As someone who started out typing via the “hunt and peck” method and has no real training when it comes to typing, I’ve become a fairly effective typist after years of getting comfortable with resting my hands on a keyboard. Heck, it wasn’t until college in the early 2000’s that I ever learned to use mouse and keyboard for playing PC games in general. (confession: I played Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight with a gamepad). So I’ve never been really confident about playing a typing based game, especially since I tend to make a lot of mistakes while typing (had to go back and edit the paragraph 3 times alone). What does all this mean? Well, it means I was somewhat prepared for what Epistory - Typing Chronicles by Fishing Cactus had in store for me, but with a few novel surprises that makes the game stand out from the crowd.
Epistory puts you in the role of a girl riding a three-tailed fox, and is told from a narrative standpoint similar to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, with passages actually being shown on the landscape, which is actually presented in a lush artistic style I can only think of as like a pop up book come to life, and even down to the “that’s not the way it happened” statements when you die. The visuals look great and I'm a sucker for a unique presentation, oftentimes I'll endure a sub-par game if the art style is interesting enough. I'm happy to say that wasn't a real concern while playing Epistory.
The controls have you switching between direct movement of your character to entering what can best be described as the “combat." This is where the typing game aspect comes into play. Enemies of varying types will approach you with as little as one letter or as complex as multi-syllable words you must type to “defeat” them. In addition to the typing aspect itself, you’re required to manage specific elements you obtain during your travels to defeat specific enemies, and each element contains an additional effect that occurs when typing. For example, the fire attack will burn off an additional word while the Ice attack will slow an enemy down. When the combat gets fast and furious, the juggling act becomes trying to keep your attention on several enemies at once, all while trying to type out more and more complex words in succession to defeat the enemies. It feels just as intense as any character action game, and I found myself taking a deep breath before continuing onward at the end of many a "battle." It's the kind of ebb and flow I like in all games, and hearkens back to Half Life 2 surprisingly enough with it's quiet exploration/platforming sequences peppered with some tight intense combat.
The combat is combo based, with the faster and more precise you type increasing your score. This is directly tied into unlocking additional areas as well as the upgrade paths available for your powers. The upgrades start as simple as allowing you to run (you do move quite slow before unlocking this) to the ability to teleport from dungeon to dungeon. It’s a nice addition that keeps Epistory from becoming too one note, and allows you a bit of customization for how you want to play. Something I found impressive is that Epistory includes an adaptive difficulty setting which appeared to increase the word complexity and size based on how well you are typing. I'd love to see this kind of difficulty implemented in more games, as more often than not I play games on "normal" difficulty and find things almost too easy at times. It's a refreshing change but if that isn't your style you can manually set the difficulty as well.
If I had anything unpleasant to say it’s that I sometimes felt letters were being missed while I was typing quickly and trying to move from word to word without any sort of pause. Also, the navigation seems a bit wonky at times, especially when I unlocked the sprint ability, as it seemed to stop sprinting at random and required me to re-press the shift and movement key to start moving quickly again after some direction changes. But in the end these are minor quibbles that could just be the result of my "poor" typing technique than anything else.
I’d recommend giving Epistory a try, especially if you are looking to give you typing skills a refreshing test and still engage in some unique gameplay and a story that actually carries some resonance.
Note: Epistory - Typing Chronicles was reviewed on PC using a retail Steam key provided by White Tie Games.