The Unspoken - VR Oculus Rift + Touch E3 Demo Review

Discover your inner Arch-mage

  • System: Oculus Rift
  • Publisher: Oculus Studios
  • Developer: Insomniac Games
  • Release Date: December 6, 2016
  • Pricing: $29.99
  • Genre: Action, Strategy
  • Players: 1 (vs computer), 1 (online play)
  • Official Website: http://www.insomniacgames.com/games/the-unspoken/
Specs (PC)

OS: Windows 7+

Processor: Intel Core i5 6400

Memory: 8 GB RAM

Graphics: GeForce GTX 960

Who it Caters to

While this year saw fewer VR titles at E3, the platform is all but losing traction. Though it may not be for everyone, much like this writer, there are many of us who have been anxiously awaiting for this technology to reach the gaming heights it is capable of. That being said, E3 was the chance to try a bunch of different VR games on different platforms. The first one we got to try was at the Alienware Pre-E3 party, where we got some snacks, drinks and got our hands on Insomniac's The Unspoken.

Though the game has been released since late 2016, not many have been able to enjoy this Oculus VR + Touch experience, so we had to give it a try even if it was only a short demo. Anyone wanting to feel immersed in the VR world and/or any fans of action and magic will be interested in the experience. Even RPG and FPS fans might get into it as there are different classes and using spells is pretty much like shooting your opponents.

What to Expect

This magical action and strategy game takes place in a world where wizards and magicians inhabit the world; specifically, the city of Chicago, and engage in secret magic battles. Other than that, and the fact that you as the player are a magician of sorts, we don't really get much of a story or background.

However, do expect a lot of learning and getting used to both VR+touch control combinations as well as all the different ways to attack, dodge and summon spells in different arenas varying from shady alleys to city centers.

The Unspoken - Oculus Connect Trailer


Training

This being a demo aimed at those who have never played The Unspoken before, there was a quick training session.

As soon as the headset comes on and the world around you loads, you are in dark and very detailed surroundings. Of course, the first thing I did was the obligatory look-around to really immerse myself in this back alley where I was soon to be trained in magical battling. As expected, the dirt below, the pillar I was standing on, and the worn-out, wall and fence behind me were all wonderfully detailed, giving the feeling of truly being in some abandoned lot, late at night where anything could happen.

Once I got over the initial “woah” feeling, it was time to start training. First off, teleporting; by aiming at spots with blue hands on them and pulling the top right trigger, you are able to transport yourself to the next pillar, be it to attack, pick up magical stones, or to dodge attacks.
Quickly after learning this, you are instructed in how to throw magic fireballs! Fun, right!? By pressing the right trigger and then making a throwing motion while releasing, you can -supposing your aim is good- launch a fireball attack.

By pressing the left trigger and/or other buttons you can summon any of 25 different available spells, except, again, you need to have magic stones to fill up your magic gauge, or you won't be able to protect yourself. Of course, not all of these were available in the demo we played.
Last but not least, I learned how to use other bigger, special attacks which involve multiple buttons, hammering stones on an anvil and/or putting your hands together and then separating them again. Needless to say, I needed -at least- one more round of instructions and practice for this part and could not for the life of me recreate the moves when I was finally in battle after training...

Gameplay

Once the training session was over and I -sort of- had gotten the hang of the moves, in comes my opponent. A floating, evil-looking wizard shows up and you must fire magic at him and teleport for cover. All while making sure you keep picking up magic stones so you can even do most of these things. It was rough... I landed a couple of hits, then realized I couldn't even throw a measly fireball anymore so I kept teleporting from pedestal to pedestal picking up stones and frantically launching fireballs with about 50% accuracy.

By the time I was ready to use the double-handed mega attack, I had completely forgotten which buttons to press and it didn't matter because I'd used up all my magic. Once I finally got the hang of things, I was able to land more fireball attacks, and I also got better at dodging, which seems like a better idea, since you easily run out of magic. Or at least that was the case with the demo.

In regards to the visuals, that seems to be where most of the focus was when designing the game. While there isn’t much of a story and you don’t even know if you’re the good guy or the bad guy, the surroundings are pretty realistic and so are the enemies and magic attacks. It’s certainly an aesthetically pleasing experience.


Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

When reviewing or passing judgement on The Unspoken and other E3 demos, it's important to keep in mind that they are, well, demos. They are not complete and the version you play is most likely specifically designed for gaming expos and such. With that said, the training section could have been a bit more thorough, or at least let you try the moves your learning a couple more times, especially considering VR is still a new technology and many, if not most of the people who pick up games like this, will be complete novices to the genre probably even over the next few years.

The entire demo took place in a very small space. While it was beautifully detailed, we only saw so much and the surroundings didn't change much. Thin of it as a 2D fighting game, except it’s in a small 3D space. And while teleporting is cool, there wasn't much of a feeling of moving around, flying or floating, just kind of appearing in one place or another. In that sense, it felt like The Unspoken wasted some opportunities to really immerse the player in its world. It almost feels restricted, though beautifully so.

The graphics of the surroundings were magnificent, as was the animation when facing the enemy, as well as when using magic. The game fulfills its mission of making you feel like a wizard, and it was pretty exciting to feel like I was actually conjuring magic and launching it. And the stress of “OMG, I need to dodge, get some stones, AND attack this dude like NOW!” feels so real, my heart was racing. The struggle was real! The Unspoken’s high difficulty is certainly not for VR newbs.

Honey's Pros:

  • You’re a wizard!
  • Gorgeous graphics and animation
  • It combines the Oculus’ VR and Touch capabilities wonderfully, truly immersing you in the world.
  • Its difficulty makes it exciting.

Honey's Cons:

  • Picking up items and going through the summoning motions takes a lot of time and leaves you exposed to attacks.
  • High difficulty limits newcomers to the platform.
  • Once you do get the hang of it, it can get kind of stale.
  • The stay-on-your-platform mechanic feels restrictive

Honey's Final Verdict:

All in all, The Unspoken is a great idea which we hope will eventually go above and beyond what we tested out. Because, while it was fun, there is so much more potential! Here's hoping for freer movement throughout the arenas and maybe a “super newbie” training setting for those new to VR. And Insomniac mentioned a bunch of new modes, classes, spells, arenas, and artifacts are rolling out throughout 2017, so we’ll definitely see some improvements! Have you played The Unspoken? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Nya~!

Lizzy Nyanko

Translator/Writer

Author: Lizzy Nyanko

I’m a Mexican-American gypsy cat-girl living in Tokyo. I love all kinds of anime, all things Japanese, photography, cats, food and I live for new experiences! When I’m not writing or watching anime, you’ll find me in thrift shops, roaming around Tokyo, hiking, festivals or at an izakaya. I’m always busy doing something, but I answer comments as soon as I see them, so let me hear what you have to say! Nya~!

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