September 30, 2021
Unsighted is a kickass top-down action game with Metroidvania and Souls trappings wrapped around a devilish premise. Set in the dystopian world of Arcadia, you control Alma, a powerful human-like robot known as an automaton who awakens with amnesia. Her primary goal is finding her romantic partner, Raquel, who has gone missing. On a less personal though still distressing note, the automaton-populated city is running out of Anima. This precious resource is the source of these machine’s humanity. It allows them to think and feel exactly as we do, and without it, they devolve into mindless monsters called Unsighted. That means you and everyone else is living on borrowed time in a world already infested with these unfortunate beasts.
You know how some video game stories are a race against the clock, but you really have all the time in the world? Unsighted isn’t bluffing about that. Everyone has a life expectancy measured by hours that constantly ticks down. Supporting characters, quest-giving NPCs, shop owners, and even your Navi-esque fairy robot companion are all at risk of becoming Unsighted. That includes yourself. Some have 500 hours to their names, while others have 100 or less. An in-game clock, communicated via a day/night cycle, helps keep track of how much time remains, as does a contact list of every notable person you encounter.
The premise is fascinating, but it also sounded stressful. I worried that I’d have to rush through a beautiful world – and Unsighted is a very pretty game – to save as many lives as possible. Contextually, that would be ideal, but the game also allows you to take your time. Days pass much quicker than real-time, of course, but not fast enough to make you feel like you need to speedrun the adventure. I’ve taken my time exploring Arcadia thoroughly, but I’ve also found a fun challenge in seeing how quickly I can get through dungeons without skimping on hidden treasures and upgrades.
You can extend your time and others’ by finding meteor dust, a semi-rare resource that adds 24 hours to anyone’s clock. I found it rewarding to simply help characters I like, but there are also tangible rewards for keeping someone around. Giving meteor dust to shop owners raises their favor of you, measured by hearts, and rewards discounts. My weapon-smith had over three weeks to live, but I hooked him up with some dust anyway so I could afford a powerful flaming sword. Shop owners also hint that they can create powerful items given enough time. Another character grants additional estus flask-style healing syringes at the cost of three helpings of meteor dust.
This system presents challenge though enjoyable conundrums. Do you help your favorite side character just to keep them around longer, assist a vendor to earn vital equipment, or use it on yourself? Knowing exactly how much time even the most superfluous NPC has left creates a powerful urgency, not to mention a perpetual sense of melancholy and purpose. A cheerful pet shop owner with a spider-like body told me his dream to find a way to safely pet dogs without scaring them, given his knife-like limbs. I looked at his remaining time, let out a sigh of relief that he has awhile to go before turning, and I made it my mission to make sure this guy lives long enough to pet a dog. The story unfolds in various ways depending on who survives and for how long, with multiple endings to boot. You can miss out on certain story treads as a result, giving plenty of reasons to revisit Unsighted after the credits roll.
This timer makes me feel more attached to characters as I can’t take their presence for granted. There also seems to be some emergent moments with NPC’s. While exploring, my fairy-bot suddenly stopped to confide in me a story about her long-lost sister, who she hopes to find one day and potentially opening another story thread. Though I haven’t lost anyone yet (an elderly farmer is teetering on the brink, though), I’ve committed to the decision that if they die, they die and to see the story through no matter what happens while bracing for heartbreak.
The set-up rocks, but Unsighted also plays like a dream. The fast-paced melee combat is great, and a satisfying parry sets up powerful counterattacks. Alma can equip a variety of melee weapons and firearms (complete with an active reload), and you have the freedom to mix and match as you see fit. You can mix close quarters and ranged offense with a katana/blaster load-out. Want something akin to a twin-stick shooter? Dual-wield a shotgun and a machine pistol. Or go full barbarian with a heavy ax/sword combo. Weapons can also be used to solve environmental puzzles, such as steering a giant shuriken to hit distant switches or carry fire to torches. A stamina meter adds strategic mindfulness to encounters without feeling overly restrictive.
You can customize Alma to your liking with various chips granting bonuses such as increased health, stamina, or buffs like health-draining attacks or faster reload times. You only have a limited number of slots for chips, meaning you’ll have to change load-outs for certain encounters, though you can unlock additional slots at special healing terminals. Furthermore, temporary cogs grant limited-use bonuses such as increased attack power for a set number of swings or a revive upon death.
Complimenting the combat is Alma’s smooth, snappy movement. The way she runs, jumps, and climbs up structures feels great, and it doesn’t take long before you’re gleefully maneuvering around areas while slashing enemies to scrap. Unsighted knows how good it plays by challenging players with a fair amount of platforming challenges that, again, is unexpected in a game with this perspective, but it works. It also makes exploring Unsighted’s giant world a treat. The game is basically a top-down Metroidvania, and your main goal is to collect five scattered meteor shards, each guarded by a big bad. You can pursue shards in any order with certain obstacles blocked until you either purchase or locate a weapon to clear it. Along the way, you’ll find side objectives, lore bits, and other secrets worth going out of your way to uncover – provided you think it’s worth the time.
I’m having a blast with Unsighted. The action rocks, the ticking clock creates real stakes that add a welcome weight to your actions. The world and its lore are fascinating, and it boasts a wonderful presentation to boot. I can’t wait to see how my adventure unfolds and who ultimately keeps their sanity by the end it. You can pick Unsighted up on September 30 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC, and it’s also launching on Xbox Game Pass. There’s also a demo for those looking to try before they buy.