Unknown Fate is a bad game. Not intentionally bad that you find a sense of humor from it, though. This game hates the player, and it makes that fact well known throughout the few hours of gameplay offered. In trying to find something to like about this game, I only found myself more and more frustrated with the gameplay decisions and mundane story. Though Unknown Fate doesn’t ask much of the player, it’s still asking for more than it deserves.
My early impressions of the game were optimistic, with the trailer and artwork setting up moderate expectations for a mysterious indie puzzler. Perhaps I could enjoy a good mental workout while piecing together some ambitious storyline about long-lost lovers. However, it didn’t take long for Unknown Fate to show its true colors once I hit the jump button for the first of far too many times.
Jumping mechanics in this game don’t actually follow the general rules of human physics, as you seem to float up nicely in the first half before careening back to Earth like a balloon tied to a bottle rocket. Luckily, most of the puzzles are solved using a special artifact and the player’s sharp wit. Just kidding, most of the game is platforming. Horrible, hellacious platforming. In first-person view, no less.
The artifact does indeed play a big part in the so-called puzzles, as you regularly use it to shoot down randomly floating blocks, move around simple platforms, and sometimes change platform orientation for more wonderful jumping. Unfortunately, nothing actually took any real thought so much as some simple trial and error. In fact, most of the difficulty in this game manifests through overcoming horrible controls and bad physics.
Unknown Fate has zero aim assist on console, and the bullet changes trajectory as the player turns, which looks very much unintentional in practice. Also, the puzzles don’t have real checkpoints, so if you fall at any given moment due to the wretched jumping, you have to start back from the beginning. Multiple times, I found myself wasting five or ten minutes just trying to complete one simple jump because I’d underestimate the distance in first-person, fall, reset, and start the jumping back from square one.
On the bright side, there’s combat. On the downside, it’s horrible. There’s just one type of bad guy, and you just repetitively do the same actions until that enemy dies. First, you have to flash him with the artifact, and then you shoot him in the tail three times as it sticks straight up from his body. Repeat until all enemies are dispatched, but make sure you don’t get hit or you instantly die and reset to an arbitrary distance back from where you came. Also, don’t try to flash while they’re going through the attack motion or it won’t work. However, they move faster than you, so that attack swing happens a whole bunch. Good thing all that aim assist helps you hit the tiny ball on their tail or this would be utterly infuriating.
The game world itself is actually interesting for a brief period from the outset due to interesting setpieces and large otherworldly creatures that reinforce the dream-like ambiance of this lost realm. Don’t worry if you missed something cool, though, as most of those setpieces will be used over and over for two-thirds of the game length. The last section does change up a few things, but only slightly and without much rationale. In the story, you’re jumping through numbered areas, and yet each area shares almost the exact same colors and objects as the last. Sure, there are some nifty screenshots to take at times, but I can’t think of a single room that stands apart from any other.
Even the navigation is an absolute chore. Unknown Fate loves to include large areas for their puzzles with plenty of different paths and portions to explore. It seems like the developers mostly intended for the player to follow one single track, yet there are sparse markings to actually demonstrate where you’re supposed to go. The issue only builds due to the relatively slow pace of the main character and no fast traveling options, so selecting the wrong pathway could lead to a tedious detour with nothing to show for your curiosity. Still, you’re bound to do it as there’s no indication as to which way might be correct. I understand that this is meant to be a puzzle game, but the puzzle shouldn’t be simple navigation. I’d get so lost at times that at least twice I ended up jumping out of bounds, walls giving way to an open view of the level layout.
There are supposed collectibles within the game that act as the achievements, but they’re placed so haphazardly that most end up just lying on the floor in random areas. Once picked up, the game transports you to its version of a flashback, with a pure black-and-white tint that’s cool to see but awful to actually traverse. The characters are faceless, and the only interaction is to press a floating triangle. Riveting stuff, to say the least.
There’s a story here, but most of it was clouded over in my mind by the rough animation and decidedly mediocre voice work. It’s all meant to be dreamy and ambiguous, though a few of the reveals and lessons were ridiculously ham-fisted. At one point, one of the guardians turns to the player as you stare at disfigured clock and asks, “What do you think it means?” before laying out precisely what the developer intended it to mean. I audibly groaned.
Given the circumstances, it’s obvious that Unknown Fate was created by a relatively new development team, but the 15 dollar price tag still seems too damn high for such a shoddy product. As a game meant to evoke questions and intrigue, I just found myself hoping for a proper challenge at some point. The whole experience felt like days of work, even though I’d gauge the playtime at just about five hours.