I can’t say I’ve ever been to India, or that I know much about its political and societal issues other than what I might have seen on a fleeting news report, but today, with the release of Pyrodactyl Games’ Unrest, I can proudly say that I’m a little wiser. However, having my eyes opened by this unique, thoughtful game was not all pleasant. After all, ignorance is bliss.
Unrest, which has been developed by the Jaipur-based studio, is set in the ancient Indian city of Bhimra, and follows the story of five different citizens that live there. All their prejudices, struggles, and social positions become your own, and you begin on a journey of choices which shape your entire experience.
Each character has their own story, which varies greatly from the last, and will be affected even more so by your decisions; whether it be Tanya, the 15-year old girl who is deciding whether to go through with her arranged marriage, or Bagwhan,who is just trying to keep his family safe and fed while he teaches religion to those in the hazardousslums. In following these characters through their stories, which your decisions are constantly changing, you also affect the stories of those characters yet to come. For example, choices made by one character to improve their own life may indirectly make the next character’s life more difficult.
These choices are made through Unrest’s rather in-depth conversation system, in which your character is given a number of ways to respond to another person. Such replies are accompanied by phrases such as ‘Friendly’, ‘Diplomatic’ and ‘Stern’, among others, and can completely change the flow of the conversation, as well as its outcome, depending on what you choose. In addition, each response alters the perception that people have of your character.
Tying this all together are overarching notions of poverty, disease, treason, and political and societal upheaval that seem certain to bring about the downfall of Bhimra. If you are to keep your characters alive in this harsh environment, you may have to make some choices that leave you questioning your own morality.
Do you keep the scrap of bread you were given by a kind stranger in the slums, or do you give it to the malnourished child nearby? These are the kind of choices you’re going to have to make, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in the slums of India have to make these choices each and every day just to survive. Unrest is full of such thoughtful moments, and this is where Pyrodactyl Games have excelled.
Not that Unrest relies solely on its choices and thoughtful moments to create a lasting experience; it also has an immersive soundtrack of 12 tracks that are perfectly tailored to the setting, with a mixture of authentic Indian music. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the music often reacts to the character and environment, if you spend too long in one area it will eventually loop, and the more cheerful tracks can begin to grate.
Also, the simple, sprite-like visuals of Unrest aren’t its strongest point, but they don’t detract from the game either. Rather, in my eyes, they were simply a means for the sensitive stories to take place, and that was absolutely fine by me. It is these stories that set this game apart from other such RPGs, that may focus mainly on combat, teddies, and cute Asian girls, instead opting for a deeper, more meaningful experience. Now and then you may get stuck on an invisible wall as you’re walking through the streets of Bhimra, but it’s a small price to pay for everything that Unrest has to offer.
Unrest is a unique RPG that takes gamers away from the usual combat-heavy gameplay and places them in the impoverished, famine-stricken streets of the ancient city, Bhimra. While it’s not the prettiest game you’ll play this year, its sprite-art and authentic soundtrack form a realistically exotic environment in which to wrestle with the many difficult choices that will present themselves to you. If you’re looking for something a little different from the norm that will get you thinking about the lives and struggles of others, then you’ll want to try this game. If you’re interested to get even more out of your Unrest experience, there’s a novella, too!
“In Unrest, there are no heroes of legend, there is no mythical quest, and fate has not chosen you. You are on your own.“
- Forces you to slow down and think about real-world issues.
- The narrative reacts to your choices.
- Reason to return and reach different outcomes.
- Characters can get stuck on invisible barriers.
- Soundtrack (while beautifully composed) can become repetitive.