Why Tunic’s new reduced difficulty is a better fit for the game

Tunic is an incredibly charming game from the start. The cute little fox protagonist and lively art style are designed to be instantly inviting. But the gameplay itself is a good kick in the teeth. Enemies are ruthless and tight stamina management becomes essential to survival, which seems at odds with its vibrant environments as well as its focus on exploration. Tunic‘s latest ports comes with an extra option – an easier difficulty setting just for the match – and this finally opens up the game and makes it a more consistent experience.

Tunic, in its original state, is not as consistent as it should be. Because as exciting as it was to wander its lush world and try to uncover its many mysteries, it was annoying to be pushed into so many combat encounters along the way. It was like being thrown into an alien museum and being forced to deal with a couple of wild boars with a few exhibits. So many of the game’s areas, especially early on, are filled with a comical amount of tough enemies that artificially made combat a priority.

The problem is that Tunic‘s combat isn’t strong enough to be such a prevalent gameplay pillar because it just isn’t as deep or satisfying as it should be. Its simple, blunt sword swipes, magic spells, and slow parries can’t handle the load the game puts on it, especially given its strict stamina system and how encounters often tediously throw too many enemies into one small area. Running away isn’t always the best escape either, given how accurate some of the ranged enemies are and how vigorously they chase the player as if the innocent little fox owes them ten years of alimony.

The new “Reduced” option simply halves the amount of damage the player takes and doesn’t seem to touch stamina or mana meter or how deadly player attacks are. Being twice as durable lets players explore more freely, which is a better balance. Wandering around is the most interesting part of the game and where its best parts, like its smooth soundtrack and art style, shine. Finding manual pages, deciphering what they mean, and solving its wordless puzzles is significantly more engrossing than throwing away three crocodiles while dealing with an annoyingly accurate tower.

The Reduced setting still doesn’t make the game a complete cakewalk or even solve all of its problems, as it doesn’t magically make the swordplay more complex, its enemies less cartoonishly persistent, or the stamina meter less punishing. It has fundamental flaws that a simple switch won’t completely fix, but it does (appropriately enough) reduce how annoying the sore spots can be.

Why Tunic's new reduced difficulty is a better fit for the game

Tunic already had some welcome accessibility options, but they were a bit extreme as one turns off stamina management while the other made players invincible. Throwing the challenge out completely isn’t always the answer and alienates those who just want a little help. Invincibility also negates combat entirely, making it odd that one of the only difficulties is the nuclear one. Reduced mode is a better compromise between the standard mode and the two aforementioned modes, although it is only one more setting.

Many games like Nioh or god of war on its hardest setting has flexible enough battles to warrant such difficulty, but Tunic is not one of them. It’s not like a game either Blood borne where its brutal combat is meant to mirror its harsh world. Unfortunately, the Reduced setting doesn’t fully remedy its mechanical issues, but it does address them and improve the overall experience in ways that highlight its puzzle and mystery-oriented strengths. It’s dangerous to walk alone, but sometimes the danger isn’t the interesting part.


Disclosure: The publisher provided us with a PlayStation 5 copy Tunic function. The game on version 1,000,000.

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