How did it come to this? Standing out in the rain, being exorcised by two strangers – a strange woman holding a sword and a man with fire coming out of his fingertips. Unavowed has an attention-grabbing start to a wonderful adventure game.
Unavowed starts with you on the roof, the rain pounding down as Mandana and Eli are trying to help you through their supernatural abilities. As a player, you get to pick your character name and whether you’re male or female. As well as getting to choose who you are, you also get to choose a back story – Cop, Bartender or an Actor. This gives you a sense of ownership over the character and allows you to immerse yourself into the lead role.
Once you’re rid of your inner demon you join a secret society of supernatural detectives called the Unavowed. They protect New York City searching for clues and solving mysteries and have been doing so for thousands of years. You’ve been possessed for a year and the Unavowed has been on your trail for some time. Now you’ve escaped the evil clutches of the demon, it’s time to find out what he’s been up to all that time and try to discover the motivation.
The Unavowed is made of Eli Beckett, a former accountant who became a Fire Mage, and Mandana, half-Jinn half-human and daughter Kalash, the leader of The Unavowed. Together you search ut and try to discover the source of the supernatural occurrences that have been increasing over the last twelve months. Kalash is concerned that these occurrences are becoming more common and New York is under threat, so he sends you out on a recruitment drive to find more members for the team.
Over the first few missions, you meet Vicki, a local cop who’s been ostracized by her community who claim Vicki’s gone crazy and Logan, a recovering alcoholic and someone whom can speak to ghosts. Logan also has a spirit guide named KayKay. As you help them out they decide to join the Unavowed and help you on your missions.
The mechanics in Unavowed are similar to that of other adventure games – you speak to a rich cast of characters, find clues, collect items and solve a series of puzzles to open up the narrative in front of you. What sets The Unavowed apart from other games is the structure – the silent protagonist and the team-based structure.
Each chapter of the game is focused around a part of New York City from Brooklyn, China Town, Staten Island and Wall Street. You’ll wake up, walk around your home base and learn more about your crew – their history, what motivates them which all feeds into the rich tapestry the game builds around you. Once you’ve had your team meeting and have learnt your new objective, you op onto the Subway and select your party members for the next mission.
Mixing and matching abilities are useful as different skills come into play. Logan’s useful because he and KayKay can interact with Ghosts, whereas Eli can fire read – an ability to read anything that’s been burnt in the past. Vicki has her cop connections and Mandana, well, she has a sword… which is more useful than you might imagine by being able to open things as well as use to threaten people along the way. Dave Gilbert from Wadjet Eye games takes inspiration from mid-era BioWare games with this mixing and matching structure by allowing the player to take on different party members and solve puzzles in a number of ways. I can only imagine the complexities this must-have introduced to creating the game, but what he has constructed is a wonderful, cohesive experience which doesn’t feel forced or knitted together. It’s a brilliant narrative with a wide range of cast members who you feel invested in and root for.
The structure of the game is one of solving mysteries. You are trying to figure out how and why you were possessed by a demon and what happened in the last year since that terrible event. In my playthrough, I chose the Actor back story and the game starts with me outside the theatre as the local play I’m in has fallen through. The director has gone off the rails, upsetting the other actors in the play and won’t come off of his dark, dank office. On closer inspection, he’s under a spell and can only be brought out of his trance by stopping his manic typing at the keyboard. Flicking on the light you reveal his Muse, Caliope, sitting there ‘inspiring’ him. He offers you a mysterious book and from the pages jumps a demon, right into your soul and takes over. You murder the director and actor friend and set off on your year of the rampage.
As you travel around New York speaking to other characters and solving the mysteries of the past you uncover details of your back story as well as other supernatural characters. You’ve clearly been busy this past year. There are the Merman General, The Dragon and the sad story of a drug addict who burnt down a children’s home while casting a spell. It’s a clever story, woven together with such care and vivid imagination. The most important thing, it’s a fantastic gaming experience.
The puzzles in the game are clever which take a keen eye to figure out. There’s a puzzle later in the game involving a police station and KayKay, which will surprise you and make you smile for sure. I don’t want to spoil any details, but the puzzles are satisfying and will keep you guessing without blocking you. Lean on your crew to give you hints if you get stuck. I was left with an immense sense of satisfaction when playing through and ultimately figuring out the way forward in The Unavowed.
The art style in the game is beautiful with Ben Chandler creating a version of New York that’s perfect for the game. The rain beats down and he captures the atmosphere and scale of the city. Wonderfully painted cityscapes mixed in with the supernatural elements make this a feast for the eyes.
Unavowed is a great point and click adventure game with unique elements that bring a fresh feel to the genre while being familiar at the same time. Wadjet Eye Games have done a wonderful job with the writing, world-building and pacing in the game which always leaves you wanting more each time you play.