Unavowed is a point-and-click style adventure game developed and published by Wadjet Eye Games. Wadjet are no strangers to the genre, having created both the Blackwell series and Primordia. Unavowed seems to put together the experiences of their past games and puts it all together to create an instant classic.
The story of Unavowed is probably its strongest element. The story mixes themes of the supernatural and noir and manages to pull them off better than you would expect. It manages to have a nice mix of dark and comedic moments without the two interfering with each other. This, combined with some well written, if a bit generic, characters, all come together to make a story that will draw the player in.
The game starts with your character having an exorcism performed on him by two mysterious strangers on the top of a building in New York City. After they complete this, one of them is struck by lightning, and the player flashes back to the day they got possessed. Roughly a year ago, the player character comes into contact with a mysterious book, and after touching it they are possessed and proceed to kill the people around them.
When you come too, the people introduce themselves to you as Mandala and Eli. They then take you downstairs, where your character is horrified to be surrounded by mangled bodies. Mandala and Eli then explain that it was, in fact, you who committed this atrocity and that you have been possessed by a demon for the last year. In that time, you have become wanted by the entire city for a string of killings. Mandala and Eli also explain to you that they are part of a group known as the titular Unavowed. Having existed for thousands of years, the Unavowed protect the mundane world from various supernatural threats. Think of it like a fantasy version of Men in Black. Or a not crap version of Bright.
After an encounter with another supernatural being outside of the building, you end up saving the Unavowed members, who are too weak to defend themselves after the exorcism. Grateful for your help and impressed with your quick action, Mandala and Eli offer for you to join the group. Left with little options after what the demon did with your body, you agree.
In Unavowed, you the player gets a bit more say on who your character is. You can pick their gender, name, and one of three backgrounds. While the former two are more or less just cosmetic, the latter will change the way you interact with other characters and deal with certain situations. For example, picking the actor background will let you be able to lie to some people better than if you were to pick the other two.
Unavowed is a great example of how you can take characters, premises, and settings that would otherwise be considered generic and make them interesting through good writing. For example, the idea of an underground organization that fights monsters/aliens is nothing new, but the story is written in such a way that it still draws the player in.
Probably one of the strongest ways this is shown is during a later level in the game.
In the said level, you have to deal with a muse, who is the personification of creativity. The muse has had their powers taken away from them, and someone is using them to force people to be creative. This may not seem like a bad thing, but it turns out forcing creativity onto someone not actively seeking it can result in some drastic outcomes. Like setting themselves on fire.
By taking a concept like creativity, which is often portrayed as a solely good concept, and flipping it into something that can be abused, the game manages to create an interesting scenario for that level. By doing this, Wadjet Eye is able to take an otherwise common setting and breathe a bit of fresh air into it. This is common throughout the majority of the game and is definitely one of the games strongest points.
The game also has a fairly diverse cast of characters for its main cast. This includes a tax accountant turned fire mage from the Nixon administration, a 400-year-old half-genie, and man who helps spirits pass on to the other side with the help of the ghost of a 10-year-old girl. These characters each have their opinions on what goes on and will interact with the player and each other in different ways.
The one thing I will say against the game is about one of the main cast. Said character is an ex-New York cop, and the game does everything in its power to remind you about it. This includes speaking with the heaviest of heavy accents, constantly going on about how “that’s how the _ family does things” and really liking baseball. It’s enough to even overshadow the actual character's backstory, which in itself is actually well written.
Unavowed is a point-and-click game, and as such the controls are pretty self-explanatory. That being said, there are two important things to look at when judging the quality of its gameplay. The first of these would be how difficult it is to determine items and characters of importance from those that aren’t. The next thing to look at would be the actual logic behind solving some of the various puzzles you’ll have to solve throughout the game.
As far as telling which characters are important, that isn’t often a problem Wisely enough, Unavowed is designed so that you need to communicate with every character in the level in order to complete it. The only time you’ll ever really have trouble with is knowing when you need to go back certain characters, as certain events will unlock new dialogue options. While this can eat up a bit of time, the levels are small enough, and the characters a few enough, that the player can just talk to everyone fairly fast.
Items are a bit less well done. While those out in the open are usually easy to find, and you’ll never find yourself hunting for the magic pixel, items in containers can be a bit wonky. The main reason for this being that the rules behind how these containers work aren’t really set in stone. For example, you’ll have one cabinet with multiple doors, but it just counts as one intractable, but then another where you have to go through each drawer. This can often lead you to get stuck, as you end up completely missing an item because a container happened to have different properties from the rest.
Another important aspect to look at would be the logic behind the puzzles in the game. A big problem that a lot of games in the adventure genre is trying to find the balance between difficulty and logic. If you use too much common sense, you could make things too easy. Meanwhile getting too abstract can make a puzzle nearly impossible to figure out without blind luck. Unavowed is, fortunately, able to find a nice balance between the two.
