Dance the dodge-step dance with your Unicorn!
Type: Single Player
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Developer: Void Studios
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Release Date: Mar 5, 2019
Eternity: The Last Unicorn is an action adventure game with a hint of RPG sprinkled on top where the combat is fairly hard compared to an average RPG and that might very well come as a shock for folks who are interested in it solely because they like unicorns. I mean, who doesn’t? They are magical beings with the power of friendship bracelets and they can stab you in the butt in a heartbeat. It’s not Dark Souls hard, but it’s not casual in the least. I have to say the combat honestly isn’t unfair, it’s just tough. At least, that is until you get to some of the boss fights. In particular, there is one boss that can nearly ruin the player experience within a few hours of gameplay. That said, the game is not unplayable in the least, but the bigger issue at hand is that you often fight the camera angles and glitches more than the monsters.
There is actually an extensive amount of backstory involved with Norse mythology mixed in alongside other gods and fantasy tropes. I was quite surprised at the level of detail in the backstory, and there are literally pages of well written short stories for every monster and NPC in the game. The main story itself, however, does come off a bit sparse compared to the majority of RPG games. You play two storylines, one as Aurehen, an elf who is trying to save the elves from mortality now that the magical unicorns have been cursed, and Bior, a wandering Viking who is the sole survivor of a shipwrecked crew. Both characters must traverse an evil enchanted land and complete a number of quests along the way to save themselves and the last unicorn. You will interact with deities and fight dastardly foul creatures as you tag-team the storylines together between Bior, who generally just takes a break and sits things out, and Aurehen, who seems to faint after most of the boss fights. This also means you have to level up both characters one at a time and share available resources, so you’ll end up grinding twice as much as you thought you’d have to. The story is fine, and well edited. I just didn’t find it compelling. You never get a sense of knowing either of the characters, so it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to relating and understanding what your character is feeling and thinking. For the most part, the game is about combat.
If you can’t handle a Soulsborne style of combat then I’d say steer clear of this title. Players are quite vulnerable to attacks as only a few blows will kill you. For Soulsborne vets, this won’t be an issue. Enemies often gang up on you in groups and you can withstand only a few hits before you are dead. There is a dodge ability, which is quite fast, overly fast even, but it does not always work because you will get stuck on geometry or simply surrounded by enemies and be unable to escape. So your only option is to run backward, try to get the camera to give you some idea of where you are, and wait for them to run after you so you can attack maybe two at a time and survive.
There are several issues with the combat. First and foremost is that the camera is fixed and rather difficult to work with. You will have to move in and out of frame just to be able to see what is going on, let alone attack an enemy. Often you will be walking backward and shooting arrows or swinging a sword, hoping for the best because you can’t see anything in front of you due to the camera. This happens frequently throughout the game, even in boss fights. It’s as if the game has no regard for the player knowing what is around them. During a boss fight, several times I would try to land an attack while looking straight through the middle section of the boss and no line of sight. There are old games games that do fixed camera position well, like Onimusha, but Eternity: The Last Unicorn‘s attempt to emulate the camera angles of those old games simply does not work at all.
There is also a wolf boss about a quarter of the way through the game and it is all out of balance. I honestly rage quit the game after trying to beat it for over an hour. He constantly faces forward so there is no way for a side attack with the sword unless he starts using his special attacks. And if I attacked with a sword he would be less aggressive, yet the sword was nearly impossible to beat him with because I couldn’t dodge him in time, so using a bow is the best method….except that you rarely get a chance to move away long enough to charge the bow because the room is too small. You can tell it’s too small because the wolf boss glitches out now and then as he backs up. You’ll need to grind at least 4-5 more levels and carry a unicorn’s buttload of health with you to be able to beat it. This is not good since most folks will arrive at this boss at roughly lvl 10-11, and they will need to be a lvl 14-15 in order to beat that wolf. Expect the wolf boss to be harder to beat than pretty much all of the bosses after him, I kid you not.
On the subject of bosses, I feel they often have hitboxes that are extra wide, so even if you dodge you will still likely get hit unless there is some additional space between you and the boss. Not all bosses were like this, but many at least felt like this. Dodging into the boss seemed to help sometimes. It could be they have a longer invincibility frame or something. Half my dodges would not work against some of them, even though they worked fine against mid-bosses.
