[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in the July Jubliee Bundle, now available at IndieGames' co-created site: Indie Royale.]

Unepic is often held up as a shining example of why digital distribution storefronts just can't get it together when it comes to selling indie games, due to repeated rejections from Steam and GOG despite the cult following. While I can definitely see why it's been turned down before--an in-game store, some dodgy use of copyright material, full frontal male nudity--there's still a really creative and pretty unique take on an old favourite genre. By taking some choice favourite RPG elements and packaging them into a sprawling Metroidvania, Unepic carves a very fun niche for itself.

The most prominent influence on Unepic is undoubtedly the Castlevanias of the world. A nerdy pop culture junkie takes a bathroom break during his weekly RPG session but is transported to a dank underground kingdom by either supernatural intervention or maybe just some drugged beer. Like any real tabletop gamer, he knows all about dungeons and dragons so, with just a Zippo lighter, he grabs a sword and plunges into the dangerous depths. Unlike your Castlevanias of the world, there's a real focus on elements most common in hack and slash RPGs, like crafting, skill points and, of course, piles of loot. Sure, later Castlevanias had vague RPG elements, but not one was as committed to the format as Unepic is. The sheer amount of stuff to seek out and collect really gives the game a more addictive quality than others of the genre, and the wide selection of skills and gear gives you a ton of choice in how you want to play.


It also looks really sharp. Each area is laid out at a rather distant angle, making your character feel absolutely tiny compared to the level. Each area is usually pitch black as well, with ready to light torches and your trusty lighter slowly revealing the true layout. This allows for some neat level design tricks, and also lends itself to some fun screen-filling bosses. The clever use of the unknown as a gameplay element was a really excellent choice, and certainly the dungeon feel even more grandiose. Because of this, finally conquering a room and lighting it up gave me a great sense of satisfaction that mere loot would not. All this is helped along by a somewhat open structure, with occasional bouts of linearity giving way to bonus areas, sidequests and various other bits of optional dungeoneering.

Unepic is certainly not for everyone, though. It's very adult, with a ton of cursing and a few rather tasteless quest objectives. That's not necessarily a fault, but this definitely isn't a game to share with the kids. The writing can also be a bit hit or miss, with some pretty clever lines juxtaposed against a heavy reliance on pop culture references. It's humour very much in the vein of a geekier Family Guy which isn't exactly up my alley, but it's all down to personal preference.

But even though I was at odds with the sense of humour, I still thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of Unepic's dungeon romp. By taking the choicest bits of an action RPG and grafting it to the Metroidvania genre, the game manages to make a really enjoyable dungeon crawler. It's got everything an action RPG fan could want, like plenty of sidequests and a very tweakable character, but also includes a lot of the traditional Castlevania elements for nostalgia fuelled fans. It certainly is a game that's worth checking out at least once based on game design merit alone.

[You can get Unepic, Mutant Storm Reloaded, Oniken, all five Geneforge Saga titles, Puzzle Agent and two other games in the July Jubliee Bundle, now available at IndieGames' co-created site: Indie Royale.]