Unavowed is the name of the new project developed internally at Wadjet Eye Games, the studio behind Geminie Rue and the now famous series of ghostly adventure games Blackwell. For this new point’n click very influenced by the classic era, the great manitou Dave Gilbert once again trust the artist Ben Chandler, known for his backgrounds and sprites on Blackwell Epiphany, Shardlight, and ‘excellent Technobabylon. The duo thus formed goes back to the city of New York, this time sprinkled with a mystical sauce that combines accents of The Secret World, bursts of Supernatural and a hint of Buffy.
Unavowed’s Big Apple is a twilight megapolis, macerated in urban myths and ruled by occult forces a little too daring. This world behind the world is the territory of ghosts, geists and muses, but also elementals, monsters, shapeshifters and a thousand other creatures trapped in our dimension against their will. The concern is that all this beautiful world does not necessarily share the same vision of living together. There are those who turn to human flesh, those who consume mainly souls, plasma energy gobers, brain suckers: in short it’s a hell of a box, and it often ends in indelible stains on the carpet.
To guard against supernatural threats, humanity can count on the Unavowed, a secular organization that recruits and unites individuals with exceptional powers. This is one of them, a Fire Mage named Eli Beckett, who is holding you at the beginning of the adventure as he prepares to exorcise you to stop your deadly frenzy. You play as a man or a woman, whose past can be defined at the beginning of the game, with a number of consequences on the progress of the adventure. I chose a theater actor, but I could have been a cop, or a bartender. I would have been treated to a completely different introduction, in the form of a tailor-made flashback. I would have had access to other special dialogue options as well as other puzzle solving opportunities during the adventure. That’s what Dave Gilbert promised from the start: an adventure game inspired here and there by Bioware productions, but written by one person. And he did it.
After months of exhausting stalking, Eli and his sidekick Mandana manage to drive you evil in you, but let the demon escape before you can destroy it. So you are free from your actions, but sought by the earthly authorities for your crimes. As a bonus, the Beast has left behind some fragments of memories by evacuating your noggin, and you are now subject to terribly painful visions in which you relive some of his misdeeds. You then decide to join the Unavowed and use this curse to help them stop your torturer. From there, the adventure will take a form quite similar to that of a monster of the week on television: each chapter begins with a new investigation and ends once the mystery is solved, with the continuation of the famous demon as a thread red to bind everything. With an unprecedented promise in the galaxy of titles developed or edited by Wadjet Eye: the player lug a team of three investigators of the paranormal, can exploit the powers of his companions, and the game naturally adapts to the composition of the team .
Wolfram & Art
If there is one thing that Unavowed treats from beginning to end, it is his universe of myths, fallen gods and ghosts, this point of contact between the world and the world. This obviously goes through the artistic layer of the game, this city of New York as a prey to the flames of a sky too heavy, these atmospheres clammy and sticky. But it’s mostly a matter of writing and mythology. For this new project, Dave Gilbert has created a real Bible that documents the universe, its bestiary, its rules, and the events that led each protagonist to the point of existence where he is during the events of the game. is absolutely vital to the proper functioning of the concept, which focuses a lot on the relationship between characters and the exploration of their past.
Your first two partners, Eli and Mandana, for example, share a certain dose of immortality, which led the first to watch his offspring grow old and get away, while the second was a direct witness to the founding of New Amsterdam before that it be renamed New York. They also carry the neuroses that come with this kind of “gift”, neuroses that the player can choose to explore during the free neighborhood segments that separate each chapter. Later, other recruits more or less human will join this gallery of characters, bringing with them their demons, their hopes and their way of reacting to the events. On this side, Unavowed certainly did not steal his nickname of “the most ambitious game of the studio”. Each investigation comes with its own set of moral dilemmas, and the player’s choices will make the script bend at more than one level. Some dialogues between members of the team will be first impacted to let develop the opinions of each one. Then the scenario takes over, with a final tunnel that compiles all your key acts to write its outcome. More importantly, the team composition profoundly modifies the way in which certain parts of the adventure will be perceived, for example if you travel with a character intimately related to certain NPCs of a chapter or not.
The story of the game is that of the dispossession of free will. How to live and survive as an ex-puppet of a manipulative and murderous spirit. Wherever the player passes, his face is that of the monster, the Master, the one who killed, sequestered, gathered the faithful to better abandon them like old handkerchiefs. This postulate allows Gilbert and Wadjet Eye to imagine situations often very atypical and to have fun on the dialogues, an art still well mastered by the studio. Like Blackwell, Unavowed works hard on innuendoes and tongue-in-cheek humor, mixed with darker themes without ever one smothering the other. In addition, the function of the dialogue often fades before its likelihood, for necessarily less heavy exposures. By trusting his audience, the author can let go, return a situation like a pancake in the middle of a dialogue, take the player by surprise and explain later. It is also for this kind of things that we celebrate the games Wadjet Eye.
