This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Android.
The tale starts with your character, Richard, appearing outside of a seemingly normal family home, set in a mysterious other world. You’re lost and alone in this foreign place, guided by unearthly creatures, who plea for help: recover the fragments of their sacred artefact, recently fractured by darker forces.
The art style of Unknown Fate is distinctive. Vibrant colours and ’veins’ run through rock and organic matter, reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. There’s a pseudo-horror vibe to the world you are trapped in, with demonic creatures lurking in the shadows. Wandering through the nightmare dreamscape, you’re encouraged to take it slow and unravel the plot through visual storytelling.
And lucky for you, there’s plenty of time to do that in Unknown Fate. Movement is sluggish at best and clipping issues stop you in your tracks frequently. Animation is shockingly basic too – I can’t remember the last time I encountered such an unfinished visual package. The saving grace is definitely the art style and decent character models, but even then the low quality textures and lack of antialiasing bring you back to the graphical bad dream.
As you go further down the rabbit hole, the symbology and strange landscapes start to show more human elements: cuddly toys, homely furniture, clocks, and such items meld into the dark neon lit areas. It becomes clear that this world is somehow linked to your state of mind. Whilst not the most original narrative trick, it is comfortably familiar.
Weaving a mystery is all well and good, but there are a couple of major issues with the story. First, there are instances where the characters just flat out explains things to you out of nowhere, deflating the whole experience. It happens very early on with one of your newfound allies pretty much patronising the player, and the main antagonist doing the same thing later. Second is that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, and the story isn’t long enough to explain all the mysterious stuff it has been giving the player (save for the aforementioned spoon feeding). The main themes of dark vs light, inner discovery, lost memories, and corruption, are just not deep enough.
At its heart, Unknown Fate is a first-person adventure game. Gameplay is similar to other walking simulators such as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, with the focus on leisurely exploration and enjoying the story, and world, unfold.
You’re also equipped with an ancient device, which acts as key to solving puzzles throughout the journey, including powering up runes, shooting enemies, and manipulating time. Theoretically, this should spice up proceedings, but these tasks are so simplistic they may as not even bother. The combat has no depth, and platforming is painful for the previously mentioned glitches and clipping problems.
For these reasons, its short length is almost a mercy. Clocking in at around three hours (including various restarts and crashes), it’s an absolutely terrible package for your money.
Unknown Fate is fully voiced and narrated. That’s it. There would normally be some adjectives to give some context to that comment, but that’s all I can really say in a positive context. The performance of your otherworldly guide is alright, but your player character prattles on in a way that makes the acting in any bargain bin sci-fi movie seem Oscar worthy!
Sound effects are just as bad, too. The desync of your weapon firing is so bad, I honestly had to uninstall and reinstall the game to make sure something didn’t go wrong when I downloaded it.
Sound mixing is off too. Again, I was worried that the muffled voices, inconsistent sound levels of SFX, and sub-par music quality were down to my setup. Or was it all part of the game’s attempt to bewilder and bemuse? It’s just a crappy effort all round. Much like the visuals, there’s a glimmer of positivity in the ambient effects, but it nowhere near outweighs the negatives.
I struggle to think of something so unpolished as Unknown Fate. From the shoddy graphics, bizarre choice of game mechanics, to the terrible sound mix, it falls flat on nearly every account. This is incredibly irritating after the first few scenes of the game draw you in with it’s art style. It feels very much like an Early Access game or concept piece rather than a fully-fledged retail game; being an indie title is no excuse either, as similar spooky walk-em-ups such as Soma delivered so much more than this.