Review: Unavowed (Steam)

I often find it easier to write negative reviews than praise-y ones, I think because a negative review is something I can make into a list to clinically go through point-by-point whereas my praise skills are, uh, less polished and frequently just amount to me pointing at something good and going "omg omg you need to experience this omg it's so good". But today I want to tell you about Unavowed by Wadjet Eye Games on Steam which I found by watching my favorite YouTube streamer (SuperGreatFriend).

Unavowed is what every modern adventure game should be from here on out, just in terms of game mechanics. (My opinion, of course! Ymmv!) You don't have to cycle through cursor options like Look/Talk/Walk/Handle; you point at something and the cursor changes automatically based on how you would normally interact with the item. It's so easy and convenient and I love it. Pick-up items are few and far between (and almost always stand out well from the environment) and they disappear from your inventory between chapters, so you don't have to do the adventure game dance of rubbing the screwdriver from Chapter 1 on every item in Chapter 9 hoping that the plot will unlock. In fact, most of the puzzles are solved by talking to people with new information you've uncovered since the last time you talked to them. I love it.

Story-wise, the game is very dark. A year ago, your character was possessed by a demon and went on a very disturbing killing spree... as well as doing a few other horrible things that don't quite make sense but which caused harm to innocents in the city. A group of community-minded magical creatures who call themselves the Unavowed have tracked you down, exorcised the evil spirit, and now you've joined them as they try to undo all the harm your demon did. You're able to help them with your wits and your fleeting memories (or really more like unwanted visions) of what the demon did whilst in your body.

If you don't mind the dark themes (and I watch CSI and Law & Order for fun, so I mean) then there's a really deep and emotional game under the hood about identity and redemption and morality and choices. Each chapter culminates in a complicated moral decision about a magical creature run amok in New York, and your companions are thoughtful and gentle in their advice to you. For example: A muse has lost her supernatural powers and absolutely does *not* want them back, but your demon imbued those powers into a guy who seems genuinely nice and likable BUT he's using his new muse powers recklessly and getting people killed. Do you (a) insist that the original muse take her powers back, even though it will make her miserable, (b) extend trust to the old man that he'll try to do better going forward, or (c) make it so that *nobody* holds the power of the muse, which could have rippling repercussions on artists in the future? Each situation is thoughtfully engineered so that there's no obvious "right" answer, and your companions wrestle with the ethics of the situation without "blaming" you if you choose differently--everyone recognizes that this stuff is complicated!

Representation-wise, too, I really love this game. One of the characters is a Brown woman of color whose magic comes from her Jinn father (and her fighting prowess was taught from her pirate mother). The white man in your group is a long-lived mage who misses his family who for their own protection thinks he is dead; he's the definition of Team Dad and I love him. Your ghost-whisperer is a beautiful Black man paired with a ten-year-old spirit guide named KayKay who is a DELIGHT; he wrestles with problems with addiction that is exacerbated by the strain of having to help people through their death trauma day after painful day. A cop joins your group and, yeah, she sees the cops in a positive light after being raised in a "cop family", but the game itself has a LOT of critical things to say about the police and their tactics. There's a lot of beautiful diversity here and I love it so much. You find yourself talking to the characters because you *want* to know them better.

All in all, I am just very thrilled with this gentle and loving game which takes the darkest parts of the crime genre and asks, sincerely and without judgment, how to make the world a better place.


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