Granted, being able to dodge is assuming you can see the space between you and the enemies because the camera angle makes it so that it can be difficult to trust your depth perception. Even knowing where the edge of the arena is can be tough because of the camera angle, and you’ll take damage because while it may look like you are far enough away from the boss to avoid getting hit, you actually aren’t. On top of that, they have incredible amounts of health, meaning it could take forever as you chip away with 1-2% attacks to defeat them if you are even slightly underleveled. Expect to be dodging and kiting for ages with weapons that do very little damage unless you grind a lot to get OP and even then it’s still a kite-n-slash drawn out dance-a-thon.
Another issue is that most of the boss battle arenas are too small, making it hard to dodge because, just like the regular enemies and bosses, you too can get stuck on geometry. I had two instances where my character was jammed on some geometry like a tree root or something, unable to attack or dodge while the enemy quickly killed me. I also had an instance in the Jotundrir Cave where my character, Bior, simply refused to attack any more and just stood still in the water. He would also occasionally disappear in the water while dodging, though still be vulnerable to attacks. The swamp tentacle boss just glitched out on me and froze, but at least my character could stand there and shoot arrows endlessly until it died. When fighting Naglfar the Viking, I found there was a location near the front of the arena where Bior would freeze up and get killed. That happened twice and it sucked because that was one of the few camera angles where I could judge my distance from the boss correctly. When fighting with Aurehen in the Fallen Woods, I switched to a sword and suddently the sword disappeared and she started whacking monsters with her bow, even though I had the sword correctly selected in the weapon guide in the left corner of the screen. Also, Aurehen froze in place when going back to the Valkyrie, who apparently only said to give my Wisdom move a try. It was a very frustrating playthrough.
There are also battle arenas you must finish in order to progress in the game. You’ll be presented with waves of enemies to defeat and then gifted an item to unlock the next area. Those weren’t all that bad, and if you are leveled up enough, should be moderately easy to complete if you have mastered how to dodge effectively. Truthfully, I think I liked these more than the boss fights.
Movement is a little slow, but works fine. I think what hurts the way the character moves is the fact that you can get momentarily stunned if you do not dodge at the exact right moment. It makes attacks sluggish at times. Other than that, you just have to time your moves better. You can’t go in spamming the dodge and attack buttons and expect to get through it unscathed. When you use health, you walk very slowly, so keep that in mind and walk in a safe direction away from the enemy when using health because most of the time you will get hit while eating a health herb. Truthfully, the movement and combat actually grew on me as I progressed because I actually felt like it was challenging to play with these controls being so sluggish, but I feel the majority of gamers won’t be as patient as I was.
The action sets themselves are very basic. There are a light attack and a heavy attack for the swordplay and regular arrows or magic charged arrows for the bow. There is also a super move that deals a lot of damage once the meter for it fills up, but it leaves you wide open for an attack and I got hit every single time I used it, or perhaps it used up life when the supermove was enabled. I have no idea and gave up trying to find out. Try to dodge as soon as you use it, but only use it when you have plenty of health. A lock-on trigger is also available, but it does not always work, sometimes locking your character the wrong way because it depends on the left stick direction. Use it at your own risk, or just use it only with arrows. I often didn’t bother to use it at all. The heavy attack is almost useless against fast enemies, so I mostly relied on my light attack with a dodge move after each attack. It’s annoying, but I didn’t think it was terrible at first to be honest. I was fine against regular enemies, but against bosses it was as if the whole combat scheme didn’t work anymore. I would use my light attack and dodge, but my dodge would miss for whatever reason, as I mentioned earlier I think it is the hitboxes. With those tiny battle arenas, there was no way to get a good shot in because you are too close to the boss all the time and then the boss would fill the entire screen, obscuring your position on the floor. It’s frustrating because if the game was designed better, it would be perfectly fine.
The RPG aspect of the game is cursory at best. You gain XP and auto-level all your stats at the same time. There are hidden weapons to discover, like the bow or magic sword, and you can upgrade them from a fairy or dwarf after you unlock that ability. However, you can’t look at them in inventory. When you do upgrade them, all the attributes of the weapons are upgraded at once with no options for selective upgrades. You cannot change your character’s appearance, but you get to play as the two different people in the game, a Viking and an Elf. There are no branching storyline choices from what I experienced.
