Review: Unrest

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Unrest is a text based RPG set in a mild fantasy interpretation of ancient India, brought to us by indie studio Pyrodactyl. It’s novel approach to the standard formula puts you in the shoes of people from multiple walks of life, both royalty and peasants on both sides of a political upheaval that threatens to tear society apart.

The lacking monsoon rains have brought an ongoing drought, fueling the famine across the land. Hungry, confused and afraid the people cast their blame upon the city itself, starting our story on the precipice of a political revolution. If it sounds relatively grounded, that’s because it is, with a lashing of fantasy from a humanoid snake species known as the Naga.

During these troubled times you control a princess, an ambassador, a villager, a peasant, a priest, and a mercenary, each in a bid to survive their own personal circumstances. All of the characters have their own believable motivations, and can be played in different ways. Will your priest be a loyal servant to an earthly lord, an idealist willing to sacrifice everything, or a practical man willing to do what needs be to take care of his own in a time of chaos? These are the types of decisions you’ll be asked to make, playing some part in how each character’s story ends, and in turn affecting the story of another, allowing you to weave a story of your own choosing.

The world looks like a painting which isn’t a bad thing, but could pass for something you would see in an art book. It’s let down by some very awkward animation, emphasized by how little action is performed through anything other than text. The music is very fitting, a strong recreation of traditional Indian music, but it lacks range and eventually fades into the background.

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One of the things touted on the games box (you know, if it wasn’t a digital download and had a box) would be the morality system, which houses a surprising amount of depth behind it’s branching dialogue. It even manages to live up to its hype for the most part, forcing you to tackle decisions that fall into some kind of moral grey area. It’s a pleasant departure from the typical Paragon Good or Renegade Bad, since the game has you wrestling with gut-wrenching decisions before living out the consequences.

It sounds grand and the story telling is, but don’t let my praise fool you, the execution is a little rough. The graphics and music are a decorative shell for what is a well written “choose you own adventure” book. This is also hampered by the control scheme, why should a player have to move right up against an NPC or point of interest before they can issue the command to interact with their target? This annoyance could be avoided by allowing players to use the interact command from a distance and having the character walk into range as needed. As it is, the game can become finicky and devolve into tiresome pixel hunting.

Perhaps I’m being a little too pedantic (though that’s my job), however it’s not the only issue with the game, at times stories can shift too abruptly. I started the scenario as the princess, and in what felt like less than a minute I had accidentally ended the scenario and moved on to the next character, through no other actions of my own than simple exploration, resulting in having to start over and try again. It’s not as if I got a ‘game over’ since no such state exists, I was just swept away from a scenario before I was ready because I explored a specific area. For a game which pitches itself on fleshing out the story through exploration and dialogue, that’s not good!

Overall, Unrest was an intriguing story told in a fascinating way, held back by sudden transitions and a clunky interface. Fans of text adventures will certainly find something different dispersed among the Indian sands, though genre skeptics should give this one a wide berth.

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