Generally speaking, the game worlds rules are stated pretty clearly, and puzzles are made to be straightforward while still needing to think a bit. For example, let’s say you need the password for a computer. The clue you find is a note that says “PW=LOVE”. You try to use “LOVE” as the password, but then it turns out to be wrong. So you need to look around to find out what the meaning is.
When looking, you’ll find a picture of the computer's owner hugging their dog, with “Me and Maggy” written on the back, an old diary entry talking about how sad they are about their stepmother June dying, and an urn on the mantle with “JOHN” written in it. It ends up that “JOHN” is the password, and while reading an email you learn that John was the owner’s husband who passed away.
It may take a bit of digging, but basic logic can help you figure out the puzzle. If “PW=LOVE” and “LOVE” isn’t the password, then the password clearly has something to do with love, or in this specific case something the person loved. It’s not exactly easy t figure out, but regular logic is enough to help the player figure out how to find the right answer.
An important aspect of Unavowed’s gameplay is how the companion characters can be used. For each mission, you’ll have to choose two partners to go along with you. Depending on what characters you choose, you may need to use a different approach to completing the level.
To give a good example of this, I’ll discuss how a level went using one particular companion, and how that level changed with another. Said character was able to speak to ghosts, which will appear in just about every level. By questioning the ghost in this level, we were able to figure out the location of an item that opened a new set of dialogue with another character.
Meanwhile, the other companion has the ability to tell when someone is lying. When asking the previously mentioned character if they knew about who the ghost was, they were able to tell they were lying. After grilling them for a bit, you manage to get the same information you received with the other companion.
While you may go through different methods to get it, in the end, you end up with the same result. This mechanic seems to exist more for the sake of getting different story elements base n what character you played as. This, along with the differences in how you need to complete the level, seems to exist to get the player to complete multiple playthroughs.
Overall the gameplay is pretty solid; though there are a couple small things and one big thing I find problematic within this game. Starting off with the smaller bits is the fact that you cannot cancel an action, such as reading a poster up close or walking to a different area.
This is especially annoying because the companions you take with you will have special dialogue with one another, and these actions can interrupt them. These conversations will not be repeated or continue after being interrupted, and as such can rob the player of some pretty good writing.
Another issue comes in the way you choose your companions for a mission. When picking, you have to have either Eli or Mandana, (the two you meet in the beginning) in your party. This seems like a pretty unnecessary restriction, and the only reason I can think of them doing this is that the writers may not have had time to write special dialogue for a certain pair of characters.
As far as my big problem with the game, it has to do with it being listed as a branching storyline. This, at least in my opinion, isn’t necessarily true. While your character's background will change how you react with certain companions, and there are some choices affect the final level, overall things will play out the same. No matter who you choose on a particular level, you will always reach the same result.
The best way to describe the way the game plays out is that while it does branch, those branches all come back together at the end. You can a massive dick to your companions and the people you deal with, but at the end of the day, they are still going to be on your side throughout the game. At the end of the day, your choices won’t ultimately matter, which for a game telling you that it gives choice, can be incredibly frustrating to realize. It won’t be until the very end that you can make a choice that will have differing results.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, Unavowed is similar to past Wadjet Eye games, using a highly detailed pixel style, reminiscent of older games like Out of This World. The game takes place in New York City and takes you throughout the various Burroughs. Each level is distinct enough from each other to stand out, without looking like they are in completely different cities. The game as a whole has a bit of a film noir feeling to it, especially with the use of rain in all the levels.
The fantasy styled areas and characters are a bit rarer, and for the most part, stick to some more generic designs. Character models are good, with everyone being clearly distinct from each other. Characters will also have portrait art when they are speaking, and these are in much higher detail. These portraits will shift between regular face, happy face, and angry face, depending on the situation.
Sound design wise, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. While there is a decent amount of ambient noise, such as the sounds of the city at night, there are some things, like footsteps, that are missing. I also noticed that there are a few sounds that get reused a bit too much, like sword slashing and fire effects. One thing they did nail though was the rain, as the sound of it will change depending on if your indoors or out.
Voice acting for the game is great. The voice actors all seem to fit their respective characters, and overall are more than capable of expressing the appropriate emotions when the time calls for it. Special mention goes to the voice actor for Eli, who conveys the characters struggle to stay in control in certain situations perfectly.
Finally, the music for this game is great. It’s slow-paced and relaxing, adding to the noir feel and creating a nice environment to sit and think about what you need to do. The smooth sax sound just seems to fit so perfectly to the urban environment, and overall the soundtrack adds a lot to the game.
Unavowed is a great game, and for someone like me who has played some of this developers games in the past, one that lets me be happy to see how much they have progressed. Great music, story, and gameplay that manages to avoid a lot of the big problems that other point-and-click adventures tend to have.
For me this games a definite recommendation, to not only adventure game fans, but anyone looking for a great story. The only thing I would say against it is that the choices given don’t matter as much as the game lets on. While I think this is something the game manages to get past with its overall quality, I can’t say the same for others.
|+ Interesting story||– Choices ultimately don't matter|
|+ Interesting characters||– Lack of ability to cancel actions is inconvenient|
|+ Great music|