Occasionally, you find a merchant to buy or sell goods. The shops have limited supplies of items such as health, so if you use them all up you are screwed. At least that is what I thought at first. In truth, you’ll get random health drops from enemies and there is an area in Skadi’s Temple and a few other places where you can destroy spider eggs and get health every time. So, just save there and farm the health if you are hard up. The best thing to do is simply play without using health and keep reloading from a checkpoint. Checkpoints are moderately generous and often occur just before you enter an area, though not always. Use up that health against a boss because you will be dealing almost no damage with each hit and it can take forever to beat them while they can hit you 4-5 times consecutively. Also, when you level up you get free health, so keep an eye on your XP before using some health. You may just get a free health boost when you level up and not need to use a health herb. The shops also have runes you can purchase occasionally, and these can boost your stats for a short time. I didn’t care for the runes myself, and the few times I used a health rune, it didn’t help me in the least. You can attempt to craft runes as well. I say attempt because in the sole crafting area ( yes, only one section of the game has crafting ) you will see your percentage chance of crafting something well, and it’s pretty bad, somewhere around a 44% chance for the crafting to succeed.
Backtracking is an intrinsic aspect of the game, so expect to be running around in the same areas repeatedly for a fetch quest of some kind, fighting the same group of monsters over and over, and then finally getting some sort of unlock only to repeat the process again. It’s helpful to level up, but beyond that, the game just gets repetitive really fast because the game world is simply not all that interesting.
That leaves the player with mostly trying to enjoy the combat as the sole reason for continuing as running in circles is a chore and while there are some unlockable hidden areas, the payoffs are just not particularly thrilling. I sort of liked the combat. It’s not easy and that’s fine by me, but I just didn’t think the storyline and experiences with enemies and bosses were worth the effort to continue playing for long.
Graphics and Sound
Eternity: The Last Unicorn uses the Unreal Engine 4, but I don’t think it uses it to its maximum abilities. Graphically, it resembles something from the tail end of the PS3 era. There are some nice reflections and use of shadow, but don’t expect gorgeous graphic fidelity or wonderfully rendered backgrounds. The backgrounds are somewhat bland with low resolution render bitmaps, but the use of statues and some of the character models are decent. Overall, it’s passable graphically but not more than that.
The background soundtrack is standard fantasy fare with harps and war drums, but it’s fairly well done and I never once had the desire to turn off the music. The transitions from one place to another can be a little jarring, though, as there is no fade out or fade in when that happens. There is just a sudden music change and that’s all. You go from tense war music to soothing Celtic inspired ballads in a split second. The sound effects are passable as well, with many of them roughly sounding the same, but doing the job of alerting me to something about to happen or an imminent attack. I thought the sound effects of the chains on the wolf boss sounded more like shaking a chainlink fence than actual chains.
While I see lots of folks complain about the combat, I don’t see that as the main issue. Yes, it’s a tough game and too hard for the likely casual crowd that saw the word Unicorn and immediately wanted to look at one. It’s not horrible, even if the movement does feel somewhat slow at the onset. What is more annoying is that it is a little glitchy, with geometry playing havoc on whether or not you can actually pull off an attack at times.
However, the biggest issue for me is the camera, it’s downright bad and I don’t mind fixed camera angles if done well, but that is not the case with this game. I just got so tired of having to move back and forth from one framed area to the next just to be able to see what is going on. That should not be the case. I totally get the idea of trying to make the fixed camera like older console titles, but it doesn’t work here in the least.
If you can deal with the hard difficulty of the combat and the camera, then there are two other things to consider. First, the game gets very repetitive as you run back and forth from one area to the next killing the same monsters over and over. I get it that other games do this, but this game simply lacks that type of depth and atmosphere to sustain much desire to continue on. Really, the driving force for a player to complete this game peters out quickly. It’s not intriguing enough, atmospheric enough, or compelling enough unless you get addicted to the hard combat and just want to push on to see the next boss. Also, I have to say bosses are not all that interesting and they are mostly a chore to beat due to the huge amount of health and the tiny amount of damage dealt per attack. All but one that is, and it’s the other thing I disliked most about the game.
I’m talking about that wolf boss. It is not balanced well at all and the level that most players will be by the time they get to this boss is too low. First off, the game should have a few quests to force the player to level up more before they get to that boss. Next, the arena is too small and the boss barely fits in there. Make it larger or shrink the boss. Then you need to address the weird way it makes it hard to beat with a sword or with an arrow because both methods barely work.
Eternity: The Last Unicorn has some good ideas, but falls short on providing an interesting game to play. It’s tough, and that is really about it. I don’t feel the gameplay offers much for folks to enjoy outside of the Norse lore and mythology. Unfortunately, I can’t advise anyone to go out and buy it.