A djinn, a mage and a cop walk into a bar – Unavowed preview

Gare – Tuesday, June 5, 2018 6:21 PM
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Unavowed is the next big point & click thrill-ride from Wadjet Eye Games’ Dave Gilbert – creator of the phenomenal Blackwell series – and if you’re a fan of Gilbert’s past projects, knowing he’s close to finishing his latest one likely has you excited. Set in the same universe as Blackwell with an even greater emphasis on the supernatural, Unavowed follows a protagonist freshly liberated from the clutches of a demonic possession that lasted a whole year – the bad news, however, is that said demon left its mark on the world, sowing the seeds of chaos and violence using your body as its vessel. And although you have been freed, the demon itself is still out there. Shocked and confused, you nonetheless decide to join the ranks of the Unavowed – an ancient organization that works tirelessly to hold the encroaching darkness at bay.

It must be mentioned that this article is based entirely on my experiences with an incomplete preview build of Unavowed; and though said build only contained a portion of the game’s complete storyline – roughly a third of it, I’m told – it was a memorable enough experience for me to remain wildly enthusiastic about the finished product.

At first glance, Unavowed may seem no different from its many point & click peers, but the familiar outer layer, when peeled back a bit, reveals elements that fans of roleplaying games – particularly titles in BioWare’s lineup – will no doubt be familiar with. For instance, instead of establishing a main protagonist with a pre-defined personality, Unavowed offers a variety of different dialogue options in conversations that allow the player to roleplay their character a given way. What’s more, the game allows you to pick between three different origin stories as well: cop, actor and bartender. Not only do these origins provide for three distinct – and equally fascinating – prologues to play through that explain how the demon initially possessed you, they also lightly affect how your hero interacts with the world and certain characters, at times even resulting in the appearance of cop/actor/bartender-exclusive dialogue choices. And while my choice of backstory, other than a few minor bits, didn’t appear to have a monumental effect on gameplay in the grand scheme of things, it certainly added an enjoyable amount of extra flavor to the adventure, particularly when characters introduced in the origin stories showed up later on in the game.

The Dragon Age-like origin stories, however, aren’t the only RPG-esque elements Unavowed was bold enough to inject into the classic point & click formula: to be more specific, you also have control over which of the four available companions you wish to take along with you on missions. This, of course, affects how dialogues play out, as conversations will change slightly depending on which character is present, but it also determines how you’re able to solve puzzles. You’ll meet a fire mage adept at conjuring up flames, a so-called Bestower of Eternity who converses with ghosts the same way Rosa did in the Blackwell games, a seasoned cop with a good head on her shoulders and djinn warrior for whom fighting is like second nature – and it’s up to you to figure out how their abilities can help you progress. You’re in a pitch-black room? Holler at the fire mage and let him conjure up some light. Need to do some heavy lifting? Good thing you have a powerful djinn at your disposal. What I found especially enjoyable about the game’s RPG-esque party system was seeing my companions indulge in idle banter while I explored an area; it made them feel more like actual characters and not just static NPCs that silently stand around and do nothing until spoken to. You can also chat with your party members back at the Unavowed HQ to gradually find out more about their personalities and respective pasts, similarly to how you got to know your companions in games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age. Having said all the above, the puzzles I encountered in the preview build were all fairly straightforward, with a relatively low number of items to interact with and solutions that are more or less spelled out for the player. To me personally, this is a welcome state of affairs, as I generally prefer being engrossed in a game’s storyline and atmosphere instead of getting stumped by its potentially frustrating puzzles, but for those looking for a challenge in the vein of the most hardcore of point & click classics, Unavowed – or at least the few hours I’ve played of it – may feel a mite lacking.

UnavowedPlatform: PCGenre: Adventure, RPGDeveloper: Wadjet EyePublisher: Wadjet EyeRelease: 08/08/2018Unavowed’s world is one undoubtedly seeped in the supernatural, but it’s not without its everyday human tragedies, either, and it’s exactly this intertwining of the mundane and the extraordinary that made the adventure’s various individual chapters so immensely interesting to me. The game also flirts with the idea of moral choices – that is, picking between A and B in a situation where neither feel like the perfect solution. And although I’m not entirely sure if my choices will come back to haunt me later down the line (they probably will, though), I’m more than curious to see what else Unavowed has up its sleeve. Why did the protagonist’s demon manipulate all those people? What plans does it have, and how many more atrocities did it commit using the main character’s body? These are only a few of the many questions still hanging in the air when the preview build reaches its dramatic finale, and frankly, I’m dying to find out where the already gripping plot goes from there.

The bottom line is that what I’ve seen of the game thus far has left me thoroughly impressed. From the very moment I gained control of my character, Unavowed had me in its grip and never once let go: its world is fascinating and oozes atmosphere, its characters are likable, and its overarching demon-mystery is intriguing. The gorgeous 2D visuals and wonderfully moody soundtrack guarantee that it’s a joy to both look at and listen to, and to be perfectly honest with you, I’m just over here being giddy with excitement at the prospect of jumping back in and continuing my journey once the full version is complete. If the roughly six hours I spent being completely immersed in this brief snippet of the game is a solid representation of its overall quality, and provided it manages to satisfyingly tap into the potential of its demonic premise, then we may indeed be looking at one of the most memorable releases of 2018.

Unavowed will be out this summer on Steam.

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