Earlier this week I wrote about Lamplight City, an upcoming adventure by Grundislav Games which I’d had the opportunity to preview following a chance email encounter with PR Consultant Emily Morganti. I’d come across the title when it had caught my eye at Rezzed back in April due to its alternative steampunk-ish ‘Victorian’ setting and the fact it was being developed by the creator of Shardlight; and after spending a few hours with private investigator Miles Fordham, I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished game next month.
Another adventure which has been on my radar for quite some time is Unavowed. Wadjet Eye Games develops and publishes some of the best modern titles in the genre (take the Blackwell series and Primordia as fine examples) so if they announce a new release is coming, fans tend to sit up and take notice! When Emily very kindly offered me a key for the title along with the Lamplight City preview, I eagerly accepted and jumped straight into this supernatural point-and-click.
The game doesn’t hold back and immediately starts with your exorcism before throwing you into the events of a year ago when you were possessed by a demon. After playing through your origin story, you’re shown how leaving an unwilling trail of bloodshed across New York has led you to a rooftop in a thunderstorm with two members of the Unavowed. This ancient society is dedicated to stopping evil and, seeing how they’ve just saved your butt and your old life is in tatters, there’s nothing else to do but join them to fight the oncoming darkness.
Speaking of your origin, at the start of the title you can choose to play as a male or female character. This didn’t seem to have any bearing on the plot at all but it was a small feature I appreciated as it added to my immersion within the game’s world. You’re asked to select a profession too and your pick of actor, police officer or bartender then determines the setting for your prologue’s flashback. I went for the latter and was transported to Sammy’s Bar in the Bronx 12 months ago.
Let’s just say that it ends up in a rather grisly and bloody manner whichever job you choose. Your past career influences your approach to certain situations you come up against later during the title and I found my bartending skills were perfect at persuading others to open up and share their feelings. The thespian is a convincing liar and can encourage people to believe untrue versions of events, while the cop is a figure of authority who manages to get others to do as they’re told.
It almost feels like the Team, Wits and Fists Paths from the classic Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and makes for a more personalised experience than the adventure genre usually offers. It isn’t the only feature which affects how Unavowed plays out however! A party system allows you to select two members from your group to take with you whenever you investigate a weird situation and each of your colleagues has their own unique personality, style and abilities.
This takes place while riding a subway to the next location and instead of heading straight there, you can choose to sit back for a while and listen to the others chat among themselves. Their conversations have been written in a very natural manner and it feels as though you’re listening to a real group of friends. It’s a great way of making more of a mission selection screen and adding additional colour to the story as the characters reveal more about themselves and what they’re thinking.
Once you’re at your destination, the party mechanic allows for replayability as the puzzles encountered there can be solved in different ways depending on who’s accompanying you. For example, when it was necessary to get into an office building, I couldn’t talk to the ghost floating by the glass doors because I’d left Logan behind (a Bestower and the only one who can converse with spirits). Fortunately though I had Vicki, and it turned out she knew the security guard behind the front desk from her days in the police force.
There’s no definitive hint system as such in Unavowed but consulting your teammates will often reveal little clues or pieces of advice if you run into trouble while out in the field. I found this enough to get me though the game without the need of a walkthrough or spoiling any of the gameplay, and the puzzles seem to be the right mix of logical and challenging. The only time I did become stuck, it was my own fault: I knew what the solution was but wasn’t clicking on items in the right way.
Logan and Vicki, along with half-Jinn Mandana and Fire Mage Eli, are well-written and make you feel as though you’re part of a proper team. Speaking to them back at base after every mission has been completed gives you the opportunity to find out how they thought it went and whether they think you’ve made the right choice. If they’re ready to talk, they may also reveal more about their history and their fears when it comes to your fight against the impending darkness.
And that’s one of my favourite things about Unavowed. Despite each character being ‘void-touched’ and having supernatural powers, they also have flaws which make them human: deep down they’re just as confused and unsure as the rest of us. One of them feels guilt at leaving their partner and daughters; another is battling with an inner-demon; another isn’t sure where they belong; and the last is ashamed at disgracing their family. Wadjet Eye Games always displays a real talent for character development and creating protagonists who stick in your memory long after you’ve completed a title.
Saying that though, this game is different from their other releases in several ways. It’s far bigger than previous games and features 125 unique locations (that’s 55 more than the last Blackwell instalment), and is twice the resolution of any their other projects allowing for more detail (props to Ben Chandler for the excellent visuals). It also contains more choice and that sets it apart from any other adventure I’ve played in quite a while. It’s clear from the party mechanic and branching narrative structure just how much effort creator Dave Gilbert has put into this project.
Each mission sees you and your teammates having to overcome a creature from the void and once it has been pacified, you can talk to it further. It’s then up to you to decide what to do next but be warned: killing or sparing it will have consequences later down the line. I found this out myself when a creature’s antagonistic words provoked me into ordering Eli to set it on fire so it couldn’t come back to haunt us in the future… but little did I realise its presence may have been a benefit.
And that’s the other thing I enjoyed about Unavowed. Despite having different narrative paths and four endings, I’m not sure any of them could be considered entirely happy. Instead, and as is the case with many of the developer’s games, they take a more it-could-be-a-lot-worse tone, leaving you considering what your character could done differently and what the future may hold in store for them.
I’d highly recommend giving this release a go if you’re a fan of Wadjet Eye Games or adventures in general. With its party mechanic and increased level of choice, it sets and new and interesting from the genre – and I can’t wait to see what the developer has up its sleeve next.