Wowed by Unavowed

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Unavowed is Wadjet Eye adventure game meets oldschool Bioware party companion interactions.

The bonus about reading a bunch of bloggers is that I caught wind of this game’s launch really quickly, courtesy of xyzzysqrl’s glowing review.

After having played through all five episodes of the Blackwell series, Technobabylon and The Shivah (and made some game attempts at Gemini Rue, Shardlight, Resonance and Primordia), suffice to say that anything Wadjet Eye makes and releases is, for me, an auto-instant buy.

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Even if you’re less convinced by adventure games, for fear of puzzles or pixel-hunting or just not enjoying the genre… if you do like a side of supernatural urban fantasy, a good story with choices (ethical dilemmas almost) that -matter-, character tales from Bioware-style chatting with party members, you might want to take a second look at Unavowed.

Developed by a tiny company of 3 employees (so says Wikipedia) and a bunch of outside talent contracting, Unavowed has 3 character origins * 2 genders, and 4 (+1, one comes as a pair) NPC party members, of which you can pick two to help you solve a number of mysterious supernatural cases.

There are multiple solutions to various puzzles, some of which are reliant on the party members you bring with you. There seem to be 4 main endings that I’ve seen.

Can anyone say, branching storylines, ahoy?

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Even the title screen changes as your party increases or decreases.

I’m glossing over the story because even the opening is impressive in how it situates you into the story with the choices you make right off the bat. You can be male or female, a bartender, an actor or a police officer.

Unavowed is set in the same world as the Blackwell series, but where Blackwell deals with a family saga of a spirit medium (called Bestowers in this world, you’ll find out why if you play those games), Unavowed zooms back the camera lens to show off other supernaturals in the setting.

You get in the thick of things fast, with a supernatural team (the Unavowed) hot on the heels of a case of demonic possession. Where there are demons, there is usually quite a bit of chaos to go along, and your companions and you get to pick up the pieces and puzzle out satisfactory (or not) resolutions to all the various affairs.

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Your companions, like oldschool Bioware NPCs, provide some verisimilitude by seguing into little animated conversations with you and each other. The voice acting is great. Learning more about your companions and their histories is definitely a good 50% or more of the main gameplay highlights of Unavowed.

Another quiet innovation is turning the ubiquitous “Look At / Examine” adventure game command into a simple text mouse over. It saves time, adds additional detail and character voice into the beautifully hand drawn scenes.

In any case, you should stop reading and go play it.

If you’re not convinced, check out a stream or two to see if it tickles your fancy.

Then buy it and play it.

If you get it directly from Wadjet Eye’s website, you get a Steam key, the game’s soundtrack, and it’s 10% off for the next 2 days.

Failing which, if you read this later, you can wait for a discount and then get it. Or get it full price. Whatever. But you should get it and play it.

(Or at least watch someone else play it. It’s that nifty. You might wind up wanting to play it too.)

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CoH: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #3

The City of Heroes character creator was always the most flexible of its day, having completely untied the concept of gear & looks with each other.

I was never one for making characters that reflected the Golden or Silver Age of Comics, y’know, your typical superhero dressed in spandex with big abstract striped color designs all over them and their capes.

Instead, I found myself trying to extend the character creator to its limits, using blends of costume parts and strategic colors to reflect other archetypal characters.

Besides the dwarf, which was an amusing exercise in “does this character creator let me do that?” I also decided to attempt bringing a little WoW or Warhammer into CoH.

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Gruthak was one of those joke characters I never took too far up in levels, but he was memorable to me for one thing: I always roleplayed him in character. He never broke out of it. It was always one grammatically incorrect “Gruthak crush puny human” or “WAAAAARGH!” after another.

I played him with a friend who also roleplayed and he was a big help in keeping me honest, with cynical eye-rolling and out-witting of the dull orc into charging headlong into the next mob spawn. (Yes, I made him a tanker, I’m not suicidal.)

