Unknown Fate’s opening is a deluge of dreamlike imagery; soaring neon whales and vulpine sprites dance around a fractured world as you chase after a girl made of light, babbling in bewilderment at your predicament. Despite stiff voice acting, the marriage of fantastical imagery and enigmatic exposition, backed by evocative piano music, immediately ensnared me.
Unfortunately, atmosphere and imagery are all that this game really has going for it. While a compelling sense of place manage carry the experience for its 3 hour duration, frustratingly clunky platforming mechanics and a messy, convoluted story distract from your journey through this intriguing dreamscape.
Giant clocks, inkwells and VHS tapes populate the world, forming walls and platforms or jutting forth like surreal obelisks. The art and level design is consistently creative, and while at times the design of environments or characters, like The Guardians, can be a little busy, the unique aesthetic cultivated here is cohesive and befitting of a muddled and troubled mind. Yawning strings and delicate piano dance and hum beneath the world’s surface, aptly complimenting the visuals and enriching the hypnagogic atmosphere.
Oblique storytelling is something I love in games, exemplified by the likes of The Gardens Between or Vane, and Unknown Fate’s opening hour had me interpreting its story through a multitude of theories. Memory fragments scattered throughout the world give you glimpses into protagonist Richard’s past, portrayed in a striking monochromatic high-contrast art style. Through these visions Richard’s childhood is explored, as are his relationships with both his parents and his partner Eveline.
These disparate scenes seemed as if they had deeper meaning; the loss of a child, the fracturing of a relationship, the events leading up to Richard’s death, all these possibilities swarmed around my mind and uncovering the truth urged me on. This intrigue strung me along, yet the more story that was revealed, the more ensure I was of a satisfying explanation.
Sadly, the story spirals downward into bewildering nonsense, rife with hyperbole and drama straight out of a teen fantasy novel. The disappointing whimper of a conclusion is compounded by equal amateur writing and painfully stiff voice acting. A subtler form of storytelling seems far more suited to this style of game; the removal of a named, voiced protagonist for one would greatly benefit the sense of immersion in the player’s own journey. Instead this story is too defined to be interpretive yet too convoluted to be coherent.
Gameplay, despite being inventive in concept, fairs no better than the plot. Bestowed with “The Artifact”, a light-firing gauntlet, you reshape the world, crafting a path forward. Light activated switches move platforms into place, making for some simple platforming. The real issue arises when the abilities to freely move and rotate platforms and slow time are introduced in the late game, highlighting the clunky movement and unwieldy mechanics.
Aligning a series of rotating platforms is finicky busy work while the slow time mechanic requires precising and agility completely ill-suited to Richard’s cumbersome movement and the game’s unresponsive controls. Combat is also needlessly tacked on, with the same qausi-Xenomorph robot kangaroo creatures periodically popping up to cause annoyance. Once stunned, they are easily defeated with a few shots of light to their big red glowing weak-spot of a tail.
Unknown Fate shows so much promise yet lets down its creative art design and intriguing atmosphere by over-complicating itself. Terrible writing and awkward voice acting magnify the flaws of a story which stumbles over its own ambition. Clunky, cumbersome platforming and poorly judged mechanics make traversing its overly rudimentary puzzles and felling its repetitive foes frustrating and mundane. Unknown Fate feels somewhere between Anamorphine and The Spectrum Retreat, yet unlike those games it lacks the compelling storytelling or refined mechanics to deliver a focused vision.
Unknown Fate PS4 Review
- Overall - Not Bad - 5.5/105.5/10
Unknown Fate fails to deliver on the promise set down my its enigmatic facade. Richard's abstract dreamscapes are brought to life with creative art design and compelling atmosphere, yet the story and gameplay that carry you through this world are disappointingly clumsy and confused.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.