On the surface, Tunic and Elden Ring could not be any more different. One game features an adorable little fox, sword and shield in hand, on the adventure of a lifetime. The other is the adventurer of your choosing embarking on a journey of death in a grim land. One is bright and colorful. The other is dull and muted. Look past appearances though and it becomes apparent very quickly that Elden Ring and Tunic, two of the best games of the year so far, have a lot more in common than we may realize at first.
Some of these similarities are shared gameplay features, which in some cases are so similar that it’s easy to assume Tunic is a souls clone near the beginning, but there are some more subtle comparisons that make these two games feel like they share the same spirit. That said, while Tunic and Elden Ring may share a lot of familiarities they are still very different games. So different that people who have tried to play both games at the same time have found one game way more difficult to return to than the other. We’re gonna break down what it is that makes these games feel so similar, but also what helps them stay separate so they remain two completely different and incredible experiences.
Exploring Tunic is one of the most satisfying experiences of any game maybe ever. That’s because the world is full of secrets to discover and knowledge to help the player on their journey. Anytime there’s a new discovery it feels like the most important moment in the entire game. These discoveries can change everything and create a constant feeling that you’re one more piece of the puzzle away from figuring this whole thing out, and it’s that desire to explore every nook and cranny that anyone who’s fallen in love with Elden Ring also understands.
There is something about exploring Elden Ring that is so addicting everyone who plays it can’t stop talking about it. The exploration of that world is easily the biggest hook of the game and it’s led many people who have never played a FromSoftware game before to give it a try. Like Tunic, there is this constant need to see what’s over that next hill, or in that cave, or around the next corner. One of the biggest rewards of Elden Ring is finding new pieces of the map to help connect where everything is. It’s all a part of a journey that feels special.
It’s really easy to say that both games emphasize exploration and say that’s the big similarity, but what makes exploring these worlds different is how it handles that exploration. There are very few roadblocks in both these games. They set the player free and tell them to decide their own path. They point the player in a general direction of where they should go, but nothing is forcing them to do that. It’s that freedom as the player discovers something new that makes the exploration of these two games feel so similar to one another.
Storytelling and Lore
Tunic and Elden Ring are not the kinds of games that hold the players hand on their journey. While there are main story beats that the player follows along with, a lot of the details around those story beats are shown rather than told. It’s really up to the player to discover everything. Elden Ring can be frustratingly vague sometimes with items and NPCs not appearing except under very specific circumstances and there are aspects of Tunic that can feel similar. The key difference though is that, while in Elden Ring it is there to create the feeling of a living breathing world, in Tunic it’s to once again assist with that feeling of discovery.
A player can meet an NPC at the beginning of Elden Ring and find them later on in their journey at a different location. They can even see them die, because a decision the player made early on doomed them, or they were on their own journey behind the scenes that the player was fully unaware of. These subtle moments are what make the world of Elden Ring special. Tunic, while also very vague in its world building approach, isn’t quite as alive in its presentation of that world.
The key to Tunic is knowledge. When the player moves forward they usually do so because they discovered something in one of the many manuals that are spread throughout the world. The way Tunic teaches the player about its world, mechanics, and tools are pages of a game manual. The game manual is what would be the game manual of Tunic if it was a classic NES game that came with a box. What’s shocking though is just how much the manual actually manages to teach the player. Many skills and features are available right from the start, but the player had no idea because they had just never tried it. Like Elden Ring, it’s extremely vague at first but extremely rewarding in the end.
Elden Ring and Tunic are not the same game. Not even close to it, but they have a lot of similar themes that are really noticeable when playing the games so close one another. It’s more than just the souls-inspired gameplay mechanics, but in how each game chooses to present itself. We’d likely assume that one was inspired by the other had the two games not been released so close to one another. It’s the subtle details of that make the two games so different though that sets them apart in the best ways.
How Each Game Approaches Death
When you play Elden Ring you’re going to die. A lot. It’s kind of what the game is all about. When playing Tunic, while death is commo,n it is not an overwhelming part of the gameplay experience the way it is in Elden Ring. Tunic even goes so far as to include a no fail mode option for players that want to spend less time worried about combat and more focused on the puzzles. This makes death just not a major part of experiencing what Tunic has to offer in comparison to what Elden Ring wants the player to experience.
That said, if the player chooses to play with death as an option in Tunic then they’ll see a lot of similarities to when they die in Elden Ring or any other Souls game. Experience points are lost upon death, but can be picked back up if the player reaches the spot they died at, and when they respawn it’s at the last location they rested at. These gameplay mechanics are features of any Souls game and a key part of Elden Ring and the inspiration is clear when playing through Tunic.
(Spoiler Alert for Tunic): Death even plays a role in both games’ plot lines. In Elden Ring the player is a tarnished, that which is neither dead nor alive. In Tunic, as the player goes on their journey they will eventually discover that part of what they are seeking out is a treasure that allows the user to escape death. The theme of death is very prevalent in both games and these subtle similarities can be seen when playing both games so close to one another.