Epistory: Typing Chronicles Review: Of Fox and Girl

Epistory: Typing Chronicles has made its way through Steam Early Access, and is now available in a full release! About a month ago, I got the chance to take the Early Access version of the game and I wrote up a preview. At that point, only the first half of the game was available. Now that the whole thing is ready, let’s circle back and see how well Epistory: Typing Chronicles holds up in my review!

Epistory: Typing Chronicles is the story of a mysterious girl and the giant fox she rides. The story begins in media res, with not a lot of backstory coming as the game progresses. The girl has been wandering for a long time, I assume. The world is mostly uninhabited, except for evil bug-things that are constantly trying to eat the girl and her fox.

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The high point of Epistory for me is the art style. The entire world is made out of paper – the land literally unfolds before you. Rough, torn edges dot the landscape. Everything pops and unfurls as you explore. Water – especially waterfalls – is quite a treat. Even the bug-like enemies are beautiful in their own way.

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Epistory’s gameplay is focused around the keyboard – so much so, that you don’t even need to touch a mouse to play. The fox is controlled with either WASD or an alternate, “typing friendly” F/J combination. Pressing “return” toggles you to typing mode. Words appear above obstacles, enemies, and other locations of interest. Typing the word causes you to interact with the object, whether it’s hurting an enemy or causing flowers to bloom.

Every successful interaction grants you a bit of experience, which you can use to level up your capabilities. You can make the fox walk faster, or combos last longer. Even the menu screen is keyboard-oriented – you type words to move between menu screens and to pick your upgrades.

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Roaming the countryside brings you to one of Epistory’s half dozen dungeons. Each “chapter” of the game focuses on one of the four major dungeons, with a couple of extras thrown in for good measure. Each major dungeon also features one of a set of unlockable powers – fire, ice, wind, and spark. These powers have special functions in combat, with each giving a different bonus when you type a word to hit an enemy.

The powers also factor into the game’s puzzles. The puzzle elements of Epistory remind me a lot of The Legend of Zelda, especially the top-down 2D entries in the series. They never really get as complicated or involved as Zelda puzzles tend to, but they do break up the combat a bit.

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I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of Epistory’s story and character (singular). The story is mostly told through narration written on the world itself. It occasionally serves to explain the motivations of the protagonist, but it’s often overwrought and seemed to be taking itself too seriously. I laughed and rolled my eyes during quite a bit of it, and I don’t think that was the intent. The protagonist’s interjections from time to time mostly made her seem whiney.

I think mostly I never really felt… connected. The story never really developed the world or the main character enough for me to feel involved. The story doesn’t really come together until the end cutscene, and by then it was a bit late for me to start caring.

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I also found the difficulty somewhat frustrating, even when set to “Easy” and the adaptive difficulty deactivated. I felt a sense of dread every time I came across a “monster nest” where I’d be surrounded by enemies and forced to dash through dozens of words (often many 12+ letters long) to dispatch them. One hit kills you and erases any progress towards completing the nest, so I was often frustrated when I lost. I had a lot of game overs due to not typing fast enough. Typing long, complex, unfamiliar words quickly is quite difficult! Both my wife and I are fairly good typists – I code and write articles for a living, even. She fared a bit better than I did, and I often handed the keyboard off after a few failures.

When we saw this game at PAX South, the Fishing Cactus people who were there mentioned that it scaled well to people who were low-speed hunt-and-peck’ers, all the way up to professional typists. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong here, but if that was “Easy,” I’d hate to see what “Hard” is like.

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I also hit my fair share of bugs. One bug set the XP for next level to a ridiculous amount – 10x what I had earned so far in the entire game. Another bug caused the “spark” dungeon to have all sorts of graphical glitches. When I got near the end, some words refused to appear above the final obstacles. Hopefully these bugs are just the result of playing the game a bit before release, as most seemed like simple mistakes rather than massive issues.

Epistory: Typing Chronicles
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:3/30/2016
Price:$12.99
Rating: - Good
Our Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about Epistory. It’s a truly beautiful game with some very unique ideas. However, the story just fell flat for me, and I found it to be uneven in its difficulty.

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