Unavowed – The league of extraordinary ladies and gentlemen – Review

Gare – Wednesday, August 8, 2018 3:01 PM
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Born from the mind of Dave Gilbert, head of Wadjet Eye Games and creator of the immensely enjoyable Blackwell series, Unavowed promises another dive into the world of the mystical and the uncanny, this time as a member of the titular organization of men and women of varying abilities fighting a desperate war against a rising supernatural threat. Your task as a fledgling member of the Unavowed is quite personal, to say the least, as it involves following the trail of a demon who – prior to a successful exorcism – had spent an entire year in your body, leaving only carnage and misery in its wake.

Classic point & click adventure meets cRPG

Unavowed, despite borrowing the interface and general look of classic point & click adventures, tweaks and enhances the formula with various additions and features that make it feel a bit more like an RPG, particularly of the BioWare kind. For starters, you can choose between three different origin stories for your protagonist (cop, bartender, actor), which not only determines the kind of prologue you’ll play through in the game’s opening chapter, but has a minor influence on later events and even character interactions as well – to give one specific example, if your protagonist and Vicki Santina were partners and acquaintances as a result of picking the cop origin, she’ll occasionally bring this up during the main storyline as well. The game also utilizes an RPG-esque companion system that allows you to take advantage of whatever knowledge and skills your buddies have at their disposal. Eli, the Fire Mage, possesses the ability of fire reading, which means he can essentially conjure up images of books, notes and written documents that had already been burned – as you might imagine, this comes in handy whenever you need to dig up information about something. By contrast, Mandana is a half-Djinn whose support is invaluable whenever the task at hand requires a bit of extra muscle, but that’s not all – her Djinn heritage also allows her to subtly detect when a person is lying. Vicki Santina’s a former detective with a good head on her shoulders and a healthy dose of cop instincts to accompany it, while the presence of your final team member potentially injects a bit of Blackwell into Unavowed: Logan, a so-called Bestower of Eternity, is gifted with the power to converse with spirits of the dead, an ability whose practical usefulness should not require much explanation.

Meet the team

Out of the four companions available, you can only take two with you on any given mission, but worry not: each chapter’s puzzles are designed in a way to be solvable by every potential combination of characters, meaning that regardless of who accompanies you at a given time, you’ll never hit a dead end – you’ll just have to figure out how to use your current team’s abilities to progress. As far as I could tell, switching up your characters doesn’t drastically alter the course of the storyline, but it does provide enough variation to make Unavowed worthy of at least one replay. You’ll hear different bits of dialogue, experience certain scenes slightly differently, and have access to alternate ways of solving your problems. This was probably one of the more exciting aspects of Unavowed for me: on several occasions, the game made me wonder how this or that scene would have played out, had I brought different teammates or picked another origin story for my main character, which is precisely why the moment I saw the end credits pop up at the conclusion of my journey, I was already considering starting anew with a different character and different choices. There’s also an audio commentary mode, by the way – so if nothing else, that should be incentive enough for a second run.

Decisions, decisions

UnavowedPlatform: PCGenre: Adventure, RPGDeveloper: Wadjet EyePublisher: Wadjet EyeRelease: 08/08/2018Unavowed also dips its toe in the murky waters of moral dilemmas, presenting important choices at various points in the storyline. As you might expect, there’s never a solution that comes without its share of sacrifices, and you’ll find that even your teammates are often torn on how to feel about a given situation. These moral dilemmas and decisions are, naturally, not without their consequences, and while I’d rather not spoil how or when things can potentially come back to bite you in the rear end, needless to say, the game will indeed remind you of what you’ve done in its own way – for a first playthrough, though, my recommendation is to just do what you feel like doing without worrying too much about it.

Light mental exercise

As for the actual puzzles, Unavowed remains very much doable from start to finish – as long as you talk to everyone and inspect your environment thoroughly enough, you should be more than fine. I’d only ever gotten stuck once or twice, and those were largely because I didn’t notice something I really should have; most of the time, though, it’s fairly easy to figure out what item goes where and which NPCs you need to get chatty with in order to advance the plot. While this could potentially discourage point & click veterans looking to give their minds an extensive workout, what Unavowed lacks in challenge, it makes up for in spades with excellently written dialogue, stellar voice acting, a smooth, jazzy soundtrack and – most important of all – a cast of likable characters. Each member of the Unavowed feels unique with their own quirks, mindset, and way of looking at the world, creating a different dynamic depending on which team member you pair them with. At times, they’ll also engage in idle chatter in the background while you go about exploring the environment, further making them feel more like living, breathing inhabitants of the world instead of mindless, soulless NPCs that are simply there to await your instructions, and it’s little touches like that that elevate Unavowed above its peers.

The journey vs. the destination

My primary complaint regarding the game concerns the main antagonist and the final stretch of the storyline, both of which feel a touch underwhelming compared to everything that had led up to it. Unavowed is by and large an episodic experience of sorts: during your adventure, you’ll visit various areas of the city and investigate a local mystery that is somehow tied to the demon you’re chasing. These self-contained stories are all fascinating and it’s exactly here that Unavowed truly shines: when shedding light on how the lives of its everyday citizens are affected – and often completely destroyed – by supernatural meddling, further reinforcing its point about how important of a job the Unavowed are doing as protectors of mankind. By contrast, I found the primary antagonist of the plot to be one of the least compelling characters in Unavowed both in terms of personality and motivations, whose grand scheme wasn’t quite as exciting as I had hoped for. With that said, the main storyline does include one brilliantly-executed twist that caught me completely by surprise and left me blinking in disbelief as I watched everything unfold on-screen.

Final thoughts

All in all, Unavowed was most certainly worth the wait. The game boasts some of the most eye-popping visuals I’ve seen in a 2D adventure title, along with a soundtrack of beautiful, somber tunes that create the perfect atmosphere for the storyline’s mature themes, but what’s more important is that beyond the appealing outer layer, it’s first and foremost a competently-written supernatural adventure with a cast of intriguing characters, multiple plot threads to untangle and various moral dilemmas to wrestle – all things that more than make up for the game’s lackluster finale. In Unavowed’s case, one could say that it’s the journey that matters, not necessarily the destination – and what a journey it has been indeed. Wadjet Eye Games’ latest offering is therefore an easy recommendation not just for old-time fans of the company, but anyone hungering for a sufficiently meaty and memorable point & click experience with a distinct personality of its own.

Our gameplay video

Unavowed is available on Steam.

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