Unknown Fate is interesting, I’ll give it that. The game is served as a first-person puzzle adventure game, in which players take on the role of Richard, a chap that’s seemingly lost his memory and cant stop phasing between his own world, and alternate worlds. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; another amnesia-based puzzle game? Well, that’s the general premise, but Unknown Fate manages to wrap that around a loose plot that, initially at least, does well at piquing interest. It’s just a crying shame that the game’s other components don’t come together particularly well.
It’s set then, a story shrouded in mystery and full of dark, yet oddly intriguing wonder. You’re tasked with making it through the game’s rather linear design as you slowly regather Richard’s memories, ultimately piecing together the overarching journey at hand. The thing about Unknown Fate’s narrative is that it doesn’t always make sense, but that’s the point. You’ll be constantly hit by question after question, with no real definition showing up until much later into the game’s short two hour(ish) run. There’s a very alien vibe running through the game’s core.
Strange beings will show up on a regular basis, mostly serving as a means to advance the story and further lend the game a degree of oddness. I’ll confess, the game had me quite gripped throughout its first half; constantly sending me to new fascinating locales and having me engage with fairly fascinating inhabitants, but soon after, things began to crumble. Whilst the game is quite open to interpretation starting out, the story loses itself in the midst of its convoluted structure. When you have a hundred questions and only a few answers, satisfaction remains at bay.
I wanted to know more about the worlds, the characters, and the meaning that drives them to collide. However, despite some story payoffs later in, I cant say I ever felt like things were being neatly tied up. Still, I’m quite a fan of these bizarre stories, so this was easy to overlook for me. If you, on the other hand, prefer closure and resolution, Unknown Fate may be a little bit too unknown for your liking. There’s a very The Evil Within 2-esque tone to the framework; constantly bobbing to and from realms that look remarkably well struck and pretty distinct.
The problem? Whereas The Evil Within 2 religiously explained its surroundings and presented meaning and worth, Unknown Fate comes off more like a desperate attempt to instill intrigue, rather than encouraging it through natural observation. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks interesting, and I constantly found myself wanting to know more about what I was seeing, but in the face of its overall lack of explanation, it feels rather half-baked. Whatever the case, you’ll move through the game solving some puzzles and bumping into its wacky characters.
The game’s characters all sport a distinct theme, with the majority of them appearing to be otherworldly. There’s some human elements running through the game too; from set pieces found scattered around its locations, to the occasional human-like being that you’ll witness throughout. Further mystery is injected through short flashback sequences, often presenting players with breadcrumbs of narration that attempt to relay more about Richard’s background. These moments are few and far between, and tend to quite backhanded and relatively vague for the most part.
That’s the sum of the game’s narrative depth; you’ll flit between worlds, pop into the occasional flashback, interact with its creature-like characters, and rinse and repeat until you hit the endgame. It’s made immediately apparent that you’re needed by these characters to wield the Artefact, a tool used to inevitably bring light back to the world. Said Artefact sits on your wrist, and allows you to manipulate your surroundings in order to progress; which is where the puzzle elements of play come into view – think Q.U.B.E. but much less complex.
The Artefact has a few abilities, most of which are introduced as progress is made. Starting out, you’ll be able to utilize the Artefact via firing orbs at targets to shift platforms into set positions, enabling you to cross pathways you otherwise would not be able to. Later on, you’ll directly shift and rotate platforms to reach new heights, and finally, nearer the end, you’ll be able to slow down time. These functions, together with some moderately designed twists, collectively go hand in glove to make up the brain teasers you’ll be presented with along the way.
In regards to the game’s difficulty, it’s not really that difficult. Simply due to how linear everything is, you’ll always know where you’re going, and as such, you’ll always have a firm idea as to where one puzzle starts, and where it ends. The answers to overcome a puzzle are usually not far off those points, meaning that simple observation and trial and error will see you through most bouts. You’ll also use the Artefact to kill a few enemies that pop up, and it’s here, together with general traversal and poor design choices, in which the game starts to fall apart.
