Ever since I beat Return To Monkey Island three months ago, I’ve been seeking another click and point adventure to fill the hole in my heart. It was such a charming experience full of personality, lovable characters, and colorful universe. We’re not here to talk about Monkey Island though, if you want to hear me talk about Monkey Island then go read the review I posted weeks ago, much appreciated. We’re here to talk about how desolate the click and point adventure genre is now, but that’s expected since the genre died years ago and had such a niche audience who have all grown up and played different games that fit their age. When you want more of something you love, and the Triple A industry doesn’t provide it then you go to the indie scene. Independent studios never disappoint (95% of the time) and actually have hearts compared to Triple A. Can we get a “Hoorah!” for indie games? That’s what I like to hear dear readers! Hoorah! Hoorah! Anyways, with that cringeworthy introduction out of the way let’s talk about an underappreciated gem that nobody played, and it’s a shame because it’s one of the best the genre has to offer.
Unavowed, an indie developed click and point adventure that was made by Wadjet Eye Games. A studio well experienced in the genre as they've been making click and point adventures since 2006. Wadjet Eye Games has existed ever since, and every game they have made was directed and designed by Dave Gilbert a hardcore fan of the genre. Each game he helped make felt like a love letter to everything that came before. From humble beginnings The Shivah to long running series Blackwell. Each of the games wasn’t outstandingly praised and there were a couple dips in quality, but you can tell Gilbert and the small crew at Wadjet Eye had fun making each title. After finishing up on the Blackwell series, Gilbert went out to make a new property. A whole new idea that carried on the ideas of Blackwell but wasn’t just Blackwell again and managed to put its own twist to things. He began writing the story and universe in 2014, and around 2016 he announced his new game on the Adventure Game Studio forums. Unavowed, a click and point mystery where players work together with supernatural powered companions to stop creatures from the unknown. Gilbert took a bit of inspiration from the Mass Effect franchise, as he wanted each character to have their own unique abilities and backgrounds. He designed each case and puzzle so that any combination of party members would make each case play out differently, and the moral choice aspect added later in development created more reasons to replay Unavowed.
They decided to utilize the Adventure Game Studio engine as with all of Wadjet Eye’s previous titles, and even though they had the budget to stretch things further Gilbert decided to hold back. Not because the pixel graphics added nostalgic charm to an already nostalgic genre, but because obviously paying for more expensive graphics and engine would be costly. They had the money, but enough to make a Triple A product like Life Is Strange or Telltale games. Unavowed fully released midway 2018 and while it wasn’t a popular indie release it was a well received one. The players who did stumble upon Unavowed were amazed with how well made and well written the game was. Unavowed currently sits at 91% on Metacritic and with an overwhelmingly positive review average on Steam, which is really impressive for an indie made click and point adventure. I’m happy to say Unavowed deserves this recognition and it’s a lot better from what you would expect from it. This is truly one of the best modern entries to the genre and I'm very shocked this game didn’t get called out more in 2018, because it’s one of my top five games from that year now. Will say, I wouldn’t have heard Unavowed if it weren’t for Yahtzee Crosshaw. The man behind Zero Punctuation as this was also one of his top five games of 2018. Today we’ll be discussing why I absolutely love Unavowed and why it utterly deserves your attention.
The game opens up on a stormy night, or what it appears to be at first. The player character finds themselves being constrained by a hooded figure, and someone speaks to them in ancient times. They accuse them of doing horrible things and that a mad demon runs deep within your veins. You aren’t unable to understand what they are talking about, but you quickly remember as a quick flashback kicks in. Your origin story is that you were either an actor for a private play stage company, a cop taking on hardcore crimes, or you will be a bartender in a neighborhood brewery. It doesn’t matter what origin story you have chosen as they seem to follow similar conclusions. Something went wrong, you tried to de-escalate the problem, and the person causing the problem ended up giving you a book. They claim the book is what drove them to commit the dangerous act and handing it to you would be the safest option. Upon grabbing the book, a mysterious flow of energy enters your body, and you are no longer in control of yourself. You can’t speak, think, or call out for help as another being comes into control. The individuals around you ask if you are alright, but before anything else can happen your body murders them. One year has passed since that perilous day. A demon has possessed you, and for one full year they went running around and killing innocent civilians. The two individuals before you reveal their faces. A man conjures the demon out of your body and it escapes in the air. Scurrying in the streets of NYC.