So I like to think that the pair of us greatly entertained whichever random PUG would join us in our missions – though there’d usually be this /pause/ as the player took in our dastardly duo – and we’d just keep up emoting in character and fighting stuff while “rofl’ing” and basically cracking up in out-of-character whispers to each other.

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Why, yes, I was pretty big on skirting copyright infringement.

This was my attempt at bringing a little Warhammer 40k into CoH with a Dark Angels Space Marine, prompted after hearing about other guilds who had tried to create whole teams of space marines.

I was also trying to find a ‘main’ that resonated with me enough to take to max level, and it turned out that giving my character a Latin name and pretending to be a space marine in my head did the trick. (To anyone else outside: “No, I’m a robot, in tech armor! Really! No copyright infringement! Honest!”)

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He actually looked remarkably good with the Invincibility powerset effects on, and swinging around a fire sword.

(Also, this is one of my only background pics of Perez Park, which I recall fondly for being a crazy maze that was really hard to navigate, at least until you got to the center and the tree cover relented enough for flight.)

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If one space marine worked, why not another one?

Alas, I didn’t play this one long. I decided it would be too distinctive and probably wouldn’t make it to max level without getting called out for infringement.

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On the villainous front, this was a character design I was pretty happy with, enough to take him up to max level and become one of my mains.

I wanted something monster-y, and to use the Alien helmet but make it seem like it was an actual head. So I shuffled around a whole bunch of armor until I found some insectoid-like armor that seemed to blend well, and I tinted much of it white with darker grey or black shadows, even using a zebra striping pattern.

Why white? Well, Aliens were dark and black and it seemed a bit of a cop-out to just turn the character into a dark abyssal blob. So I tried the opposite (maybe albino?) and it worked out rather well.

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This was my other villain main. I wanted to use the pirate-themed costume bits, but meh, ordinary pirates are so boring. Demon zombie ghost pirates are where it’s at!

The forums were all ablaze with the concept of macro’ing costume changes at the time, and some fellow came up with a sweet idea to trigger a costume change whenever their dominator toggled their Domination mode, which increased the power of the class tremendously.

Of course, I just -had- to make myself a glowy green ectoplasmic ghost form to signal my Domination mode switch too.

NBI Writing Prompt: Did you ever try an anachronistic costume or cosmetic look that didn’t quite fit the genre of your game? Or if -you- didn’t, did you ever meet someone in game who did? Show ’em off!

(eg. I distinctly recall seeing Marvin the Martian,  Ronald McDonald, asura Power Rangers, Super Saiyan charr, Assassin’s Creed assassins and Halo-like or various power-armored characters in GW2, just to name a few.)

GW2: Why the Current Scarlet Fails As a Compelling Villain

Nope, she's not here either. Color me unsurprised.

Much has been said about the absurdity of her genius and the amount of suspension of disbelief required to take her seriously. We won’t rehash that argument today.

Her Harley Quin personality is a matter of personal taste. Again, not the key issue, despite it being a fond target for folks who simply dislike her.

In literature, the literary element conflict is an inherent incompatibility between the objectives of two or more characters or forces… The literary purpose of conflict is to create tension in the story, making readers more interested by leaving them uncertain which of the characters or forces will prevail.

Wikipedia on Conflict (narrative)

Herein lies the true problem.

What exactly is Scarlet’s objective?

We. Still. Don’t. Know.

Without this clarity, we do not have any CONFLICT.

Without conflict, there is no tension. No suspense. And no damn interest in the story.

Players cannot oppose Scarlet’s objectives if we don’t know what she’s up to. We can’t be the villain to her hero (or vice versa) if we have no clue as to her motivations.

 

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We have to stop her! Apparently.

From doing what though? Dunno. Graffiting the landscape? Wait and see, I guess.

And she’s certainly not opposing us, is she?

Despite being supposedly set up as the villain of the Living Story.

After all, who exactly is the protagonist of the Living Story?

