Epistory is a typing game in an unique setting with some very inspired ideas. It’s made by a Belgian indie developer (Fishing Cactus) and has an overwhelmingly positive reception on Steam. (and there might even be a sequel in the works)
I don’t spend a lot of time gaming on my computer any more these days, but for an original game like this one (which can only be controlled with keyboard inputs in the first place) I’m happy to jump back in.
Epistory is an adventurous typing game in which you explore a papercraft world with the muse, a girl riding a giant three-tailed fox. The world literally unfolds before your feet , with little bits of info dropped along your path in the form of text that appears on the floor while a female voice narrates.
The muse acts as the protagonist, gradually unlocking more areas and adventures for the person who is writing the story. By clearing obstacles on her path, it’s as if she’s steadily helping with the writer’s block the author is experiencing. The underlying story, if you look past the obvious, is that of a woman coming to age and the different stages in her life she had to go through. If you explore the different dungeons and find all of the fragments, you’ll even get some glimpses of the real-world memories of the writer.
Graphics & Audio
What’s immediately apparent when you play Epistory is the Origami-like artstyle. Everything looks as if it was crafted from folded paper. This cosmetic decision perfectly fits the setting of the game and it really makes you feel as if you’re walking through the pages of a storybook.
The presentation is top notch: from start to end, Epistory looks like a well-polished gem of a game and I’ve never played anything that looks quite like it. It’s a treat to see the world unfold before you when you unlock a new part of the overworld map and there are even little flourishes you can add yourself by removing dead wood, rocks and debris or by growing new flower patches.
As you walk through the world, you’ll also see text appear on surfaces and a female voice narrates the thoughts and feelings of the muse.
It’s the only voice you’ll hear throughout the game, but the voice-actress has done a stellar job. As the journey progresses you feel more and more empathic for her plights and you’ll steadily grow curious about which conclusion this will all lead to.
What definitely bears mentioning is the superb soundtrack. From the intense percussion based battle theme to the soothing flutes while you’re exploring a mountainous area, every moment seems to have the perfect musical track to accompany it. There’s even a fitting song that plays as the credits roll. The sound effects are also ever present, with an overwold full of life: you’ll hear birds chirping and frogs croaking while rabbits hop around. It’s crossed t’s and dotted i’s throughout the entire experience.
If the visual flair doesn’t make you fall in love with the game (but it should) the soundtrack surely will.
Epistory is controlled entirely with the keyboard. It’s seems like such an Obvious statement for a typing game, but give it some time to sink in. you move around with the WASD keys (for QWERTY users at least), you fight enemies by typing the words above their heads and even the menu’s are controlled by typing the options.
Let’s have a look at the main combat-gameplay first. While you can freely move around and run away from enemies on the overworld, you’ll have to clear a few insect nests to progress the game. Yes, all enemies in the game are insects for some reason, I presume because the writer is scared of them. When you’re clearing a nest, your character can no longer move around and the chittering bugs come at you from all directions. You have to type the words above their heads before they reach you, as one hit means you’re dead and have to start over from the very start of the battle.
How difficult an enemy is to beat relies on how long (and difficult) the words above their heads are and how fast they are approaching. Luckily you’ll gradually unlock elemental attacks which help a great deal in clearing them faster.
- FIRE burns down the next word (some enemies have to be beat by typing multiple words)
- ICE freezes an enemy into place for some time
- SPARK jumps over to the enemies next to it (perfect to use on slow, small word enemies to take out bigger word enemies next to them)
- and WIND blows them away (target the center enemy in a pack to blow them all back)
To switch between these elemental attacks, you have to type the corresponding word and this can be quite stressfull, especially if you have enemies crawling nearer that can only be hit by a certain element. Luckily the difficulty is adaptive to your typing skills, so even those that did badly just need to persist and eventually they will be able to progress the game (or you can manually set it to a lower difficulty if needed, making for slower enemies and easier words)
Those very same elements are also blocking off some area’s in the beginning of the game as you don’t yet know the “language”.
And when you do learn the correct elemental language, the words that appear are always appropriately thematic. With “Frost” or “Snowfall” freezing ice so you can cross a river or “Tornado” making a windmill turn.
As I said earlier, even the menu’s themselves can be navigated entirely with the keyboard. You can click on the option if you like, but I found it strangely charming to type the name of a skill or location and to assign skill points to it or warp to that spot on the map.
There is a strange decision here to make the text dark blue against a dark blue background though, making it very hard to read the explanation. A similar legibility issue occured during certain combat sections, as the words above enemies are sometime in a similar color to the background and you don’t notice one sneaking up on you. But this is literally the only negative issue I could find with the entire game.
Epistory is an unexpected indie gem. It has a distinct origami look to it that’ll make you fall in love with it in no time flat. And if the looks don’t persuade you than the brilliant soundtrack and voice narration will surely win you over. The main character is charming and the story is told in an engrossing manner. The gameplay is something we rarely see and it was a revelation to me how fun it was to play. It does what it sets out do so well, that I can recommend this game to every gamer…with a keyboard at least.
Here’s the opening half hour of the game so you can see it in action: