The Unspoken was easily one of the games that got our attention during Oculus Connect 3 back last fall. Throw in sorcery and magic, combined with some inventive gesture controls courtesy of the Oculus Touch, and what we have here is a game that breathes depth and strategy in order to win. And it helps, too, that the game looks visually polished from start to finish.
Based on what we’ve experienced in our short time checking it out back then, we were already sold on its premise – one-on-one duels between sorcerers and magician. Finding a balance between action and strategy, Insomniac Games’ The Unspoken is poised to be a must-buy for Rift owners, but as much as we want to stand behind that statement based on initial impression, let’s first see what kind of substance is backing this title as we dive deeper in this full review.
Unlike the last game we played from Insomniac Games, the third-person action thriller in Edge of Nowhere, which featured a deep story arc, The Unspoken is a bit more reserved in its storytelling. In fact, it plays more to its strength of being a multi-player driven game, rather than a single player one – so there’s no real advancement to the story besides dueling against opponents.
The game is set throughout the sprawling city of Chicago, covering a myriad of locations consisting of parks, construction sites, and downtown hotspots. At the core of it all is that magic is real, as these practitioners are forced to duel in secrecy – so they don’t disturb the physical real world. And that’s about it!
Even as we progress through some of the practice and online matches, there’s nothing that really pushes the story forward, which is a shame in a way. For all we know, our character is on the side of evil. Or maybe good? Either way, we’re just dueling against another opponent using our various spells and magic to defeat them.
Despite the lack of substance behind The Unspoken’s storyline, we will certainly say that Insomniac Games does a phenomenal job with its graphics. It’s undeniably one of the more visually compelling games we’ve seen for the Rift, blending detailed environments with spectacular lighting that comes from all the magic spells.
Best of all, too, there’s variety in where these duels take place. From the dark and grimy underground areas, to the sprawling downtown area with flashy billboards, and even the scenic atmosphere of a small park, it does a great job of convincing us that the experience is ‘real’. Its visual flare is even exemplified whenever we summon these giant golems to help dispose our enemy, something that’s accompanied with amazing, awe-inspiring visuals that justifies the enormity of the game.
If you’ve ever played RPG games and dreamed about what it’d be like to be classes consisting of wizards, summoners, mages, and the likes, then you’ll appreciate at how The Unspoken practically makes you feel like you’re in those roles. And that’s a tough thing to imagine, until you step into The Unspoken’s world and experience yourself what it’s like to cast spells and magic.
At the core of it all, it’s a player-versus-player game that has two opponents dueling against one another. If you get bored of playing against your computer controlled opponent, you can always opt to play online against a real opponent, which we feel offers significantly more challenge – just because these computer controlled opponents are easy to dispose.
Considering it’s one of the showcase titles bred for the Oculus Touch controllers, The Unspoken doesn’t disappoint in delivering some sweet action courtesy of gestures performed using the Touch controllers. From shooting out fireballs from our hands, which obviously requires us to do a throwing gesture while releasing one of the triggers, to casting complex spells that requires us to pound a hammer down onto specific spots on an anvil to craft a spear, the game manages to mix up a decent amount of interaction to make the game even more believable.
When it comes to the basic attacks, they boil down to light projectiles and shields. Now, depending on what class you select, these attacks will differ, like how an anarchist will cast fireballs, while a kineticist will rely on telekinesis to throw projectiles from the environment. There are advanced gestures that require us to move our hands in specific formations, to cast even stronger attack and defend spells.
In building us up to even greater spells, we pick up these jewels that spawn in different areas to help increase the power that’s necessary to unleash spells from our armed artifacts. These spells, however, involve more time that leaves us prone to attack, but nonetheless, they’re pretty cool in how they’re cast. For example, there’s one spell that has us picking up a marker (yes, an actual coloring marker), to draw something on a page to cast a Mystic Wall for protection against attacks.
With more than 25 spells between the three different classes in the game, you’d think that there would be no shortage of variety. However, after we were able to master each class, the game as a whole becomes rather repetitive. The game as a whole is just about defeating your opponent and surviving, by casting those spells and whatnot. And this is arguably one of the game’s weakest points, as there’s really not a whole lot of depth when you master the mechanics.
Sure, casting those spells using the Touch controllers is neat the first few times, but when you find yourself at around the 50th or so time doing it, you’ll realize just like us that it simply becomes repetitive.
Not once did we fall ill or sick playing through the game, which is a testament to the optimizations of the game, responsiveness of the tracking system, and general performance of the game in VR. For starters, it’s set in a first person perspective – so we see the world and cast magnificent spells through the eyes of our character. This alone makes it feel more like we’re the ones in the thick of battle.
Given that this game blends some action and strategy elements, there’s a sense of urgency casting spells – while defending against attacks. Luckily, even with all the frenzied action going on, the VR experience was more that stable in never making us queasy or sick. And believe us, it’s another game that showcases the unprecedented interaction we’re put through in the VR world!
The only thing we can lament about is the fact that most of the interaction is done on a stationary platform. Meaning, we’re mostly standing still as we faceoff against our opponent, with very little instances of being forced to duck, look behind us, or walking a little bit away from our center point. We get that the game isn’t trying to have us walking around within the boundary we’ve set up with the Guardian system, all while trying to keep up with the intensity of the battle, but it would’ve still been nice to see some variety.
By itself, the Oculus Touch controllers would have a difficult time selling themselves to consumers, but Insomniac Games’ The Unspoken delivers on the goods in being a showcase title – showing off exactly what these bundle of joys have to offer. For the most part, The Unspoken will have you amazed by its unconventional gameplay that heavily leverages a variety of motion gestures for players to cast spells.
Adding to the game’s $29.99 cost is its gorgeous looking graphics and smooth VR performance, so it’s the kind of game that no doubt leaves a good impression on us. While the majority of our feelings about the game are positive, it does indeed becomes a bit repetitive dueling against opponents using the same spells time-after-time. Of course, the first few times it’s an awe-inspiring experience, but once the allure has settled down, you’ll realize just like us how it’s rather lacking in the single-player department.
Don’t let that dissuade you though, just because for the price of owning the game, it’s still worth the investment experiencing one of the best launch titles for the Oculus Touch controllers.