When I first spotted Epistory - Typing Chronicles I was already interested. Right from the start the game seemed like an interesting combination of Bastion and Typing of the Dead. In a way it still sort of is, but Epistory does enough to stand out from both games. Now that it's out of Early Access, is this game worth buying?
Short answer is "mostly."
Epistory doesn't waste much time and throws you right in without much context. You play as a girl riding on a giant three tailed fox in a strange new land. Unfortunately, the land is also undergoing natural disasters ranging from tornadoes to tidal waves. Worse, there's an invasion of foreign bug-like creatures that seem intent on stopping the girl. As they fight back both the disasters and the bugs, the girl's story slowly comes out. Yet even then it's not quite easy to figure out what's going on. The story comes across in pieces and they're not quite chronological. In the end it doesn't really matter much: it's interesting enough to keep me going and doesn't really hold up the gameplay in any way.
At the start of Epistory, you'll be put into a small hub world. As you wander around, you'll break logs and plant trees to gain XP, and as you gain XP you'll level up and gain access to gates. Every time you hit a gate, and you meet the XP minimum for it, you open up a new section of the hub world which can have new items to find, enemies to fight, and dungeons to explore. For the most part your goal is to keep expanding the hub world until you find and clear all the dungeons. Along the way you'll keep getting new abilities to help you do this.
There are four elements in Epistory and all of them have uses both in and out of combat. Out of combat you can use things like fire to burn away thorns or ice to freeze sections of water. There's actually a pretty large amount of puzzles in the game, most of them involving stepping on buttons in the correct order or sliding along surfaces to hit switches. They're not overly complicated, but they are a nice break from the usual typing gameplay.
Yes, you will be typing a lot. At any point you can hit space or enter to put your character into typing mode. Here you type out various words to interact with the game world and fight enemies. Words usually follow a theme based on what you're typing at. Burning brushes or lighting torches? Then you're going to see words like "pyromancy" and "burning" and "flames". On the other hand if you're using lightning to charge something then be ready to type "spark" and "watt" and "power".
These powers are also used for fighting. Enemies can attack at any time, and getting touched just once is enough to kill you. Similar to activating things, you simply need to enter typing mode and type out words to fight them. Enemies often have a chain of words, meaning as you finish typing out one word they'll have another waiting for you. This is where your abilities come in, as each of the four elements do something different to the enemies. Fire will slowly burn the next word in the sequence away, meaning you can skip over one. Ice freezes enemies in place. Spark can jump and take out words from nearby enemies. Finally, wind will push nearby enemies away. Just like everything else in Epistory, you have to type out the name of the element to switch between them. Sometimes you'll have to clear a nest of enemies, which slightly changes the game in that you're locked into one position when you start a nest. Instead of being able to dodge enemies, you have to stop the swarm of enemies as they continue to advance towards you. It's challenging sometimes, but the price of failure is basically just respawning at the start of the nest so you can keep throwing yourself at it until you succeed.
If you really enjoy the combat there's also an arena mode accessible in Epistory. Here, it's just one long nest segment. You're glued to one spot and just have to fight endless waves of enemies until you die. You get points for each kill and can get your name added to a leaderboard to compete against friends and other players. You also get a fully powered-up fox to play with so you can test out abilities you may not have gotten to in the game yet. It's a fun addition, but not something I found myself spending much time with. Still, it's nice that it exists to add some replay value to the game.
Epistory really takes its typing seriously. Want to get to the map? Then open up the menu and type "map". Want to spend some of those skill points you got for leveling up? First type "upgrades" to get to the upgrade section, then type out the name of the upgrade you want to put a point into. It takes a bit of getting used to, but honestly it fits the theme of the game well and after a bit I found it a perfectly natural way to play.
One thing that also took some getting used to was movement. The game actually suggests using EFJI to move so your fingers are always on or close to home row. That said, it also lets you use WASD and after about 30 minute of struggling with EFJI I gave up and just kept using WASD. I never particularly felt like this kept me off of home row or at a disadvantage in anyway.That said, movement always felt strange and clunky. I often found myself running into walls and awkwardly trying to turn myself to around things. A lot of this comes from the majority of the game's camera being locked at a slight slant, meaning moving in the four basic directions of up/down/left/right always felt just slightly off.
As you explore the new supply of dungeons, each one will try to introduce something interesting to keep the game fresh. Most of the time these are pretty unobtrusive and involved in the puzzle solving. A flying city had me typing out quick chains of words to extend bridges and activate teleporters, while a frozen underwater palace required sliding across patches of ice. Not all of these work out in great ways though. A mine played with light and only allowed me to type out words for things I could see. Yet, the game seemed picky about this and sometimes I could see enemies without being able to attack them while other times I could attack enemies still covered in darkness. It's only a single bad dungeon at least, and there were plenty others to make up for it.
One golden thing about Epistory is its visuals. The entire game looks like paper origami, and it's lovely. Every time you open up a new section, the map unfolds and new features pop up. They start off looking like paper and color slowly comes in. Everything does continue the same general art style of looking like paper, and it makes the game impressive to look at. The soundtrack also fits the game well and provides some nice music for exploration while ramping up the intensity for combat scenes. I also want to give a special shout out to the game's achievements, something I don't normally think about. Epistoryrewards you for typing out parts of novels. For example, early in typed 124 words and got an achievement for typing 1% of Rumpelstiltskin. I also got nods for hitting 1% of works like Frankenstein, Hamlet, Foundation, and For Whom the Bell Tolls at various points in the game. It's little, but it's an awesome way to tie Epistory to the works that have inspired it.
There were some times the game didn't run as smoothly as I would hope. A game-halting glitch that kept me from advancing has since been patched out, though there were some little things left in. At one point I opened up a chest but was unable to collect the item inside. Passing over it would just play a "you got it!" noise but not hand me the item. At another point, I found myself totally invincible to all monsters. Any that touched me would just push me around but I wouldn't die. In the end, I mostly just found minor glitches, and nothing that truly hurt my complete experience.
I still wholeheartedly recommend Epistory - Typing Chronicles to anyone who has been vaguely interested in it. The gameplay is a lot of fun and there's a good amount of entertaining exploration and fun typing to be done here. It's a game for people who both want to improve their typing skills and those who want to refine them. Despite its small issues, this is a game I'll be remembering for a while.
Epistory - Typing Chronicles was reviewed on Steam using a code provided by the developer.