Welcome to Ready Player Gone’s latest feature ‘Gamepass: Gold or Garbage?’ Where we play a game available on Gamepass at random and let you know our thoughts, whether we think it’s worth your time or not. The first game I was intrigued by that I thought would be perfect to kick the feature off was Unto The End, a very challenging 2D side scrolling action game that positively kicked my ass.
I want to start by saying this game is bloody hard, in the first twenty minutes I had decided to put it firmly in the ‘Gamepass Garbage’ category due to some rather annoying features and a few pinches of salt. I decided to give it another chance though and I’m glad I did, as it nearly swayed me in the other direction. I was rather undecided for a long time, but the cons out way the pros in the end.
The game starts with a black warning screen indicating ‘Unto The End is different. Set aside any expectations or assumptions. Combat is deliberate. You can lose your sword, run out of supplies, and bleed to death. Reading, reacting, and staying calm are vital.’ With that being said, let’s dive in!
My first observation upon loading the game was that I have a ginger haired protagonist yet again, like the last game I reviewed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. I’m not exclusively deciding what games to play based on mine and the protagonists shared hair colour, I promise. The game starts visually very pleasing, kneeling in the snow under a wilting autumnal tree, decaying orange leaves floating down. After half an hour the tree accurately represented not only my will to play the game but also my will to live, knowing I just wasn’t good enough to progress.
The beautiful opening scene is quickly forgotten when you’re suddenly confined to the depths of pitch black caves, where you’ll find yourself meandering through for most of the game. In my opinion this decision has held the game back somewhat, as I don’t really want to be squinting at the screen all the time trying to see what’s going on. Where the game gets interesting is when you’re out in the daylight. Luckily you have a torch, which you can and will drop every second the protagonist feels like it (I hate it in case you couldn’t tell). Not only the torch but also your sword, every time you block an attack you’ll drop your torch because obviously it’s impossible to hold something in your off hand. It adds a little bit of extra tactical thinking to fights as you have to choose where to start a fight, if you block in a certain spot you’re going to have to stand by the flames otherwise you just won’t be able to see. This is fucking stupid though as the protagonist is a burly viking. I feel like they should have designed him as a frail old man with arthritic fingers and a walking stick to accurately represent what an absolute waste of space he is. Seriously, it could have been a good system if done right, like maybe drop your torch when you are hit as you’re shocked from the pain – but he drops it every chance he gets.
The combat is actually pretty interesting as it has a high low system and the enemies telegraph their attacks so you know where to block. You’ll have to string a few blocks together before an opening presents itself and then you can strike. You can also shoulder barge to knock them to the ground, but this can usually only be used once per fight as they smarten up to your tactics. You have a throwing knife which is pretty useless and easy to lose, and you can even feign attacks. For example you could feign high to leave an opening low, I rarely used this feature however as I just found it easier to keep blocking until they tired out and I could strike. Pretty much every new enemy you’ll have to repeatedly die against until you learn their moves, which is pretty boring but that’s just the way it is. Luckily there is a pretty forgiving checkpoint system, as if you had to solely rely on the bonfires I feel like I would have opened my balcony door and swiftly jumped off with a rope wrapped around my neck.
I really like the combat system and think that it’s probably the only redeeming feature about the game. If they either refined the dropping sword/torch feature or completely removed it, it would be far more enjoyable as the combat would hold it up on it’s own, being quite unique. There was one incredible moment where you come up against someone that throws spears at you and if you time your duck perfectly, his spear whistles past your head and sinks into his mate’s chest just behind you. There’s little moments with this combat like that, that just make me wish there was more combat and less stumbling around caves wondering what the hell is going on. I’ll bet a quid that if you turned the brightness up there would be nothing there, and they used the darkness of the caves as an excuse ’cause they couldn’t be bothered to design a level.
You can even completely skip some altercations with the enemies by trading with them. This is often indicated by them pointing at you or gesturing towards something when you walk into a room. I had no idea about this at the start, as the game gives you no indications that this is even a possibility. If I knew about this I could have avoided some major headaches, so you’re welcome that I’m telling you now. You can trade simple herbs to receive some very important items, one of which emits a light that blinds trolls so you can walk past them without fighting. These look like the Wampa from Star Wars that held Luke Skywalker in its lair, so obviously I used the light every time I stumbled across them. I ain’t got time for that!
There are often times where you will have to fight two enemies at once, which at first seems nigh impossible. The combat just isn’t designed for you to have a chance, and the enemy AI is really unforgiving. If they are both in front of you one will roll past to box you in and attack from behind. It’s very harsh and claustrophobic like the caves you find yourself in. This is nice though, very often AI are designed to take you on one at a time, but orcs don’t have honour do they, so they’re going to try to do whatever it takes to rip you apart. Most of the time though, you’ll realise that one of the enemies has a weapon and the others conveniently don’t, so you can quickly dispatch the defenceless and focus on the real threat.
After a fight you’ll notice that your sword stays bloodstained which is a nice detail, which once had me scared that my sword had broken as I could only see the hilt due to the darkness. There is a health system which is also shown by blood. If you get hit you’ll notice that you have blood on your beard and chest, which means that the next time you get hit will be the last. There is also a blood loss system, which I actually really like. Get hit too many times and a few seconds into basking in your newfound glory you’ll drop to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
There was one instance that really pissed me off, where an enemy had a rock and would kill you in one throw to the head, you catch up to him and he takes three hits from a sword. The damage system just makes no sense half the time, sometimes it feels like a frozen turd in a sock would do more damage than your sword. Not only that but he also seemingly had an infinite supply of rocks stuffed up his ass which must be uncomfortable.
All of this builds up to a state of euphoria when you finally leave the confines of the caves. I was jumping for joy when I could see the sun blindingly reflect off the snow, only to have all joy crushed when I realised I was only on a cliff edge and had to turn back around. I was that distraught I thought I’d take my chances and jumped off the edge which needless to say didn’t end well.
One of my main gripes with Unto The End – besides the arthritic good for nothing protagonist – is the offering system. The game gives you absolutely no indications as to what you need to give or do in order to progress sometimes and it is illogical. One time you’ll have to give a herb to someone to get an item, the next you’ll have to give a bone, the next you’ll have to do 3 spins on the spot whilst rubbing your belly, patting your head and tugging yourself off all at the same time. It’s just illogical, and the main reason why I couldn’t even be bothered to finish the game. I got quite far through, but having to get an item from someone to be able to progress – only for them to attack you after each failed attempt because they didn’t like the smell of the herb you gave them or you didn’t say please daddy in the tone they wanted. There’s just no logic to it, it’s all completely random so for that reason I gave up, just couldn’t be bothered to see it through unto the end…
Sure the gameplay is quite fun once you get used to it and win a few fights but at the end of the day Unto The End just isn’t worth your time. I think if it had a different setting (far fewer caves) and they nerfed some things like constantly dropping your bastard torch and sword, they could have a gem on their hands but with these things it just brings the game down.
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