Is it us, the players?

We began with pretty much no objective. Our destiny was to be fighting dragons and we defeated Zhaitan (but stupidly forgot to burn or even check on the body.) On to the next dragon, right?

Mysterious things happen and our objective becomes find out what is going on. Obstacles set up in our path mostly involve wading through a sea of red names with no real setbacks and collecting a drip feed of information as the writers felt like giving them to us. Certainly, Scarlet wasn’t actively preventing us from finding out what was going on. She just stands around giggling, being mysterious and telling us it’s all going to plan, toodle-loo.

Somewhere along the line, most players’ objectives have converted to catch and beat the hell out of Scarlet and her minions because they’re bloody annoying.

While admittedly she remains elusive, thanks to deus ex Arenanet, players have been galloping along a wave of success with very little ups-and-downs (innumerable Molten facilities trashed, clone armies of Aetherblades farmed, Queen assassination attempt foiled, more rustbuckets left lying in pieces, giant krait tower strewn about the landscape in even more massive pieces, etc.)

Scarlet’s visible successes appears to be several new factions-of-the-month, a dead Lion’s Arch councilor whom we’d never heard of (promptly replaced by another), the removal of Faren’s clothing, and some homeless quaggans.

Oh, the villainy...

Oh, the villainy…

We cannot suffer a story setback if we have no clue what she’s gotten away with. She could be building a giant molten toxic twisted steam dragon golem airship in her super-secret base in the Mists for all we know.

After all, she’s gotten away with murder and graduating from three Asuran colleges. In her backstory. Behind-the-scenes. Read the website, thanks.

But without visible setbacks, there is no perceived threat or tension to the storyline.

Nor are we really uncertain which of the characters or forces will prevail here, right?

Game-wise, the player is bound to prevail eventually.

Story-wise, she -could- prevail, except we don’t even know what she’s prevailing over. We’re reaching the end of the story and we still have no bloody clue.

The best villains are those we can empathize with, almost get into their skin and understand. Their motivations are clear.

They may go about achieving their objective using very questionable means, which morally, the heroes are bound to oppose, but most don’t go about what they do for shits and giggles. They have a compelling need to do what they do.

Magneto believes the war of humans vs mutants is inevitable, and that homo superior will eventually win. He’s just hastening the process and defending his kind.

Hannibal Lecter is a super-intelligent and urbane sociopath who likes the taste of human flesh and doesn’t have moral compunctions against ridding the world of stupid and rude people.

To bring it back to Guild Wars examples, Vizier Khilbron sank an entire nation. Why? To stop the charr invasion. For his god and for power and eternal lichdom.

As for his god, Abaddon, well, nevermind that he’s a murdering psychopath, he’s been -betrayed- and -backstabbed- by those dirty Five Human Gods and chucked into a plane of eternal Torment, so -of course- he wants revenge.

Minister Caudecus is wise and beloved by his supporters, especially among the nobility. He’s just politically opposed to Queen Jennah’s decisions and enough of a human supremacist to prefer dealing with cutthroat bandits than with charr.

Ajax Anvilburn, on the other hand, is a charr supremacist who can’t let go of the war either.

Kudu is researching Elder Dragons. Important research that can’t be disrupted or delayed for such minor things like moral qualms regarding the use of lesser species to accumulate further knowledge.

Mad King Thorn wants OUT. (And a joke that kills you.)

Bloody Prince Thorn wants OUT and to show daddy who’s boss.

Scarlet has no such motivation made clear, beyond apparently keeping one step ahead of the players and laughing at them. Her primary purpose appears to be trolling people. We call that a childish griefer, not a compelling villain.

Oh, and fusing seemingly random things together, I suppose. For research purposes. Because this somehow holds the key to… what? Leylines of magical energy? Did she get cheated by Zommoros once upon a time? Did she fuse her brain with an asura?

Maybe she found some really good weed when she looked into the Eternal Alchemy.