Unto the End Review
In the slosh of game releases, somewhere in the puddle of the thousands of games all vying for attention, you come across a gem that tends to shine a little brighter than the rest. That game is Unto the End by the developers at 2 Ton Studios. Unto the End's blends a unique side-scrolling experience with seemingly simplistic, adventure-style combat that's far deeper than it appears. Team that up with Dark Souls-inspired gameplay, and you've got a recipe for indie title that's bound to quench your thirst for blood.
The premise for Unto the End is simple: Get home. You are a man, a warrior of sorts trying to get home to your family. In order to do this, you must pass a treacherous landscape filled with traps, monsters, and puzzles all while maintaining your will to survive.
You carry a torch for the darkest areas, but even then it's just not enough to really help expand the belief of what's around you for more than a few steps in both directions.
The first thing you'll notice when starting up Unto the End is its overall simplicity. It tells a story with almost nothing but its art, allowing the visual presence to give you its setup and allowing you to mold your own ideas from those. The graphics are smooth, dark and intense for being something that actually reminded me of paper cutouts. Sadly, for having such a strange aura of simple story elements, and letting the art tell you what's happening, the colors are far too dark throughout three-quarters of the game to really experience the full scale of where you're at and what dangers you're in. You carry a torch for the darkest areas, but even then it's just not enough to really help expand the belief of what's around you for more than a few steps in both directions.
Soon enough you're thrust into a land of orcs and monsters, where survival is your only option. With items to collect and a bonfire to rest at, the game seems simple enough for the first fifteen minutes-- little time to really figure out the goings-on and learn the art of not only dodging and attacking, but becoming a true master of your trusty sword. Unto the End touts its read-react combat: read the enemy's movements, then react with your defense and attack accordingly. If a monster holds his spear up high, you press up on the left analog stick to block high; then analog down for low. These patterns are random and repeated three to four times before the enemy becomes momentarily exhausted and their defense open. That's when it's your turn to attack. This form of combat is similar to Souls, by which I mean the attacks are patterned, and if not accomplished correctly, you'll find yourself panic-mashing buttons, then likely dead soon after. It took quite a while for me to get used to, but when I did, the game began to unleash more, bigger and often tougher enemies on screen to test not only my skill but patients. All together the combat is tricky, but in it's own simple sense well developed.
When I was exploring, the melody was that of a sense of adventure and a what's-next beat that really kept me thinking if this character of mine would ever see his family again.
You'll come across items from time to time to combat the wicked conditions the game often throws at you. These items can be used at campfires to make health tonics and armor, but there's also opportunities to find whole armors and collectibles if you're daring enough to go out of your way, which often leads to a few extra battles. The world of Unto the End is trickily designed. When it looks like there's only one viable path, you may be able to climb onto another. It's the game's 2D landscapes that look very static and linear, but can sometimes break away into another area right beneath your nose if you're observations skills are good enough, which I found quite clever.
The music of Unto the End is a dark, melancholy blend that deeply represents moods and possibly the characters way of thinking throughout. When the battles are raging, the music carried my adrenaline on with it. When I was exploring, the melody was that of a sense of adventure, a sense of exploration, getting me to always wonder "What's next?"These tunes really kept me thinking about my character; would he ever see his family again? Which I find to be a strong presence that guided me on my path.
Overall, Unto the End is a fresh take on classical genres in 2D-style gameplay. There are moments where I wanted to throw my controller at the TV from frustration, but when I learned the techniques, it really made me want to get better and better, rather than try and hack and slash everything in sight. The tantalizing atmosphere and wonderment of what's next over every climb really makes Unto the End a fun little adventure that's worth the two hours it takes to complete. Currently available on Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch.
A game code was provided for this review from the publisher for Nintendo Switch.