Unrest owes its success on Kickstarter to an engaging conversation system and an engrossing story told through multiple protagonists. The game has some flaws–mainly in the overall presentation–but it is charming and unique thanks to its imaginative take on ancient India and its characters.
What About the Trade Agreement?
It is a time of strife and unease in Bhirma. Food is scarce and the monsoons haven’t come yet. The situation is dire in the slums with many slum dwellers starving to death or dying due to sickness. Making matters worse is the proposed trade agreement the royal family is brokering with the Naga.
The deal would improve trade and bring in much needed food, but also would bring in plenty of Naga immigrants.The tension in the slums is already at a boil. Bringing in Naga immigrants would only exacerbate the situation due to the distress between humans and Naga, and an already thin food supply. Things are not looking good for stability in Bhirma. The time is ripe for a coup.
Playing Unrest involves taking over several different protagonists at various points of the story. Protagonists each have their own goals and duties. These goals could affect the overarching plot, but that is not always the case. Each character plays his or her part in Unrest’s story, no matter how small characters may seem. Whether you are dealing with a young girl and her arranged marriage or a priest navigating a new order with its own idiosyncrasies, the choices you make matter.
While switching between characters is interesting, it becomes clear quickly which characters will influence the overall story. That doesn’t mean side stories are unimportant or that choices made during don’t matter, but choosing certain actions makes these character’s choices small footnotes rather than large ripples.
The best character story in the game comes in the form of Tanya learning of her impending arranged marriage. How you choose to play Tanya can make her a resigned young lady fitting traditional cultural roles or a rebellious woman out to buck her lot in life. This ability to create depth of character through choice is fascinating. Tanya isn’t the only character that you create through your choices and actions, but she may be the most compelling.
Despite the lack of a true character, Asha becomes the main character in Unrest. Asha is the daughter of the former royal family. Her family was murdered in the slums after signing the Naga trade agreement. She narrowly escaped Vijay, a traitorous royal confidant that enacted the coup, and certain death. Asha now dwells in the slums living a hard life on the brink of starvation. Players will spend most of their time controlling Asha as she navigates the slums and finds out what it takes to regain her rightful throne.
Be Diplomatic, Ruthless or Wry
The brunt of Unrest’s gameplay rests in role-playing, participating in conversations and making decisions that affect the story. There is combat, but it is rare. The game’s realistic nature and unintuitive combat controls means combat will result in almost immediate death. However, death is not punished. The game just takes it as another player choice and keeps rolling, which makes combat an extension of the core gameplay.
Each protagonist encounters a large number of characters to interact with. During conversations, players typically have three dialogue options to choose as a response, each with its own inflection and manner. Different types of responses can range from sensible, hesitant and resigned to wry, hard and diplomatic. Selecting any given type of response can affect how other characters react to the playable character or what outcome results from the conversation.
Conversations are governed by three principles: friendship, respect and fear (indicated by a green, blue and red bar in conversation). Choosing responses throughout a conversation can change how other characters perceive the playable character in one, all or none of those categories. When a metric changes, a sound effect goes off. Paying attention to how a character regards the playable character is important when trying to elicit a specific response or outcome.
The success of Unrest’s gameplay hinges on how deeply you invest yourself into each individual protagonist’s story and get into making decisions as the protagonist. Unrest provides protagonists with interesting individual plights to draw players into the gameplay and story. Problems like Tanya and her impending arranged marriage or Bhagwan and his crisis of faith with Ranveer’s service kure players into making decisions.
When you realize the overarching plot, there arises some minor issues with the choice/decision style gameplay. It can lead players to guild the lily in terms of how the overall plot plays out. Regardless of this, the choice/role-playing style of gameplay makes players invested in Unrest’s characters and story.
Unrest is far from perfect, but it manages to tell an intriguing tale about discontent in ancient Bhirma from the perspective of multiple characters. It spins its yarn quite well featuring characters not often represented in video games, which is no small feat.
The story succeeds thanks to a smart dialogue driven gameplay system that invests players heavily into the action and events unfolding in Unrest. Despite some rough edges, Unrest is worth checking out for its solid story and imaginative take on ancient India.