When it comes down to it, Unto The End is a game about patience. Yes, there are fights and there’s an overarching theme of exploration as you guide a man home after he got lost while hunting, but patience is the key. Your character may be armed with a sword, but one wrong block or swing and things are over, so anyone who goes in swinging mindlessly will be punished. Unto The End is not an easy game, but it is only as hard as you make it for yourself.
Setting off from his home at the base of a mountain to hunt food for his family, it soon becomes a trek for survival after he falls through a crevice in the woods and down into a cave system, a system that is far from uninhabited. In this world humans are not the only creatures with a society, as Woads living in the caves and mountain range. These Woads are not particularly welcoming to your arrival, and you will have to fight in order to survive and make it home.
At the beginning of the game, 2 Ton studios tell players that Unto The End is not like other fighting experiences, and that you have to be aware of everything. That includes the fact that in battle a strong enough hit can make your drop your sword leaving you defenceless, that even after a battle your character can bleed to death if any wounds are not tended too with supplies, which you can easily run out of. While that is quite significant difference, the core fighting is quite similar to other games in that you need to be aware of your opponent’s attacks, and how to counter them.
The fighting itself is quite simple. One button does a low attack while another a high attack, you block using the analogue stick, and you can shoulder charge enemies to knock them down and get some hits in. Even though it is simple to learn you will likely die a lot.
Within the cave system and the mountain range there are different enemy types. Some will come up close with their own swords to fight, others will stand back and throw rocks or spears at you. There are also some boss like characters who can be much tougher to beat and can take you down in one or two hits.
Most fights will only involve one or two enemies but keeping an eye on each one and learning when to strike is key. It’s not numbers that will overwhelm you here, but rather that they do not have set pattern attacks. You must learn how they will strike depending on their poses. Even then in some cases you need to be quick to change how you are blocking, or duck and roll away from danger. As you get used to the system some fights will feel easier, but the game is never without challenge for long. Some fights can be frustrating but the game does have an assist setting you can activate that slows enemy attacks down so you have more time to work out what to do.
You can avoid some fights entirely, not by running and hiding, but by offering up supplies to enemies as you get close to them. Do this successfully and you can move on. Like I said, you aren’t faced with mindless fighters and as you make your way through the world you gain insight into what is happening below the surface. These creatures are at war with each other, so they really cannot be wasting fighters on you all the time.
The supplies you find include herbs that can help slow bleeding or be mixed into a tonic, leather, bones, and sticks. The leather, bones, and sticks can be used to craft a small throwable knife and armour improvements, though armour only has so much durability. You can find much better armour in the world if you explore instead of always pushing forward. Crafting has to take place at the campfires that litter the world of Unto The End, where you can also heal your wounds fully or do some light sparring to practice the combat methods of the game.
Unto The End has been described as a cinematic experience, and it is in a way. While playing it felt like the game had some inspiration from the film The Revenant combined with the atmosphere of games like Limbo. Its 2D art looks really nice with the environments being quite stark, though the times where foreground scenery blocks your view of an encounter are not exactly ideal.
My first run through the game took around five hours, though I missed one or two areas that could extend that a little. It’s relatively concise, though some fights can be frustrating and hold you up but the pacing felt perfect.