by Thomas Mikkelsen
reviewed on PC
Full disclosure: Unknown Fate was not tested in VR. Its VR and eye-tracking features were not tested for lack of equipment, so this review is written from the perspective of your average neighbourhood semi-friendly PC gamer. Unknown Fate is a first person puzzle platformer developed by Marslit Games and published by 1C Company and I’m going to tell you what’s wrong with it.
It makes an attractive first impression. The dark nightmarish world and neon light aesthetics promise a world of intrigue, dangers, horrors, and adventures hitherto unseen but as soon as you gain control of the protagonist, you’ll notice that the aesthetics are the only thing this game has going for it.
Aesthetically Pleasing, But…
As soon as the main character starts speaking, you’ll hear what is arguably among the worst voice acting performances in a video game I’ve heard in years. Only one character sounded passable, and that was a minor antagonist who was quickly shooed away by one of the guardians who serve to explain the world’s goings-on to you. Their voice acting is comparably dreadful to the main character’s.
This, accompanied by some of the most trope-riddled and amateurish pieces of writing I’ve seen in a while, makes the game a chore to work through. From a narrative perspective, the visuals still work. Seeing the giant neon-lit monsters pass and exploring the black-and-white memory sections is actually quite alright. The colorful sperm-whale that breaks through the ground and flies past you in the air early in the game is impressive and unexpected, but these set pieces are too few and far between and the game you’ll have to suffer through to get between them is, quite frankly, poorly designed. Oh, and the enemies are completely superfluous. The world doesn’t need them, they are far too easy to beat, and it is quite obvious that they are only there to extend gameplay time.
Temptation of Exploration
In a visually intriguing game of any type, the urge to explore is powerful. I wanted to explore the nightmarish world of Unknown Fate. I wanted to find hidden objects or other pieces of lore. I wanted to find secret paths, Easter eggs, trophies. I wanted there to be a reason to get off the obvious path and discover something not everyone would see. Have an experience that was wholly my own. There is none. In fact, you as a player are punished for exploration. Turns out, if you venture off the intended path even a little, the game is very easy to break.
You arrive an an open space. Straight in front of you is a path leading up some steps and a gap you have to jump over to get behind a cliff and – presumably – to the next section of the game. That’s too obvious, you think to yourself. To your right, there’s a cliff sticking out and the rock face behind it is slightly further away, making it look as thought a player character could fit in there. “Hmm...” you ponder, “this would be a perfect spot to hide some lore. So you go there. There’s nothing. Just a small corner where the rock faces meet. You walk into the corner and all of a sudden the world disappears. You’re staring at an empty Unity scene with a few polygons scattered around. Needless to say, you’re not in Kansas anymore. You take a step back, and the world reappears. Forward, Unity. Backward, world. Unity. World. Unity. World.
Disappointed, you head for the obvious stairs that are now to your right – but lo! In front of you is a cliff with protruding bits sticking out! This must be a path up! There’s a hidden object or an achievement to be gained by going up there! You’re such an observant genius! Why didn’t you become an inspector? Your powers of observation are without match! You make your way to the cliff and jump up on the first protruding bit. Then the next, then the third. Soon, you are standing on the top of the cliff, surveying the land. This is wonderful, now where’s that Easter egg I was looking for? You take two steps forward and an invisible wall hits you in the face like a “we need to talk,” from your partner. The invisible walls even get so bad that, at one point, you’re able to walk past a gate you’re supposed to get open and see the next segment of the game just before hitting an invisible wall. It’s so immersion breaking that all the good work that went into the world’s visuals is swept away in an instant.
What Could Have Been
Maybe the writing isn’t that bad. Discovering the story, who Richard is, is actually quite interesting but there are some lines that are just cringe-inducingly bad. And when those lines are uttered by such terrible voice actors, the end result is lost respect for the entire story. It becomes hard to take it seriously.
The same applies to the world itself. The character designs are interesting (although the animations could have used a bit more work) and the world is beautiful but they are so severely let down by poor level design and a lack of technical polish that it becomes impossible to fully enjoy it.
Unknown Fate could have been a decent game but it is let down by lack of development. A decent level designer would have pointed out that the game’s levels don’t work. A decent QA team would have pointed out most of the technical issues. Some decent voice actors would have done the story justice, and a decent translator/writer would have made the dialogue less cringy. Perhaps many of my concerns will be dealt with in future patches, but for now, I wouldn’t bother playing it without a VR setup. As I stated in the beginning of this review, the game was not tested with one, so please read up on it elsewhere if you have a VR setup and are still interested to hear how the game fares on it.
Visually appealing and interesting world.
Buggy, poor level design, dreadful voice acting, and cringy dialogue.