I’m sure most of us have done things that we are not proud of. Maybe you took something that didn’t belong to you or told a lie to avoid hurting the feelings of someone you care about. Maybe you went on a year-long murder spree, summoning demons and sowing discord and suffering all over the state of New York. If that last example sounded a little too specific, that’s because it is the exact scenario in which Unavowed’s protagonist finds himself in the game’s opening hour. Granted, he was possessed by a demon who forced him to engage in such wanton acts of depravity in the first place, but he still feels pretty bad about it. With the help of some new-found allies, you will embark on a journey to figure out what happened while you were possessed and try to redeem yourself by righting all the wrongs you caused while under demonic influence. This very well sets the tone of Unavowed, the newest supernaturally-themed point & click adventure game by Wadjet Games. Is it worth your time? You don’t need any special powers of foresight: just read on!
I’m not a huge fan of point & click adventure games. Frankly, I love the idea of them, but it’s the execution of them that I find abhorrent. Squinting at the screen and wondering what to do next for at least 30 minutes because there was an item a while back that you missed picking up is the exact opposite of what I would call “adventure”. Combine that with the fact that the stories usually aren’t that great and what you have instead is a hidden object game. That’s why I’m more of an RPG guy. In my opinion, Wadjet Games has managed to strike the perfect balance between mental legwork and compelling storytelling with Unavowed.
The absolute highlight of Unavowed is its story. I’ve always loved the urban fantasy genre. Filled with a heady mix of the supernatural intermingling with the mundane; secret societies that try to keep the peace; wars being fought in the shadows, hidden from the lives of average, everyday citizens; what’s not to love? The Unavowed is one such organization. I’m about to dive into the first hour or so of the story, so if you want to avoid mild spoilers skip to the next paragraph now! Starting off on a rainy New York rooftop, the scene opens up to an impromptu exorcism. After the excitement runs down, the two strangers who removed the demon from you introduce themselves to you as Eli and Mandana. Eli is a fire-wielding mage in a trench coat and fedora with a 1940’s vernacular. His partner Mandana looks like an average woman but is, in fact, a centuries-old sword-wielding Jinn. After explaining how they are from a secret organization called the Unavowed and that they had been tracking you for over a year while your possessed bad-self was running around the city causing trouble, you end up joining them to make things right and find out what happened over the course of your possession. This event serves as the catalyst for your paranormal investigation of the sudden spike in supernatural threats to the city. To help speed along the story is an excellent voice cast, one of the best that I’ve heard in the point & click genre. Every line of dialogue is voiced and the effect on the narrative and characterization is an absolute plus. They really help to flesh out the story beats, from the comedic to the dramatic. The soundtrack is nice, too. It’s surprisingly jazzy and fits in quite well. It’s understated: it never overpowers the dialogue or sound effects; it sits nicely in the background and provides good ambiance. I feel like people often underestimate the value of good sound balancing. I hate when in some other games it feels like the sound effects, voice-over work, and the soundtrack are all trying to shout over each other.
Even the structure of the game is interesting. During the beginning scene, you are given some character customization choices. While the name and gender are mainly cosmetic, the career choice you select dictates which intro scenario you will play. This is just one example of Unavowed’s non-linear gameplay structure, which it pulls off perfectly, even enticing you to play the game multiple times to see the different outcomes and unlock the associated Steam achievements. And believe me: the game is interesting enough that you’ll probably want to start a new game over again the moment you beat it. Even the choices you make when dealing with your enemies will come back to haunt you in the end if you aren’t careful. In general, the game flows as such: catch up with your people at the headquarters; take the subway (being an underfunded secret agency has its disadvantages); select the two characters you want to accompany you; then finally, select which available area you want to go to. You only have Eli and Mandana in the beginning, but you eventually acquire another two: Vicki and Logan. Unavowed feels very much a roleplaying game in this respect. The characters in your party have different specialties and because of this, you will be surmounting the obstacles in the area differently depending on who you have with you. And I should note here that once you have arrived at the mission area, you cannot change characters until you have completed it. This gives a nice sense of meaning to your choice of characters. They aren’t just there for the ride, they are there to help you as a team.
While Unavowed classifies itself as a point & click adventure game, it puts more emphasis on storytelling than puzzle solving and that is most likely the reason why I love it so much. There are still puzzles to be solved but they usually aren’t that difficult. At least I thought so. Mostly you’ll investigate the areas and chat up the locals, finding out what your stupid demon-self was up to and trying to counteract whatever it was he did. The story moves at a good pace and doesn’t often lag, keeping you engrossed in the tale from start to finish. I don’t say this often (especially when it comes to games of this genre) but Unavowed is worth every minute of playtime I put into it. Even if you aren’t normally a fan of these types of games, I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed playing it and experiencing the fantastic supernatural themed story and wonderful characters. Unavowed is not a gaming experience that you should let slip by.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 9/10
+ Fantastic story
+Great voice cast
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