The two individuals explain the situation to you and that you are now a wanted criminal. Top of the list, and the police are doing everything they can to hunt you down. However, if you come with strangers then you’ll be taken into a secret organization. A group of people who have existed for hundreds of years and deal with mundane situations such as this. The Unavowed, heroes of the underworld who will do whatever it takes to protect the world. You agree to work with them and soon you travel to their headquarters. You learn of the two strangers who helped you that day and meet their leader. Mandana, a skilled warrior with strong physical capabilities and whose mother was a fierce pirate. Eli, a former accountant who turned into a fire sage. Then there’s Kalash, leader of the group, father of Mandana, and also a genie. Kalash welcomes you with open arms and states their next few missions will be spent figuring out what the demon in your body has done over the last year and trying to put a stop to it. You unravel the memories of what they were doing and along the way you encounter a handful of mundane creatures and a couple new allies. Logan, a man who can speak to spirits and work with a spirit guide named Kaykay to help them move onto the afterlife. And Vicki, an ex-detective who's trying to figure out what the heck is going on with all the crimes in the air. Depending on which backstory you chose you might have a connection to one of two characters, and nonetheless they join your group to help put a stop to the demon who possessed you. One for the Unavowed!
Unavowed is a click and point adventure, and that should be everything I should have to say. You explore areas, talk to NPCs, gain information, pick up items, and try to solve any of the puzzles blocking your way. Sometimes you’ll have to learn new things to get new conversations and info out of NPCs, and sometimes you’ll just have to experiment. Attempt to use the items you have on surrounding objects, and if that doesn’t work then you might want to try combining two items together to get a new potential solution. To walk around you click, to enter new areas you click, and to interact with NPCs and objects you click. I played the PC version of this game and I do know there is a Nintendo Switch version which may play differently, but we’ll be using the original PC version for the sake of this review. One thing I do like about Unavowed is that they put icons over the objects you highlight over to show if they are intractable or not. That way you don’t waste so much time clicking around and trying to find the one pixel you can interact with. NPCs have speech bubbles, items you can pick up have hand symbols, and objects in the environment just give brief descriptions of what they are. Some of these environmental objects can be interacted with, but oftentimes it’ll require an object or an NPC. Speaking of which….
One thing that makes Unavowed unique compared to a lot of click and point adventures is its companion system. Before you enter a mission, you are allowed to select one of four companions: Eli, Mandana, Logan, and Vicki. Each of the four characters has their own quirks and skills, and you’ll have to make use of them to solve puzzles. Each mission will play out differently as sometimes having the right character at the right moment will provide a different easier solution to get closer to your goal. Eli can control fire and heat objects. Mandana is armed with a sword and is physically capable of reaching areas you wouldn’t normally be able to get to. Logan can speak with ghosts, and this allows you to get information from dead spirits in the area. Vicki is a former detective meaning she has connections to existing law officers, can shoot objects with her gun, and analyze dead bodies. Remember, only two companions can be brought into a mission and once you enter the area you can’t hop aboard the train and bring in another one. You have to confidently be sure you want to bring the two you selected. However, the game did design every mission so that any combination of characters work and the secondary solution isn’t too bad to work towards. You can even listen to side conversations or get hints from your allies on what to do next. A clue as to what to do, where to go next, and what may be the solution.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the story and there are some really great twists to be found in Unavowed, but I will say there is a moral choice aspect. When you reach the end of certain cases you will have to deal with a mundane creature. There are consequences that will affect you later on depending on what choices you make. I’ll use the first moral choice scenario as an example. The first mundane creature you deal with is a void creature. He has come to the crime scene to feed on the corpses of dead individuals, and he won’t leave unless you let him feed. Refusing to do so will make him kill you. The two choices you have is either letting him feed but mutilate the corpses more which makes the crime scene look way worse or kill him so that he doesn’t cause more trouble, but this will alert his brethren which then may be a problem later down the line. Future scenarios are much more complicated, involve characters with lots of depth, and you’ll be wondering whether you made the right call or not. That’s all I have to say when it comes to the gameplay of Unavowed. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a click and point adventure besides a companion system and moral choice. Although, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream had a moral choice system and it affected what ending you got. Hopefully, you can locate the demon that was inside you all this time and banish him back to the place he came from.
