By: Brian Gunn
Typing games are few and far between, and they have a bit of an odd history. Originally a genre almost exclusively made for education as daily computer use became a reality, in the past decade or so they’ve shifted toward just being made for fun, like with the Typing of the Dead series. Epistory – Typing Chronicles looks to continue that tradition, while telling the story of dealing with writer’s block.
Of course, being a typing game should tell players how the game will control. If you’re a hunt and peck typer, the game will probably not be too enjoyable, though it may help break that habit.
Aside from typing words to damage enemies, players will navigate the world using traditional WASD keys and solving some simple puzzles. Some of these can get a little annoying, particularly any involving sliding on ice when it comes to diagonal angles.
Epistory is a breathtaking game. The world is crafted in a sort of paper-craft style, with a slight hint of origami into the mix. It’s a charming looking game, though it could do with some more enemy skin variety. Still, every time you unlock a new area and get to see it crafted before you is a real treat.
There’s a disembodied narrator covering the action of the story, though one that’s not nearly as frequent as other narrator-focused games like Bastion. One part storyteller, and another part woman that’s struggling with her life, the voice actress embodies both roles well.
Most of the music is fairly light affair, sort of New Age-ish, and even when it goes up-tempo it seems careful to not be overwhelming — perhaps so as to not distract from focused typing tasks. It ends up being similar for sound effects, with the clacking of your keyboard likely to leave a bigger impression.
Players are cast in the role of an unnamed young girl as she rides atop her giant fox and explores a desolate fantasy world. While this adventure is going on, the narrator is having issues of her own, most notably a case of writer’s block. While it’s clear the story of the little girl and the narrator are connected, it’s on the vague side until near the end, and even then it doesn’t quite mesh all that well together.
Still, there’s lots of fun to be found adventuring around the broken and empty world. As you explore you’ll revive much of it, either through typing some words to grow plants in a barren area, or revealing entire new sections of the world at certain Reveal Points that construct new areas to explore — if you have enough points.
Those points are earned from doing well in combat or exploring for hidden treasure. These also control the game’s leveling system, so players are almost always unlocking either new areas to explore or upgrades to snag. In fact, it’s almost too much.
I’d frequently lose my sense of direction because I had enough points to unlock a few Reveal Points at a time, and the relatively open nature of the game makes getting lost easy. For example, I ended up unlocking the cinematic for Chapter 4 about half an hour before I managed to unlock Chapter 3.
While there is a great deal of freedom, there is some gating involved, almost in a Metroidvania sense. There are roadblocks pertaining to the typical elements like ice and fire that need power ups to traverse, and these are used in combat as well.
Speaking of combat, it mostly takes place as you approach a monster nest and stay put as waves come at you. You simply need to type the right words to do damage, with smaller enemies usually only having two words to deal with, while a giant slug might have several, more complex words.
As you get powered up, you’ll need to adjust your strategy. Ice will freeze an enemy for a few moments, for instance, while fire will cause damage over time and make it so you don’t have to type the next word. So, if you apply it to an enemy’s second-to-last word, you can then safely ignore it as the fire damage finishes it off. It becomes surprisingly intense over the course of the campaign as you switch elements and have to decide what to focus on, as any enemy reaching you is death.
Epistory also features an analysis mode that will change the difficulty depending on how well you do. Got a huge combo? Then it might throw in a bunch of names of obscure rocks to deal with, while slower typers or kids can likely manage with the system taking it easier on them. There’s an arena mode as well, which is okay for a burst of quick action but misses the exploration and charm of the campaign.
There’s a surprising amount of depth to Epistory – Typing Chronicles that shows why these types of games still get made. In addition to testing your typing skills and speed, you may find your strategic mind being stretched, as well as picking up a handful of new words to add to your lexicon.