring to be the outstanding Soulslike of the season - but now it's nearly done, and it's a lil fox with a lot of courage that just might take that particular crown. Tunic is set to release later in 2021 for PC and Xbox consoles, published by Finji (who recently gave us the amazing Chicory), and you can find this demo on the Microsoft Store.

Featured Image Credit: Finji, Andrew Shouldice

Topics: Xbox, E3, Preview, PC, Indie Games

Mike Diver
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