Unavowed is a fantastic click and point adventure that every fan of the genre should play. Sure, the game doesn’t do a whole new for what has come before and the new ideas it introduces has been seen in other games, but I cannot stress enough how much I love it and that I have no major complaints. The only complaint I have is that for one mission later on it feels like they should have given you all four companions for one scene, as the scenes you witness help build them as characters, but otherwise nothing too bad. Talking about why Unavowed is pure point-and-click perfection without mentioning spoilers is really hard, but I’ll do my best to explain why. What really surprised me the most about Unavowed was the story. It kept engaged the entire way through as I wanted to know what the possessed spirit did. What crimes it had committed and how it affected the people involved with them. It’s not just the main story doing the heavy lifting. I love the characters and they are probably the main reason I kept pushing onward. Building your relationship to them, learning about their backgrounds, and just caring for who they are. Where they stand now and how they try to move on from their problems. Mandana does not want to go and disappoint her parents. Logan is trying to move on from his alcohol addiction. Vicki seeks validation from those who constantly doubt her. Eli who misses his family and hopes he doesn’t forget them someday. I found these scenarios relatable and if it weren't for them, we would just be stuck with a bland mute protagonist with no growth till the end.
The characters you meet along the way are great as well and the mundane creatures have a ton of depth too. You get to learn more about the mundane world, why things are the way they are, and how certain species thrive or try to stay alive in the modern world. This game takes place during the modern day, and I find it really cool. The writing is really well done and I find it the top reason you should play Unavowed. The game is still well designed though. I think that the companion system was well accommodated as the developers had to stay aware any combination of companions should still get the player towards their goal. Meaning they had to design every problem carefully and always have a backup solution. The puzzles are well thought out and make sense. I hate to compare Unavowed to it, but Unavowed has a much better puzzle solution than that of Monkey Island. I am down for wacky comedy and results, but the thing about a lot of click and point adventures is that their solutions don’t always make sense. Watching them unfold is entertaining and finally figuring out what to do is satisfying, but it can be frustrating working towards a solution and running into a brick wall. Unavowed has solutions that make sense. They can be challenging to work towards at times, but it is never towards that point of confusion. Once you get the basic comprehension in your head it clicks and suddenly you figure it out. I like a game that truly tests my intelligence without having to make the busy work too easy or hard.
I love the game’s art style and art direction. Character murals are beautifully drawn, backgrounds and environments are busy to look at, and I feel like Unavowed has this noir feeling to it. The classy tone, neon lit streets, and walking around with fancy music and uniforms. Unavowed is a journey to stop mundane threats, but it feels like a mystery as you unravel the past and what had happened. My final compliment is how the game approaches moral choice. As I have explained in my previous review on Not For Broadcast, neither answer should be right or wrong. Good moral choice is one that forces the player to decide what they think is right. Weighing out the options and deciding which of the two are the best solutions. What will affect them better or worse in the long run. Whether it's worth sparing someone after all they did, but then considering what drove them to perform these actions. Sympathize with them and consider what will get them out alive. Part of why I think moral choice in Unavowed is handled well is because of the good writing. Which is great, because a game that makes me go through moral dilemmas without having to constantly shoot and kill things is doing something right. It’s obvious now that I strongly recommend Unavowed as it does practically everything right. As to whether it’s my favorite click and point now, I do still prefer Return To Monkey Island more. I liked the childlike wonders I felt with Monkey Island, but Unavowed is sitting right alongside their throne. It’s an underrated masterpiece, and in the end, I give Unavowed a 9.5/10 for excellence at best.
This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!