I played through the majority of Unavowed on a quiet, rainy Sunday afternoon. The constant downpour outside my window bleeding into the audio of the stormy nights during which you explore the streets of NYC in game.
I’m hard-pressed to think of a better way to play Unavowed. The game itself the equivalent of a slow, moody evening with a slight chill in the air.
While it occasionally suffers from the tedium of its genre, the overall presentation and story it weaves more than makes up for any dreary moments.
Developed by Wadjet Eye Games, itself founded by adventure game alumni Dave Gilbert, Unavowed is a game both deeply steeped in history and pushing the genre into new territory. While at its core the game remains true to staples of the point’n’click puzzle/adventure genre, it also strives to include more RPG elements than its predecessors.
Elements that make their way into Unavowed include character customisation and branching story options.
Speaking of the story, the set up to Unavowed is gloriously noir with the lightest touch of campness.
Over the past year, New York City has been subject to the sadistic whims of a powerful demon. This demon has been exceptionally busy, building to something dark and terrible. Destroying dozens of lives and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake.
Worse still, that demon was using your body to do it and after a dramatic opening scene during which you are exorcised of your possession, your character must join forces with the Unavowed, supernatural cops, to begin to make things right.
Unavowed allows players to customise their character, handling these choices in-game through an amusing dialogue exchange with the man exorcising the demon from your body. It feels like the kind of meta-exchange you’d expect from the better Fallout entries and serves as just the first of many well-written exchanges in the game.
The customisation itself is robust for the genre, allowing you to choose your gender and your career. You’re allowed to essentially design your character build, as the choice you make will impact your character’s abilities and dialogue options.
The opening also encourages replayability, as, depending on your choice the opening sequences will play out differently.
Operating out of a magical brownstone, because of course, being a member of the Unavowed gives the player access to a small but fully realised roster of demon hunters. Any of whom you can choose to take with you on your next mission.
Like most RPGs with this system, choosing different party members will affect how you interact with the world. The ghost specialist will be able to talk to spirits, the fire mage can reconstruct burned evidence and so on. Along with their unique talents, these party members are all richly written and acted, with complex backstories and witty banter.
Choice is King
Unavowed borrows further from the RPG genre by allowing branching narrative choices that allow players to shape the world they are in. It’s never quite as drastic as a fully-fledged RPG but these adaptations to the adventure genre are more than welcome.
Unsurprisingly, the writing throughout the entire game is exceptional.
Effortlessly weaving between laugh out loud funny and unnervingly dark, sometimes during the same scene, the script never fails to keep things interesting. It’s backed up further by the high quality of the voice acting. The plot unfolds at a good pace too, each revelation of the atrocities your character committed because of the demon another emotional gut punch; I audibly gasped during a couple of flashbacks, genuinely horrified by the scenes that played out in front of me.
Which is fortunate because even the best of the point’n’ click adventure genre can fall prey to its weakest elements.
During certain sections of the game when the tedium of the slow-paced puzzle solving got too much for me I was never overtly bored thanks to the constantly surprising script and delivery of the unfolding story. A particularly dry sequence set in a house is elevated by a cleverly delivered bit of story as a smartass spirit mocks you by writing on mirrors and leaving emojis for you to find.
A Work of Art
Unavowed also boasts some stunning art, with a gritty and tangible style direction that makes NYC and all of its grimy underpinnings come to life. The fantastic art direction is accentuated by some terrific sound design and music.
A near constant rainstorm droning on the roof, the wails of lost souls searching for redemption and even the combat noises are all impactful and seldom fail to create a convincing atmosphere.
The ambition of Unavowed is immediately evident and the game rarely puts a foot wrong.
A grim fairy-tale set against the backdrop of NYC, all acted out exceptionally well and underpinned by RPG-lite mechanics that are a revolution for the genre, fans of adventure titles and cleverly told stories should not miss this one.
Unavowed was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Unavowed