The investigation at the center of the game and knows a lot of exits tracks and twists pretty clever, served again by a gallery of dubbing actors perfectly in the tone.
Maybe a little flat for the final crescendo, which arrives rather brutally and after only five hours, in an adventure that could have afforded one or two more acts. The opposing dilemmas at the end of the game seem rather hasty, and not always very fitting with the personal evolution of the hero or the heroine. Nothing that really spoils the experience, but still enough to feel a little pinch: from the point of view of writing and overall consistency, Technobabylon and Blackwell remain a little notch ahead. Sometimes the gap widens even very significantly, for example in narration, where Unavowed gives way too quickly to ease. At the end of the tenth instance of supernatural vision that magically advances the investigation, one begins to think that the game could at least have varied its big strings.
Mouroir, my dear darling
This impression of a game that is a little too much of its rituals is certainly not lightened by the structure of the game. In trying to exercise the style of serialized surveys, Wadjet Eye embraces at the same time some tics came of his model. On two good thirds of the game, all the chapters follow the same railway: arrival on the scene, appearance of the disruptive element, investigation, appearance of a mythical beast at the end of the episode, and recruitment of a new Unavowed as an opening to the next chapter. Let’s be clear: this routine is far from insurmountable. Each new file is sufficiently addictive to be forgiven for its small errors. And more characters with whom to talk is ultimately more fun when a game is also concerned about the quality of its dialogues.
It’s just that we’ve been waiting for it as the new nugget that can bring balance back into the current strength of point’n’click, and that Unavowed is finally coming out of the shadows with a handful of little nunulles surprises. which prevent him from hoisting himself up there. Its gameplay, for example, and its way of nesting in the narration, are frankly unique as long as you do not look at things too closely. Each investigation begins in a subway train with all Unavowed already recruited (four in all) and it is up to the player to draw two companions who will follow him until the denouement. They follow the player-avatar, but can be challenged to cause a strand, and their portraits appear in the inventory as objects to use.
Eli can launch flames, but also read documents destroyed by fire. Mandana possesses a sword, Logan is able to communicate with spirits and Santina’s detective gifts are second to none. Whatever the team composition, Unavowed adapts, offering several ways to solve puzzles of the game, and even special issues to meet some character combos. It is of incomparable richness and flexibility for an adventure game of this type, with changes heavy enough to make you want to rally for a second run just the generic rolled.
If this gallery of singular powers necessarily opens the door to very original situations, the played part of Unavowed always pulls it a little backwards. It is not that the game is too farfetched, or not interactive enough, it is simply that it never opposes any real challenge. The game limits not only the interactive areas on the screen, but also the objects to be stored in the inventory and the number of tables that can be visited in a chapter. His enigma philosophy sticks to the more global one of the Wadjet Eye productions (we usually use the objects for their primary function), it is often enough to go to the right place to transmit the right information, or to multiply the journeys in the world. the right order. It’s almost impossible to get stuck unless you start in the genre.
And those who have the slightest doubt about the next stage of the puzzle will have to ask the question to one of the companions to be passed the solution of a block. Basic, the idea is excellent, since it allows to integrate the system of indices to the game and to accommodate the layman in an organic way. But when all else is so subtle and rich, to see these NPCs politely recite bits of soluce without putting a little mischief makes a little bit of trouble. This is the problem with Unavowed: he is so modern in places, so meticulous in the interweaving of this multi-path story, that one is surprised to grimace a little more than one should face his few points of classicism . The burden of the big ones, most likely.
Do not be fooled by its big grid of pixels and animations as a tribute to the classics of the 90s, because Unavowed is probably what is more modern in point’n’click at the moment. Beyond its slice of urban fantasy well stocked, the latest Wadjet Eye also mixes genres and succeeds in the delicate marriage of puzzle game and flexible storytelling, adding even a touch of RPG to the mixture. Too bad, however, that the most replayable adventure games did not negotiate all the turns with the same mastery: his riddles are a little too quickly seen, and some clutter narratives will sometimes roll eyes to amateurs of investigation without fake notes. A game that hugs the sky, but is unfortunately caught by one or two little devils just before crossing the clouds.