Kickstarter projects always grow with a buzz and expectation, and Unrest is no different. The first Indian game to be successfully funded by Kickstarter, this is a conversation-based explorative RPG developed by an international team, and strangely, most of its members have never met in person. What’s more interesting is that the game is set in ancient India, but isn’t based on one of the Indian epic mythologies, and is on PC rather than on a mobile platform. Chhota Bheem would disapprove.
There’s no concept of magic or heroes in Unrest. You play as various political, civilian or fantastical characters in the famine-stricken city of Bhimra. Each time you take a turn at a character, you are left to explore a new environment and interact with the NPCs there, with the story progressing via dialogues. The NPCs, based on your conversations with them, gauge you on three factors – friendship, respect and fear. Abandoning recent gaming trends, Unrest doesn’t classify choices as good or bad. You make unclear choices and watch the consequences unfold, reflecting dynamically in the plot.
The plot setting is refreshingly original, well thought out and portrays very efficiently many of India’s socio-economic and cultural challenges.
It’s apparent that the game’s gauge model is technically sound, but it’s so prominent that I could feel the game making its complicated calculations and manipulations throughout, diminishing the experience in a way. It felt well concealed as the plot picked up well in the middle-part of the game, but otherwise, I could feel that my human thought process was always going to end up as a binary input to some background calculation – something I felt could’ve been concealed by boosting other aspects, like environmental interaction.
The plot setting is refreshingly original and well thought out and it portrays efficiently many of India’s socio-economic and cultural challenges. You get to experience situations like famine, arranged marriages, poverty, casteism and riots. The story crawls to a start, and while it picks up nicely in the middle, it slowly dies down towards the end. Certain characters appear to be significant to the plot, only to deceive us as the game progresses. The game’s ending… well… isn’t one. In both my playthroughs – each with different story circumstances – the game ended abruptly, yet similarly, without a satisfying completion to the story.
While most of the music is pretty average, even the good tracks get annoying as they’re way too short.
The visuals are nothing to write home about, but they definitely do justice to the game’s mood and setting. The 2D artwork stands out, but as I said earlier, the game could’ve used a lot more of environmental interaction. The sound is quite a letdown though. Each environment features a unique soundtrack with an Indian ambiance, and while most of the music is pretty average, even the good tracks get annoying as they’re way too short. You are grimly reminded that you’re overstaying your welcome in a level by the repeating soundtrack.
Gameplay, of course, is Unrest’s strongest point. It features several of the requisite RPG elements, such as a journal, inventory, and side-quests. You can tell that a tremendous amount of work has gone into making the gameplay fluid. The campaign lasts about 3-4 hours, encouraging multiple playthroughs. Even though the game threatens to dish out a vastly branching story based on your decisions, the results actually play out as different scenarios within similar circumstances. Don’t expect any wrecking plot twists.
Unrest fumbles in crucial areas, with an abrupt ending, poor soundtrack, and odd pacing, but it is a bold attempt nonetheless and it proves that original ideas can still showcase Indian culture well in video games. Priced at $15, it’s a game I’d recommend to not only RPG fans, but also those interested in a gaming experience that showcases Indian culture. For the rest, you might want to hold off till it’s on sale.