Unto The End is a cinematic, tough-as-nails combat-based platformer with a minimalist style and great sense of atmosphere. It is a brief, difficult journey of a father making his way home through a perilous mountain, along with some glitches and a constant sense of dread.
Unto The End puts you in a father’s shoes as he must make the journey home through the mountains. Within these mountains are creatures of myth, dangerous traps and few supplies.
Using all the skills given to you at the outset of the game, you deal with these events in a way that tells the story through your actions. Some of these are minor storylines you can follow through the events with the creatures, such as helping them or fighting them.
Overall the plot is extremely simple. But it is quite charming, and interesting how the creatures you encounter have their own culture and ways to deal with you.
Unto The End has read-react gameplay (and it is recommended to play with a controller which is what I did). As a player, you must make split second moves to counter your opponents and defeat them. You (and most of your enemies) can attack, defend and counter from 3 angles: high, middle, low.
An enemy’s middle attack is extremely difficult to defend from because you need to duck (which is a separate button press) at the precise moment of the attack since it isn’t something you can hold and maintain. I should have used it more but I made do without.
Some enemies have attack chains which, after blocking successfully, allow you to perform an “off-balance riposte”. They are then vulnerable depending on the position of their last attack.
You can dodge roll as well, but it is more sluggish than other rolling mechanics in different games. It also can end with you dropping your sword when you bump into something which is extremely inconvenient for specific combat encounters. You can even roll into a rock and hurt yourself, which is hilarious but makes you feel so stupid.
You can use a “shoulder check” which is basically a shoulder ram. You can throw a dagger which is very useful because it stops an enemy and can knock them down when done correctly. I used it a lot on some of the end game enemies. You can fake attacks which I didn’t really use but since there are many ways to deal with enemies you can use what works for you.
Overall Unto The End has a combat system that can be both satisfying and frustrating to get the hang of. There are seemingly hidden mechanics such as fatigue that initially trip you up. Since there is no such thing as stamina management, you’ve got to “feel” your character’s exhaustion. The very quick movements of enemies in dimly lit areas can have you struggling especially if you hit a 2 on 1 encounter. However, the satisfaction afterwards can be very gratifying.
You can do some basic crafting in Unto The End. You can create torches, armor, daggers and a tonic from the various supplies you find searching the caves. These aren’t easy to spot and armor and tonics can only be crafted at a campfire. Sometimes supplies can be used as offerings so you need to watch how you use them. You can bleed after taking damage and herbs slow the bleeding but only a tonic (made from herbs) or mending your wounds at a campfire will allow you to stop it completely.
Bleeding can be problematic since it essentially puts a timer on you to get to the next campfire unless you have a tonic that can heal you completely. Otherwise you face death by blood loss. It can also make you collapse in battle.
Enemies you encounter are mainly woads, trolls and orcs. The difficulty ranges from medium to hard as nuts! I got through most of the game without combat assist (which slows the combat a bit for easier reads) but later on even with combat assist it was very difficult.
The time between read and reaction can be so small by the time you’ve read their move and pressed the button to react you’d be dead. It doesn’t help when you get ambushed by two enemies either.
Some of these encounters can be avoided though, by offering supplies. It’s important to read your surroundings so you can anticipate these types of encounters.
Unto The End has some tight level design with hidden areas, platforming sections and traps. There are, at times, multiple paths you can choose. Each of these can lead to a new enemy, supplies or main progression. Some traps can feel a bit janky, but you learn to watch out for them.
Visuals And Sound Design
Unto The End has a minimalist approach towards its aesthetic. Flat, 2D characters with few details and mostly geometric shapes with few curves. The color schemes are simple and play well with each other in building atmosphere.
You need a torch to get through most dark sections and the illumination effects are nicely done. I’d recommend turning the brightness up in the game menu anyway. One thing I didn’t like was how foreground images sometimes blocked the view of a battle making an already difficult battle even more so.
There is great music and sounds in Unto The End. The ambient music plus the varying sounds of you running on rock, stone and snow all add to the sense of immersion. There are audio cues for battles which help when reading attacks too.
I encountered a few bugs. I had a bug where a troll died standing and as a result I couldn’t retrieve my dagger. A game breaking bug was showing a creature an item which activated a scripted sequence after which I couldn’t move (restarting the game fixed it). I expect these to get fixed as development continues.
Unto The End can be quite immersive and enjoyable, although short (I finished the game in under 4 hours). The difficulty and visuals are not for everyone however, and at times can feel clunky.
There are still some spots for polish as well and there were times where I wondered if the game was too dark. Some encounters feel like trial-and-error, but because of the checkpoints I wasn’t too bothered by it.
All together, I think Unto the End is quite the niche game and will probably only appeal to a small audience.
Unto the End
Release date: 9th December, 2020
Platforms: PC (Reviewed – Steam, GOG, Humble), Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Stadia
Publisher: Big Sugar
Developer: 2 Ton Studios