Marslit Games delivers an interesting, albeit flawed, experience that is, if nothing else, worth a shot.
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Unknown Fate is a really, really interesting game. There are few games that by the end really make you think about every little detail, but in the case of Unknown Fate, I found myself dissecting everything. Every interaction, every flashback, every seemingly minute detail to try to finally piece together an intriguing puzzle.
Marslit games, the brother tandem from Italy, have taken a huge risk with their first foray into game development, and in general, they have succeeded. Unknown Fate is successful in its story telling and character design, but it falls short in other areas. Where that leaves us is with a game that is ultimately quite good, but with some refinement, could be so much better.
The story focuses on Richard, a man that finds himself in an obscure world with no indication or memory of how he arrived there. The world is bizarre, to say the least, and there are characters introduced that don’t make a whole lot of sense at first. There’s the woman in white, the Guardian, more guardians, a dog that also turns out to be intrical to the story, and mysterious, huge creatures that appear and come to life out of no where.
One of the more interesting parts of the game, both in terms of story and artistically, is the flashback memory world. Here, everything is in black and white and the people have been mostly blacked out to make for a really interesting and compelling look. Richard relives these memories through his different perspectives. First as a child, then as an adolescent, then as a young adult. These flashback memories at first don’t have much meaning, but by the end of the game they begin to make more sense, eventually becoming the basis behind Richard’s character arc.
All of this leads to some pretty cool moments of clarity for Richard and the player, as more is revealed about his traumatic past, and how he has struggled to let go of things he couldn’t control and things he blamed himself for. Once you realize just what this means, it’s easy to sympathize and ultimately root for Richard to overcome his demons.
The Guardians, caretakers of the bizarre world Richard finds himself, are quite well done and offer Richard advice and guidance throughout his journey. They also appear in the flashbacks in very subtle ways that really make the player question what’s happening, and what role they ultimately play.
The world is divided mostly into three different asthetics. Each has a unique feel with different items littered throughout to indicate a time in Richard’s life. The first world has blocks, picket fences, and other childhood reminders. Later on there is a world with pencils and paper, ink bottles, and cassette tapes, perhaps to indicate school aged Richard. Then there are the half lit cigarettes, push pins, and brightly lit computer screens in another world, indicating a stressed man at work. Richard’s memories are clearly tied to certain periods of his life.
The story and the world building are the most interesting things about Unknown Fate. If I could review this game based simply on those, it would receive a very high grade. But there is more to the game, and it’s unfortunately not all good. The game’s shortcomings are in the gameplay itself, where there isn’t much variety and there isn’t much attention to detail or polish.
I’d like to first say “kudos” to Marslit Games for attempting a first person game for their very first video game. That takes guts. But…
Unknown Fate has some real problems when it comes to the simple things. To start, there are many times during the game where some sort of auto aim would be beneficial. I understand that the game was developed on PC first, so perhaps these things should be forgiven, designed for a mouse and keyboard, but the lack of auto aim on the console version makes for very unsatisfying gameplay. Shooting at platforms or enemies is difficult and the aiming controls are jerky at best. I got used to it during my play through, but I can’t overlook how much better the game would play with a simple magnetism towards the targets.
And when it comes to enemies, it’s another dud. The lack of auto aim and the lack of any sort of collision sounds makes fighting enemies a very unrewarding experience, one that was simply a nuisance more than anything else. I questioned many times why the enemies were even in the game to begin with. They are unnecessary and don’t provide any compelling gameplay.
There are quality of life problems beyond this. For example, there are traversal problems with jumping and getting stuck on ledges. I fell through the map once and had to restart. When you miss a jump and fall and the game takes you back to the previous checkpoint you often aren’t facing in the proper direction. Aside from falling through the map, which obviously should not happen, these problems are what I consider to be oversights. I expect that with more experience Marslit will be able to work out some of these issues with their next game, but for Unknown Fate, it can lead to a frustrating experience.
To progress the story, Richard must traverse the landscape with the use of The Artifact, a glowing orb that grants different uses. Simple puzzle solving and platforming becomes more complex as you progress, and the artifacts’ three forms are unlocked. The first form shoots a beam of light and stuns enemies, the second allows the player to rotate and move some platforms and boxes, and the third shoots a time altering ball of light. After unlocking all three I think the game opens up and the puzzle solving becomes pretty fun.
The soundtrack for the game is OK. Each world has a unique track or two that repeats throughout. My favorite was the third world where there is a soothing piano track. But unfortunately, I must mention that the English voice acting is… Not good. The actor that plays Richard is not convincing, to put it lightly. Some of the others, like the guardians, are much better, but I can’t help but feel if Richard had been cast a bit better the voice acting as a whole would be raised. The female lead, Eveline, is also weak. And, Richard pronounces Eveline’s name differently than Eveline pronounces her own name, which I just found to be very strange. You’ll understand why if you choose to play the game.
On top of the actual acting, there are some audio problems where the voice acting is very quiet in comparison to the rest of the game sounds. That’s part of a wide variety of miscues, and it’s the attention to detail that I feel the game lacks.
Despite the many problems the game suffers from, I found myself enjoying the game, completely invested in seeing it to the end. The story comes together very nicely, revealing what Richard’s struggles and memories were all about, and after the third artifact power unlocks the puzzle solving becomes fun and a bit more varied.
For a first attempt at a video game, I think Marslit Games should be very proud of what they have accomplished. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But the game has a certain something about it that should be applauded and many gamers will likely appreciate. It has a complex and compelling story with a satisfying end. The gameplay improves with each artifact power. There is incredibly interesting world and character design that is exciting and should be revered by anyone who is appreciative of such qualities. What Unknown Fates does well… It does REALLY well. It’s unfortunate that the flaws are also just as apparent.
But despite the game’s shortcomings, I think this is a game worth playing. It only takes about 6 hours to complete, but I think the message at the end of the game and how it all ties together is really satisfying. Richard’s plight is something I won’t soon forget. Some might not be able to get past the clumsy controls, and I wouldn’t blame you… But if you can, you’ll likely enjoy a very unique and interesting experience.
Nintendo Nation Recommends
Translation: a game that we would happily play that may have flaws others can’t look past.