Combat consists largely of blinding an enemy with the Artefact, and then firing orbs at its weak spot. The problem is, the sensitivity is far too loose, meaning that you’ll need to constantly get right up on your foe to ensure that your orbs are connecting with said weak spot. That alone isn’t too bad, but when you’re doing this every ten or so minutes because the developer couldn’t come up with a better way to stretch out longevity, it gets old, fast. I can say the same about basic movement and puzzle solving too. It’s all rather counter intuitive and unresponsive.
Several times you’ll be required to shoot objects that are far in the distance, and at times, you’ll need to shoot (with pinpoint precision) platforms that are on a timer. I’m sure that when you take the above matter into consideration, you’ll understand how frustrating making even basic progress can be. Worse, the game’s levels make a habit of sticking to you. I lost count of how many times I got caught in the map, or clipped an invisible barrier that saw me falling wide of my platforms over and over again. These issues only get more annoying later in the game.
You see, as aforementioned, starting out you’ll be tasked with little more than shooting a few platforms to create stepping stones and open doorways, but later on, things get a little more tedious. You’ll soon find yourselves shooting platforms, rotating them, and then slowing down time to get from one place to the next. When we factor in the lack of fluidity as far as handling and aiming is concerned, everything just falls to pieces. These problems turn what could have a been a decent puzzler into something that tends to be more trouble than it’s worth.
That’s not to mention the issues around movement. Richard, for reasons unbeknownst to me, seems to decide when he wants to clear a jump or not. When you manipulate a band of platforms into place, the game makes a habit of making these jumps just reachable. What I mean there is that you’ll often need to time your jumps perfectly to land a platform. The drawback, however, is that Richard will occasionally slide off the edge of a platform for no reason whatsoever, taking away any form of meaningful consistency as a result. It’s not fun and it’s not exciting.
Good platforming can make or break a game, here, sadly, it’s the latter more often than not. I wish I could say that the game’s problems were isolated to the alien worlds, but they’re not. There’s a few bugs to be mindful of too, such as prompts not appearing when they should. For instance, during a flashback I was thrown into a monochrome playground, and here, I was given no instruction as to what I was expected to do. I wandered around the environment looking for clues, watching the children nearby play, but nothing whatsoever came of it.
Convinced I had loaded a broken scene, I restarted from my checkpoint and made my way back, only this time, a cutscene played out that allowed me to make progress. Pissed off is an understatement. I get that issues like this can be ironed out post-launch, but wasting all of that time for a failed cutscene was not my idea of a good experience. It totally broke immersion and made me second guess my movements throughout the rest of the game. Outside of that, other bugs will persist, such as orbs fired from the Artefact flying off in different directions, or, platforms failing to shift.
Mercifully the performance remains on point, with a steady framerate to lean on throughout. There’s not much depth though. The bulk of your time tends to revolve around the same sort of pattern; move the environments to reach inaccessible areas, and fight against the singular standard enemy type using the singular combat mechanic, over and over. It’s clear that Unknown Fate needed more time in the proverbial oven prior to its release, because I blatantly and absolutely refuse to believe that these issues went unnoticed during QA.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, Unknown Fate gets a thumbs up. The game’s locations are all well detailed and remain quite distinct throughout. Whilst it would have been nice to pull more meaning from the areas I was visiting, I do appreciate how the game maintained its sense of mystery. Equally, the game’s audio cues are solid too, with a decent voice cast backing up the overall trek. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you’ll get throughout your time in the game, it’s a welcoming and mysterious trip that utterly lacks depth and refinement.
It’s a shame really, because with its issues to the side, there’s clearly a lot of potential on show. Unknown Fate could have been the next Q.U.B.E. had the developer bothered to fine-tune the whole ordeal, and put more meat on its bones. If you’re an achievement hunter, you’ll be glad to know that you can nuke most of the Gamerscore here in a sitting or two, many of which will be dished up through a single run. They’re all gated behind secrecy though, but still, even then, you shouldn’t at all struggle too much chasing each of them down.
Unknown Fate could have been the next Q.U.B.E. had the developer spent less time focusing on mysterious set pieces, and spent more time focusing on refining the game’s functionality and its mechanics. The end result makes for a puzzle adventure that tends to be more convoluted than it needs to be, and far less engaging than it should be. There’s certainly fun to be had, but it’s oftentimes chased away by the game’s lack of care.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.