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Review

Epistory: Typing Chronicles – The Quick Brown Fox

Epistory: Typing Chronicles breathes new life into the ancient genre that is the typing game. It instills a tingling nostalgia of seventh grade typing class for me, but actually provides a good deal of entertainment instead of the festering tedium of typing “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” over and over again.

Do schools even having typing classes any longer? If they do, Epistory: Typing Chronicles would be a great vehicle to get kids engaged and, for once, to enjoy the process of practicing typing.

Now you may be thinking, “I don’t want to play a typing game meant for kids just to bolster my word per minute count and hone typing skills.” Luckily, there’s a lot more to Epistory: Typing Chronicles than a simple educational typing simulator. It’s a game like any other: there’s a story (somewhat), narrative, and there are characters and enemies to plow through. Epistory: Typing Chronicles actually sticks out from the flooded indie game market as a unique experience that resuscitates the age-old typing mechanic by throwing in RPG elements, a world reminiscent of a fairy-tale story, and a subtle narrative laced in the flavor of the Brothers Grimm.

 

The main character is a young girl atop a red fox (you’d think it’d be brown, but maybe I’m guilty of over-analyzing a nonexistent hidden metaphor), traipsing through a storybook world. Epistory: Typing Chronicles unfolds like a children’s book fairy tale, each page being one sentence. The ground is really book pages. and newly explored areas of the map are accompanied by short quips of narrative read aloud by a talented voice actor. When discovering a new area, you hear a dreamy voice reading short bits of narrative with subtitles appearing on the ground – like words on a page. It’s essentially a classic bedtime trope that follows a protagonist lost in the metaphorical woods in an unknown and dangerous land, escapable only with the use of her wits and the world’s latent magic.

Nonetheless, the story is rather vapid as a whole. Overlooking the magical, sparkling world, there lies very little substance and depth to the narrative. A clear and direct narrative is vacant despite the game emulating a fairy tale, which are usually simplistic and straightforward. I spent the majority of my time having no clue what I was doing or had to do in terms of advancing the storyline. Frequently, a good amount of time spanned between the tidbits of narration, so once I reached a part of the map where new narration appeared, the previous quip was all but forgotten. To my dismay, the littering of narration never added up to a coherent, advancing plot.

Epistory: Typing Chronicles Arena

The enemies are varying sizes of insects, including such monstrosities as flying mosquitoes, larvae, worms, and giant wasps. Though the world is rather imaginative, the enemies certainly aren’t. Their goal is obvious: to touch you. It’s an insta-kill once an insect gets close enough to brush up against you. However, you can stop these insects by typing the hovering word above them. For weaker opponents, typing merely one letter will destroy them. The stronger enemies may boast a word that has more than twelve characters, and afterward, more words may pop up in succession before you can vanquish the insect.

The ability to infuse the typed word with four varying elemental spells enhances what would otherwise become boring encounters. The fire mode burns the next word in line which is great for tackling baddies with more than one word. The ice ability will freeze the insect in place, buying much-needed time. The spark will chain clear words and take out more than one at a time. Finally, the wind will blow back all enemies in proximity. To switch between these modes, the corresponding word must be typed, and this caused me plenty of issues with words being locked in. The backspace thankfully clears it, but frustration will surely ensue.

By far and away the hardest – and most frustrating – learning curve inside of Epistory: Typing Chronicles is the character movement. It isn’t as prosaic as WSAD like every other game but rather a mix of the following keys: IJEF and ASD. Honestly, by the end of the game I still wasn’t used to the movement mechanics. I can’t help but believe an easier method could have been implemented. I was especially annoyed when movement puzzles started to emerge. It’s odd when the hardest part of a game is walking around, and I experienced horrific Resident Evil flashbacks to boot.

The RPG aspect makes Epistory: Typing Chronicles more compelling than what is on the surface. Experience is gained by chaining words in an allotted amount of time, indicated by a gradually diminishing white bar. The experience tallies up into levels, which then reward you with two upgrade points. These upgrade points can improve anything from your fire ability to the speed of your mount to increasing the amount of time your chain counter lasts between words. The upgrades don’t really re-imagine the gameplay much, but they at least succeed in propelling you to keep that chain rolling and increase replayability.

Epistory: Typing Chronicles Clouds

Another use of experience (inspiration) is to unlock new parts of the map. Certain areas will require more experience than you have at hand, acting as a future goal and something to come back to. Some of the zones in Epistory: Typing Chronicles are beautiful; the floating level high up in the sky comes to mind. Other zones are boring and repetitive. The more memorable instances had puzzles scattered about them, some of which passed as moderate enigmas, but none of them were enchanting or really tickled my brain.

Boss encounters were noticeably lacking. I believe Epistory: Typing Chronicles would have benefited greatly by implementing unique and complex boss fights. Instead, you incessantly face the same familiar enemies wave after wave. In the Arena mode, hordes of enemies flood into the zone one after another. Your goal is to survive each wave while keeping your chain counter ticking and racking as many points up as possible. Even though I can type about a hundred words a minute, give or take, the Arena mode was still vexingly difficult.

Speaking of difficulty, the story mode wisely has an “Adaptive Difficulty” feature. I imagine this will allow even players who type by “chicken-pecking” to pass through the game, though I rarely faced any truly challenging encounters during the campaign.

At max settings and 1440p, the graphics are par, but the illustration style is engaging. The storybook world has an artsy, crayon-like quality that comes across as attractive and whimsical. The animations for the spells are also impressive and on-point. I didn’t run into a single issue with the game’s overall performance. Lag never reared its ugly head, and, even more importantly, there wasn’t any input delay.

The most striking issue I had with Epistory: Typing Chronicles was the audio. The narration was crisp; however, the music would constantly cut in and out. There were periods of time where the game was silent altogether. I don’t know if this is a widespread problem with the game, but I experienced it on two different PCs.

Despite several glaring faults, such as audio issues, a lackluster story, and uninspired enemies, I nevertheless enjoyed Epistory: Typing Chronicles. Possibly the reason for my positive takeaway is the game’s sheer singularity, in turn reviving my attitude toward the monotonous slew of conformist titles that have recently been released. Epistory stands out from the crowd and offers you a change from the dime-a-dozen indie games.

When broken down into individual categories such as below, Epistory doesn’t look good on paper, but it still equates into a fun adventure. To this end, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does it break new ground for gaming. To me, it was just a welcome distraction, a midafternoon nap that hit the spot in an otherwise largely tiring world.

Epistory: Typing Chronicles was played on PC and was provided by the developer.

Publisher: Plug In Digital, Fishing Cactus | Developer: Fishing Cactus | Genre: Action/Adventure, Typing Simulator | Platforms: PC/Mac/Linux | ESRB: | Release Date: March 30th, 2016 | Controls: Mouse/Keyboard

Epistory: Typing Chronicles breathes new life into the ancient genre that is the typing game. It instills a tingling nostalgia of seventh grade typing class for me, but actually provides a good deal of entertainment instead of the festering tedium of typing “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”…

Final Verdict

Story - 50%
Gameplay - 80%
Sound - 40%
Graphics - 90%

65%

Epistory: Typing Chronicles is a refreshing take on an age-old genre, breathing new life into a type of game I thought dead and gone. It's rough around the edges, suffering from pitfalls and potholes alike; however, it is still provides a fun adventure.

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