Unto the End
Developer: 2 Ton Studios
Publisher: Big Sugar
Genre: Adventure, Action, Platform
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: 17/Dec/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Unto the End is an action-adventure title where recognizing and learning enemy patterns is crucial to completing the game. You wield a sword and can utilize a torch and a bone dagger to your advantage. As you progress through the game, the character rarely encounters upgrades, and the upgrades unlocked were quality of life improvements. This means that the player will fight more challenging fights without greatly improving the player’s character. Player skill is the most important thing here, and in playing this game, you will die many times before reaching the end.
The game does not put a lot of emphasis on the story, but it does not need to, as the combat is strong enough to stand on its own. In the game, you go out to gather supplies for your family. In the process, the ground beneath you collapses, and you are sent on a journey to be reunited with your family. While the story is simple and the developers do not spend time explaining the context of the game, I feel like the minimal emphasis on the story keeps players focused on the combat and improved my experience with the game.
Throughout the vast environments such as narrow caves and a glistening tundra, you fight a diverse cast of enemies. The main character can block enemy attacks with his sword, evade enemy blows by rolling or ducking, can attack with his sword and bone dagger, and can even fake attacks. The combat in Unto the End is challenging but extremely rewarding. While the number of options provided to your character may seem overwhelming at first, the game builds upon itself and helps players understand each mechanic individually before expecting players to utilize them together.
In addition to the combat mechanics, there is a resource management element to the gameplay. On the ground, the player can find resources such as herbs or leather. These resources can be used to craft medicine and improve the armor of the character. In my playthrough, I rarely used any of these resources and solely used them for trading and avoiding enemy encounters, leaving me with significant excess at the end of the game. This mechanic makes for an additional level of gameplay and lets the player decide how they want to use their resources. In a sense, it rewards the slaughter of enemies, as you can salvage items from their corpses. I think this was an excellent addition, and although I rarely used the items crafted, I would always be cognizant of the items I had in my inventory.
Combat is Not Always the Way
While all enemies will fight if you provoke them, some enemies will trade with you. In some cases, items you hold will even repel enemies. I was able to avoid some fights by giving an enemy some of the items in my inventory. However, sometimes I would try to give the wrong item, and on multiple occasions, I got killed for it. This forced me to respawn at the last checkpoint and walk all the way back to where this enemy was. There is a possibility that I missed hints that conveyed which items the enemies required, but after taking multiple trips to the enemy, giving the enemy the correct item was less rewarding.
The main character feels heavy, and each action you take has consequences. Rolling too frequently leaves you on your knees, gasping for air. Even jumping too much will leave you exhausted. Including punishment for excessive use of evasion makes the gameplay feel precise and deliberate. I found the inclusion of these mechanics beneficial to the game. It prevents the player from solely avoiding damage by rolling, forcing the player to adapt on the spot and utilize a larger variety of their move set. While some players will find these mechanics frustrating, I found them enjoyable, as it ensured each decision would have consequences.
Exploration can be a Chore
While the combat gameplay was enjoyable, exploring the map was often frustrating. The character walks very slowly, and limited visibility in the caves would frequently lead to confusion. There are traps located in the caves such as falling rocks and dart traps. These are nearly impossible to avoid the first time the player plays the game but are easy to dodge once the player knows that they are there. While this adds to the lore of the game, showing that the creatures are intelligent and have developed technology, I find the implementation of them tedious and frustrating.
No Holding Hands
Additionally, the game insists on having the player discover everything by themselves without explaining the game mechanics. At the beginning of the game, the player learns how to jump. However, the game does not tell the player that jumping twice near a taller ledge allows the character to hoist himself above the ledge. While this was not confusing to me, I can see how it could confuse other players. Additionally, there are objects to interact with.
At times, these objects are clear, such as interacting with a dead corpse. However, there are objects vital to progression that seem to be part of the background. There is never an indication for you to interact with an object, even when standing over it for a long period of time. Implementing a system that will not burden veteran players with button overlays yet one that will help struggling players would have been beneficial here.
Like the story, the sound design in Unto the End is also minimal. There is always some kind of background noise, but the music is more ambient. However, the sound effects are fitting for the combat that takes place. One of the things I really appreciated is that each hit is audible. A lot of the mechanics in the game are shown through sound effects. Effects such as hearing heavy breathing when the character is exhausted and successful parries having audible clanks of metal.
The visuals are stunning, and the art style adds a lot to the combat. Each character looks different, and each weapon is designed differently. For example, enemies with a whip will attack from range, and enemies with larger weapons have longer startup before attacks. Unfortunately, a large amount of the game is spent underground in caves where visibility is limited. The impeccable visuals are mainly seen in the outdoor sections. In those sections, however, the visuals are magnificent.
At times, enemy indicators bled together. For example, one creature would get on its knees to attack both low and high. Despite this, I thought the indications before attacks were sufficient, and felt they help the player master the tools provided.
Running a game well on the Nintendo Switch can be challenging. Playing through Unto the End was enjoyable due to the intensity and flow of combat. Luckily, there was no slowdown in the port of this game, and everything ran smoothly. However, loading times are quite long, and dying will happen frequently. It began to frustrate me, especially when I would die to a trap that I was unaware of. Additionally, the game crashed on me two times. The performance of the game was overall quite good but there were some notable issues to consider.
There are some other notable things to consider before delving into this game. At times, there are enemies that guard items vital to progression. While this makes for interesting battles, there were times when it was possible to receive the item and flee without damaging the boss. For example, there is an enemy guarding the heavy key. Instead of fighting this boss, the player can pick up the key and immediately leave the room, even though the boss is targeting them.
Additionally, at times there are objects in the foreground that block the view of enemies. This would be extremely frustrating as there is very little you can do when you cannot see the startup of attacks that enemies have.
With a memorable combat system, tenacious enemies, and gorgeous environments, Unto the End is an enjoyable experience held back by minor design issues, long loading times, and a few accounts of crashing. At £22.49, this game offers a lot of good times but also has some negative experiences tied to it. Despite this, I still enjoyed my experience with the game.
You can get your copy of Unto the End from the Nintendo eShop here.