Unavowed would probably be rated “R” for the language alone…not to mention the gore, disturbing subject matter, low-resolution nudity, and the off-screen sexual encounter (involving the “main character”!).
But…er…we liked it. It’s 100% a game for ADULTS…but if you’re looking for a roller coaster of emotions (that streaks from creepy yuck to aww lol), deep moral dilemmas, and a twisty, turny story full of amazing characters and gut-punches – then you might be the audience for Unavowed.
One year ago, a demon possessed you; forcing you to tear a trail of bloodshed through New York City. Your salvation finally comes in the form of the Unavowed – an ancient society dedicated to stopping evil.
You are free, but your world is in tatters. You have no home, no friends, and are wanted by the police. Your old life is gone, but perhaps you can start a new one. Join the ranks of the Unavowed, and fight against the oncoming darkness.
The Band of Unavowed
The characters are definitely the best part (one of the best parts?).
The player can decide a lot about their own character – male or female, and pick from three different professions – so in terms of exposition and development, the side characters receive a lot more focus.
When you first join the Unavowed, there are only two other active agents: Mandana and Eli Becket.
Mandana is a tad pompous…half-jinn, she can’t abide lies and speaks in a precise manner. She’s also the melee combat expert and totes around a big sword.
Eli is way more personable. He started his life as a “mundane” – but had to adjust to a new world when his Fire Mage powers awoke. He’s also into puns…It’s awesome.
As you chat with each of them between missions, they open up to you and you get to see how truly three-dimensional they are.
Fortunately, recruitment picks up.
Anyway, you get to choose which two companions you want with you as you investigate different problem areas. Once you choose, the level won’t let you back out and bring back other people…but it’s okay, since each level is designed to let you solve the problem with the skills of whoever is with you.
This is both frustrating and awesome, and opens up more potential for replays.
As you spend time with these people, not only do you get a handle on who they are as people, but you start to care about them. You might even find yourself leaving them off missions because you couldn’t stand anything happening to them…ahem…
Teenie baby spoiler:
A couple of the side characters have taken on the role of surrogate father/daughter. They’re both in an unusual position, shoved into this strange world of supernatural happenings…and yet their not-quite-sibling-not-quite-parent interactions are so adorable I can’t even.
I love this. There need to be more chill-guys-acting-as-fathers in media.
They’ll Make You CHOOSE!
Putting agency into the hands of the player is one of the most unique and powerful story-telling elements in the video game industry.
Unavowed cranks this to eleven.
You were possessed by a demon, remember?
Although your character doesn’t remember the year you spent tearing up NYC, you do get flashbacks…and the entire game is about tracking down the damage that’s been done and trying to fix it.
We all like to think of ourselves as basically nice and good…even if we intellectually know we aren’t.
The game does a masterful job of making you feel the revulsion, the violation, the horror…the twisting in your gut, the cold chills.
Gah! We agreed to play this game, remember?
Only shades of grey?
There aren’t very many “classic” puzzles in this game – in the sense of “collect items in the environment and assemble them in weird ways to make things work.”
Instead, most of the puzzles involve pursuing dialogue trees, asking the right questions of the right people, uncovering the supernatural shenanigans, and then…deciding what to do about it.
Should you just kill this creature from across the void? Or send it home, since it’s only here as an accident?
This guy burned some people to death…but he didn’t know what he was doing – and besides, your demon-self kind of provoked him! Should you kill him? Or send him where he can live out his life…even in an alien existence?
The game does a great job of making every single decision difficult and powerful (okay, there are a few that aren’t so hard – those creatures got what they had coming to them!).
And, at the same time, Unavowed doesn’t fall into the trap of just validating whatever choice you made! There are consequences for every choice.
Whether you think you made the “right” choice or the “wrong” choice, there are consequences for your actions…and you have to either suffer through them, or appreciate them.
While I would have like some more puzzles that weren’t so “talky,” I loved that the developers took a factor unique to video games (choice and agency) and pushed the boundaries of the game to explore exactly what this “choice” means.
And to drive home that sometimes you’re faced with a Devil’s choice…and you have to make the best of it no matter which way you go.
A Twist…Very Twisty
I should have figured out by now that Wadjet Eye Games always has a Third Act Twist that pulls the rug out from under you.
But…yeah…I have trouble seeing it coming.
Well, Unavowed‘s twist is
something you could really see coming if you were thinking about
Wait I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING wow how do they do this?!
I could make a little complaint about how a certain character should know some things that would uncover the twist – but it is addressed at the end, and I like the story enough to let it pass.
There is bad language – including the f-word. It’s not as constant as in Red vs. Blue…but it is there. And they’re not shy about it.
As for the nudity…
It’s low-resolution, and not “sexualized,” if you know what I mean. The female nudity is an artist’s top-half portrait, and in line with what you might find in any real-world artist’s sketchbook.
The male nudity is hardly explicit, and only there because – ahem, spoilers – a guy turned himself into a Fire Elemental, so now his body is made of fire. So, obviously now he’s naked.
No attention is drawn to either of these exposures…it’s just an element of the world we’re in.
That is not an excuse for including it…but it is an explanation. If you can handle Michelangelo’s David, you can handle this.
As for the…sexual encounter…
I personally have a bigger problem with this thing. Your demon-self has an off-screen affair with a married man (we know about it because of the flashbacks I mentioned)…and although things fade to black before anyone’s clothes disappear, the game does a great job of making your skin crawl so badly you want a shower.
And…I guess that’s a good reaction to have to this sort of thing.
The other weird thing is that the situation plays out the same way whether you made your character male or female. I can see not wanting to restructure the entire level’s puzzles, or record too much extra dialogue…but given how much work the developers put into making the gameplay flexible, I’m not convinced.
Some things just can’t be swapped out indiscriminately.
There are also some on-screen murders and plenty of gory dead bodies (including gun-shots and throat-slitting).
But if you watched the trailer you know this is Paranormal Detective/Horror…and if you’re here for Fluffy Unicorn Romance someone got you turned around in Aisle 3.
Mothers-in-Law – Beware!
It’s a little awkward when you find a cool story with great characters and powerful moral/philosophical themes, but you can’t share it with everyone you know.
Well…I guess that’s life.
When we’re young, all we can understand is The Runaway Bunny. Then we get a little older and can enjoy The Chronicles of Narnia or G.A. Henty.
If your mind and gut are up to the challenge, you’ll find a powerful, thought-provoking adventure full of vibrant characters – and puns! So many puns.
If you decide your internal filters aren’t up to the challenge…well, that’s fine, too. Only you can decide that.
YES – IT’S A DILEMMA ONLY YOU CAN SOLVE!
Find it on the developers’ website: WadjetEyeGames!
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