Typing games are a rarity; the idea isn't particularly new but there aren't many games out there that are able to rock it as a mechanic and make it work. This didn't stop the people at Fishing Cactus, however, and thus Epistory was born. How well does it put typing together with elements of an adventure game though? Is it successful in making it about more than just a quick typing frenzy?
Let’s have a look at all the layers of the game, to find out the answer to that question. First things first; the story. Epistory tells – or types? – the story of a writer, who’s lacking inspiration while writing her latest book. She asks her muse to help her write; that’s where you come in. You control the muse; a young girl riding a fox with three tails. As you guide the writer throughout various parts of the land, you uncover more of the adventure while exploring the beautiful world that unfolds – much like origami would.
That unfolding isn’t just a matter of speech but it happens quite literally, actually; when progressing through the game, every time you unlock a new area, it will visually unfold pages that turn into the landscape that you get to explore. The game is rocking a paper-crafted art style, which is beautiful and elegant. From the get-go, the graphics will pull you right in and together with the other elements, it stamps this game as “charming”.
There is only one factor about the graphics that I noticed was a little strange; the game looked as if it had an over-exaggerated sharpening filter layered over it. I assume this has to do with the textures they used to build up the graphics – but it feels like someone took an Instagram sharpening filter and cranked it up to 100. Nonetheless, the charming paper-crafted style will lure you in more than enough to look past that sharpened look.
With the graphics pulling you in, how does the rest of the game work? Pretty simple; the whole jest of the game is that you defeat enemies by typing out whatever word(s) or character(s) that pops up and solving puzzles. You might think “That’s it?” but there is more to it. The type-to-defeat mechanism is fleshed out with RPG elements that make it a lot more interesting and even tactical. At the start of the game, you won’t have any elements in your control; you just defeat a few enemies and start exploring.
You switch between moving around and typing mode by pressing the space bar. The more progress you make, the more elements come into play. These elements are tied to colours, for instance; fire is orange & ice is blue. Whenever an enemy or obstacle comes along with an orange or blue coloured word, it must be typed with that element active. To switch between these elements, you type its name. Once you are in control of any element(s), you can type any white text regardless of the element that’s active.
One thing I did notice while playing is that the fire element’s influence takes time to get used to;
I often caught myself typing faster than it could burn the next word, which ends up with you potentially wasting time on a word that’ll disappear anyway. As for the puzzles that I mentioned; they’re fun to solve but not too difficult to the point where you’ll get stuck for hours. There is only one puzzle where I can imagine you getting stuck and frustrated but other than that, it’s very much doable.
While the game shines on nearly every level, there are a few points that I was slightly frustrated by. Firstly, I had a hard time seeing the words when multiple enemies were coming toward me. They ended up blocking each other’s words or the words could even pop behind some of the surroundings, meaning you’d have to wait for the word to be in view unless you prefer guessing. On top of that, I caught myself occasionally trying to type a word that I couldn’t type because I still had to type the first word. It might’ve been better to have only a single word show per enemy and then have a number as subtext so that you would know how many words you must type to defeat the enemy.
Another small frustration was that the game didn’t offer any more control over the map other than zooming in and out. A little bit more map control would’ve been useful to have a better sense of direction when trying to find certain things (such as the collectables).
Arena mode: Buckle up!
Besides the story mode, there is also an Arena mode, where you can compete with other players for a spot on the leader boards; you defeat waves and waves of enemies until you can’t continue any longer. There are a few choices of maps that you can play on as well, which are the areas you discover in the story mode. The only difference compared to the waves you defeat in story mode is that these ones are more difficult, more complicated words and more enemies attack simultaneously.