TUNIC game

‘TUNIC’ Has One of My Favorite True Ending Paths in Video Games

It just takes a whole lot of puzzle solving to get there.
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MAJOR Spoilers for TUNIC (both endings)

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TUNIC is a game that is a clear love letter to the heroic quest adventures from the NES back in the day. Presented by the indie game studio, FINJI, you wake up on a beach as an adorable fox and set off to … well … you actually don’t know what you’re setting off to do. Over time you come to understand what’s happening via puzzles, clues, and learning how to check EVERY single inch of whatever area you’re exploring.

Comparisons to the NES Legend of Zelda have been made for good reason. This game takes me back to the days when I’d play something with an instruction book, a pen, and a piece of paper to write down whatever secrets I discovered. If you find an intricate pattern on a curtain in TUNIC, it’s probably some kind of hidden message. If there’s a waterfall, you can probably go around (or through) it. Also, be prepared to find many, MANY paths tucked behind buildings, trees, treasure chests, bushes, and warp plates you could’ve been using this entire time.

With all that exploration comes a story told without dialogue. The game has its own language and an instruction booklet that helps you get a grasp of what’s happening around you. Nothing is explicitly stated, but as you gather each page and explore each new area, the story starts to put itself together. At least until you get to the final boss, leading to a moment that completely caught me off guard. Fortunately (I guess) you’re actually supposed to lose the first time, but this sends you into an entirely different quest to, um, restore your body? Once you succeed, though, you have two options: you can go up against the boss again, or you can work to uncover the secrets of the world around you before beating the game.

No matter which way you choose, once you beat the game you unlock New Game+, which will let you play through the game with most of your items and go for the ending you missed. However, the regular ending will also let you Retry to get key items you may have missed, so you can go for the true ending that way, too. Whichever way you decide, I highly recommend going for the true ending, as it’s one of the most satisfying true paths I’ve played through in a while.

What is the regular ending?

While I was playing I got the sense that I was supposed to be helping The Heir. The Heir is a ghostly figure of a fox who looks to be trapped in a crystal of sorts. I’d assumed the goal was to get The Heir out. However, when you do this and encounter The Heir, they take hold of a sword and proceed to beat the shit out of you. This is the fight you’re expected to lose.

You wake up on the beach in the same ghostly state as The Heir, and you have to set off to gather certain items to restore your body. Once you do, you can face off against The Heir again. If you win, you get the game’s regular ending, which reminds me of the somewhat tragic endings of Hollow Knight. This is because you end up taking The Heir’s place and are trapped inside that same space forever – or until another adventurer sets you free, I suppose.

There’s a part in the instruction booklet that mentions that this fight has been going on and on forever, and by fighting The Heir, you basically just continued the cycle. Yeah, did I say “regular ending,” I meant bad ending.

What is the true ending and why is it so great?

The true ending makes it so you actually set The Heir free, which allows them to regain their body. What’s really wonderful about this is that if you complete the tasks in order to get the true ending, you don’t have to fight The Heir at all!

There are two pages in the instruction booklet that allude to there being two endings. “Take Your Rightful Place” is the first one, which turns out to be a bit of a downer since you end up trapped for all eternity. Enter the true ending, “Share Your Wisdom,” which has you handing over the instruction booklet to The Heir to share what you’ve learned throughout your adventure. This breaks the cycle of fighting that’s been going on, and you literally get to watch these two hang out during the credits.

The trick to the true ending is to find all the pages of the instruction booklet. This is actually a rather daunting task. The pages are hidden all throughout the world with a few that are out of reach until you gain a new ability late in the game. That said, certain pages require a LOT of puzzle-solving, the kind that will make you grab that pen and paper I alluded to earlier. Completing the instruction book isn’t just about finding the pages, you will reach a point where you actually have to read through it, pick up clues on the pages, and decipher codes – one of which is so lengthy that I had to have my wife read it out loud to me.

In a way, since you can go for the true ending first, the game is giving you the option to fight or puzzle-solve to get the outcome you want. The Heir is an absolute BEAST in combat, but the last puzzles the game has to offer require a lot of brainpower. I adore that you get to pick which way you want to go – or you can do both!

But really, what I love the most is that the true ending of the game is about NOT fighting this creature who was clearly in the same position as you, left to be trapped for eternity. Instead of having an all-out brawl, which is the game’s bad ending, the solution is to simply share what you learned about the world, let them take it all in, and befriend them. It’s not very often that a game has the option to NOT fight the final boss. Even in endings where the final boss isn’t all that bad, in order to set them free, you usually have to defeat them in battle. Instead, you can puzzle solve, free your fellow fox, and, I’m not kidding, dance in a house together (among other things).

It’s a really wholesome reward after all the work you put into the game.

(Image: FINJI)

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Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)