Unknown Fate is an immersive narrative-driven puzzle adventure made by indie developer Marslit Games and published by 1C Company. This PC title is designed to be played with a variety of input options including mouse and keyboard (which was used for this review), tracked motion controllers, gamepad, and a VR suite. Game play uses a first-person perspective which greatly adds to the immersion, but also creates some awkward situations.
It quickly becomes obvious that our protagonist has lost his memories and it is up to us to help him recover them. This is done by going on a journey through an ever-changing, surreal landscape that combines fantastic imagery with commonplace elements, which seem to be bits of his forgotten life subconsciously imposing themselves on the terrain. He is given an artifact that allows him to interact with various elements within the game world to overcome obstacles and eliminate threats. This artifact evolves during the course of the story, imparting new abilities to the main character.
Throughout the game you use the artifact to move platforms, reorient or slow objects and, in some cases, shoot bad guys. Some platforms you simply shoot to get them to fall into the right place, while others are completely under your control and can be placed virtually anywhere, including, as this reviewer unfortunately discovered, places where you can’t recover them, making further advancement impossible. This isn’t a flaw on the developer’s part as no developer can possibly imagine all the idiotic choices a player may make. This same “flaw” also enables the players to bypass certain obstacles in ways never imagined by the developer.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of Unknown Fate are the jumping puzzles, of which there are many. Word of advice to game developers: either avoid jumping puzzles in a first-person game all together, or make them very forgiving. Several times throughout the game there were seemingly simple jumps that were infuriatingly difficult to make, requiring repeated, rage-inducing attempts. What makes this so maddening is that all the other game mechanics were forgiving.
As is suitable for a game intended for the current state of VR gaming, many of the mechanics only required you be “close enough”. The shootable platforms have a hitbox around the button that can often be hit even if it isn’t facing you directly. The limited combat is, thankfully, forgiving as anything more would detract from the flow of the narrative. The bad guys add suspense without taking anything away from the casual pacing of the game.
While the graphics are nothing state of the art, they do combine well with the feel of the game and allow for play on a wide range of systems without diminishing the enjoyment. Colors are vibrant and rich and, in some cases, clues to the locations of hidden memories. The artistic style is a combination of the futuristic, the realistic and the primitive. Neon-lit platforms reside in the same scenes alongside giant clock faces and fantastic flora and fauna. When a memory is triggered, the scene shifts jarringly to a monochromatic world of people and objects rendered in a tribal style. Combined with the ever-present haunting background melody, you quickly find yourself getting pulled into the world, even in a non-VR environment.
On the subject of game audio, the musical score of Unknown Fate is spot-on. It accurately reflects the mood of the game and changes as the scene demands. Always present, always appropriate, never overwhelming or underdone. The voice work is, generally, very well done. Notable exceptions are the protagonist and the female lead who just sounded stiff. Since this is an indie title, though, it is understandable.
The writing is within the realm of acceptable. Some awkward, repetitive expletives are uttered by the protagonist throughout the game and probably should have been mixed up a bit. The narrative feels familiar and you can almost see where it is heading, yet it maintains a sense of mystery throughout. Until we get to the climax, that is. The wrap-up to the story feels less like the ending of a mystery and more like the finale of an anime title.
Unknown Fate should keep you captivated throughout the entire game and, despite some frustrating design choices, is difficult to turn off until the journey is complete. The achievements will warrant a second play-through if you didn’t get them all the first time around. This is one of those titles that showcases the creativity and imagination only found in the indies.