Light Leads the Way
I’ve always had the naive mindset that immersive, first-person games exist so people can live out fantasies. But why do that when you can live out terrifying, trauma? That’s the theme of Marslit Games’ Unknown Fate.
Unknown Fate follows the story of Richard, who wakes up in a strange bright world with “anything goes” rules. He has no memory of who he is or how he got here. As he moves forward, Richard starts to recall certain moments and recognizes some of the bizarre scenes. He must solve puzzles, fight monsters and jump up some stairs or on platforms to try and find his way back to his home world. The game is incredibly bizarre and a little terrifying at times.
Set in a surreal world with a creepy story, Unknown Fate is filled with a lot of things I normally love about games. However, I do wish someone had warned me about the platformer elements before I started the game!
I played the game on a standard PC setup. However, the game offers full support for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Bear in mind that this review comes from the perspective of someone who played the game without delving into its VR component.
What I like most about Unknown Fate, is that it isn’t described as a “horror” game on Steam, at least not by those who’ve played it, even though it can be rather terrifying. The game is very immersive and takes you into this freaky world, as a character with no idea how they got there, being guided around by these weird pixie creatures and occasionally having to fight for his life! But it’s not a horror.
For me, this just gives a little more depth to its purpose. You might find the scenarios scary or think that you might if you were in Richard’s position, but the point of the game is to explore rather than be scared. It’s more about finding Richard’s way home rather than dwelling on the scary side of things.
I also like to think that the designers had a lot of fun creating this game. The glory of an “anything goes” universe is that you can just let your imagination take over. Literally, anything can exist in this world. Want a giant lightbulb spider to walk up a wall next to you? Why can’t it?
It’s not the same as the overused word “random,” it’s about creating a world so different from our own, but still containing elements that Richard recognises from his former life. That’s one of the ways the game pulls you in.
My main issue with Unknown Fate is my struggle with the controls. I wanted to enter this game world and explore it with Richard, learning more about his story. However, it’s harder to get fully immersed in a game when you keep falling off a goddamn ledge because you can’t get Richard to jump on it properly!
I fell pretty much at the first hurdle with Unknown Fate. Literally.
Early on, Richard has to jump up these steps to carry on in the world. Trouble is he never seemed to want to stay on a step. I would jump up and land on a step, but Richard would often jump too far or too little and fall off. It took me way too long to get up the goddamn stairs and I got very angry, swearing at Richard and calling him unnecessary names. That rather got us off to a bad start.
Feel free to go into the comment section and tell me I’m bad at video games, but personally, I don’t think that changes anything. A game should be for everyone. I don’t care if a time-traveling Lord Bryon suddenly appears in my living room – he should be able to play this game or at least figure out how to get up some goddamn steps! There is being a hard game, then there is being a frustrating game.
I suspected that the game would handle better with VR, but after reading some other reviews, I’m not sure if that’s the case. It’s a shame when a game so beautiful gets let down by something like this. Then again, there aren’t any penalties for falling to your death, so maybe that’s a plus.
Unknown Fate is primarily a story-driven game – which a lot of care has gone into. As I’ve already touched upon, I love the concept of this adventure and the torture this character is going through. You feel the need to press on through this world for the sake of Richard. Alongside this, the game contains some combat and puzzles.
Unfortunately, the combat isn’t all that. It feels too simple like it isn’t a challenge to overcome. The same goes for the puzzles – I never felt challenged or engaged by them. In a game that wants you to feel immersed and is capable of achieving that, it felt a bit redundant. Richard’s adventure doesn’t need combat. Sure, the players need something to motivate them to carry on and to feel like they are conquering this world, but I feel the story does that enough. Personally, if the creators wanted to include other elements, I would have focused more on the puzzles. Making them a little more complicated and engaging.
Since Richard’s story is so important to the game, I really wish there was less jumping on platforms and less combat, so I could have focused on it more.
The biggest positive in this game is it’s selling point – the creators have made this huge Gameworld that you can explore. It looks gorgeous but has a very chilling atmosphere. It truly looks like a combination of a real-world city and a bizarre fantasy. My favourite thing about this game was probably the music. It’s just so chilling and pulls you right into this world! It suited the whole experience so well.
When you’re going through the levels, you’re not just following a path. There are other ways you can explore and sometimes you can make your own way through, rather than going one expected way. This made the world feel much more like my own and made it easier to connect with the character. I would definitely recommend taking the time to explore the world around you.
I thought the quality of the graphics were quite high. Not perfect, but great. But I liked that the world didn’t feel “polished.” This isn’t a real world. It’s a complex world of insanity! This world represents madness, at least as far as I can tell, so from that perspective, it looked pretty amazing. I found the world to be very well designed and eerie. There were a lot of small details, such as the plants moving steadily in a constant breeze.
Having said that, it’s hard to focus on the world as it blurs every time you move. Maybe this fits into what I was saying about the controls. Every time I turned the world went blurry and made me a little dizzy. I can’t imagine how I would have felt had I played VR! (I did uncheck “motion blur” in settings, but this didn’t seem to solve the problem.)
Find an Unknown Fate
I know I’ve been quite down on the game, so let me make clear that I love the concept here. The story is exciting and interesting, while the music is perfect and the voice acting great.
Yes, there are some quite key elements of the game that needed a little more work, but for a story-driven, immersive game, they’ve put most of their passion into the important bits. But I’m sure if I hadn’t struggled so much with the controls I would have had a better experience.
Another small detail, probably due to the games low price, is that you can’t adjust the volume of the game or reassign any keyboard commands. (Or buttons if you’re using a controller.) This doesn’t make the game unplayable, it’s just a little irritating. I only mention it because I think part of my struggles with the controls came from the game struggling to recognise my Finnish keyboard. But I don’t know that for sure.
Given the games low price, it probably is worth playing if the story is something that interests you. I like that the game is surreal, and I like that it’s original. It’s something interesting and delivers an obscure kind of fun.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: 1C Company ; Marslit Games; Players: 1 ; Released: Sep 6, 2018 ; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.