Unworthy is a metroidvania souls-like developed and published by Aleksandar Kuzmanovic Games Inc. Today, Aleksandar Kuzmanovic is part of Mongoose Rodeo, who as of writing this article have hit almost every stretch goal for their new game on kickstarter, Crowsworn. I was so excited by Crowsworn that I decided to buy and play his first game, Unworthy: a bleak trek through a world reduced to monsters and corrupted warriors that see’s your newly resurrected self fighting to change your own fate. The best indicator of future work is past work, so lets see what we’re in store for with the Unworthy PC Review!
The games plot is cryptic at best, feeding you disjointed pieces of dialogue and text from a bundle of sources, but the way you start is definitely impactful. You see images of an underground area, before showing shots of a man chained to a wall being whipped by some demonic creature. As the creature whips you, suddenly you yank on the chains which pull the creature with it, and you fall onto it, crushing it instantly; you are free.
You escape the underground area to find yourself in a graveyard, and you’re away. An npc tells you your ambitions will get you killed, and others have failed many times before you. Oh well, you think, and you proceed to slaughter endless hordes of creatively made enemies and bosses in order to realise your ambitions.
If that seemed vague and handwavy that’s because it was, I’ve played the game four times and still am unsure about what actually takes place. My best guess is SPOILERS, SKIP AHEAD TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT TO WORK IT OUT YOURSELF a man named Father Altus saw the world was drenched in sin, so communed with a greater power to rid the world of sin and purify humanity. In order to do this he sacrificed a child to this greater power but this act actually plunged most of the world into a horrific state and the denizens became ‘filth’, people so filled with sin they became monsters. You as a newly awoken ‘lamb’, a powerful experimental weapon of the church, returned from the afterlife now set out on a path to destroy the filth along the way and take the place of father Altus, who sits above the world in penance for his crimes.
This might be completely correct or just my mad ramblings, but there in lies the beauty of the game; even when you look at all the pieces of the story the plot is still drenched in uncertainty and this lends the game part of its incredible atmosphere, like you’re not supposed to know the bigger picture and you’re just a nobody. I wont pretend I’m smart enough to have actually figured the plot out with confidence, but there’s enough for even casual lore hunters to get a feel for what’s happened and that actually gives the game more personality and interest than most.
The tag line for this game was ‘a metroidvania, without jumping!’ and that’s pretty much accurate, but there’s so much more. The combat is so simple yet there’s a beautifully high skill ceiling to mastering it. You can find a variety of weapons of your travels, all with different utility and special combat moves to them. The sword and shield at the start lets you negate one attack but then puts that ability on a cooldown, so you could block all incoming damage if you don’t get hit for about 15 seconds between each attack. The glaive was a personal favourite, giving a large spinning move that hits multiple times and deals huge damage if all hits land. Other weapons would be spoilers but they’re all equally useful and most of them have an exploration mechanic tied to them, all feeling like weapons and tools simultaneously.
On a base level, the combat is roll, hit, roll, hit, repeat. But as you play you start feeling out attacks more, noting enemy patterns, when to roll to exploit openings, what specific moves to use to deal maximum damage between enemy attacks, and you start to notice this beautiful flow to the combat. The pinnacle for me was on a third playthrough, I beat the last boss in 2 minutes with only being damaged once or twice, as I had realised the boss had huge exploitable attack patterns for certain moves. I would like to stress though, this was only after I had died over a dozen times on my first play through to him, and also on my second. It’s a game that rewards aggressive combat alongside thorough knowledge of your enemies attack patterns.
This all applies to the boss battles though, outside of that you’ll be taking on a myriad of different creatures in often claustrophobic areas. It can easily get overwhelming, especially with later areas throwing multiple tough opponents at you at once. It’ll take clever combat choices or quick retreats to make sure you aren’t easily overpowered by the horde of filth. The whole of the traversal is based around ladders, elevators, and an item you get later on that, with inquisitive thinking and a skilled hand, can flat out let you skip the intended path. It all feeds back into the combat as elevators wont work if enemies are nearby, and going up ladders at the wrong time will see you knocked off by an enemy attack. The game is all about understanding what’s around you and making decisions accordingly, but if you make the right decision you’ll be able to fly through the game with ease.
The sin you acquire from enemies has multiple uses. Firstly, the levelling is decoupled from the sin you earn entirely (sin being this games currency given by defeating enemies), meaning dying has no effect on character progression. But what it does affect is atonements, this games skill tree. These atonements are incredibly powerful and you’ll want to utilise them as much as possible, so losing huge chunks of sin can feel like a real kick to the teeth even without losing your levelling. The most basic one is your health items will do more healing with each atonement point, something that is frankly crucial later in the game. Sin can also be used to buy items from vendors, but I never got much use from the consumables the game had to offer.
Of course, the artistic design of the game is about as primitive as you can get, but I would argue not minimalistic. The pixel art is all in greyscale, with no intricate detail as all enemies have been silhouetted, but this sends your imagination into overdrive each time you see a new enemy, imagining what they would look like in higher detail. Enemies that are masses of tentacles or animated limbs project an air of disgust and horror, without actually subjecting you to it. It feels like the world is in a dreamy state you can’t quite pull the finer detail out of, which is thematically how the plot feels at times. This art style also makes the enemies and characters have a need to convey themselves instantly, like one boss who stood tall and regal as a knight should, or the dejected priest who’s head slouches downwards. Every enemy design is unique and immediately conveys to you what their identity as a roadblock to you will be like.
The world design is phenomenal, with most areas feeling very distinct and intricately designed despite the limited artistic choices, ranging from a deep flooded ravine to a thorn covered maze to a grand abandoned church. There’s always something new to see in Unworthy, making each area a joy to explore but with a good amount of apprehension.
The sound design for this game really brings out the potential of the beautifully fluid animation, with ambient sounds filling hallways, incredibly satisfying mechanical sound effects for the elevators and a great OST to accompany the bossfights. I normally wouldn’t notice these things in a such a conscious way, but when the visual medium is more restrained the sound design seemed to become more of a focus, and with the stellar sound design the visuals seemed to come to life and were given more gravitas in my mind, which almost fooled me in to thinking I was just looking at a silhouetted version of something much more detailed and real. The sound complements the graphics, and vice versa, leading to a fantastic suspension of disbelief for the entire experience.
Unworthy PC Review – Verdict
As you can probably tell, I’m quite a fan of this game. The graphics are beautifully smooth and meticulous, the level design is excellent, and the gameplay is perfectly matched by some stellar boss fights which when mastered become a fine dance between two opponents. The game has its flaws of course, notably a secret ending which is incredibly unintuitive to reach based on logic which killed my momentum for a while, and being ganged up on by enemies in some sections can feel like no level of skill will help get you of it and to just hit and pray. These are small gripes though for a game that overall had me completely enthralled from start to finish.
What does this tell us about the upcoming game Crowsworn? Well, I’m going to make three claims; the game will have a solid, weighty, fully developed combat system that feels intuitive and has hidden depth to its mechanics. It might be a fair bit more complicated than the simple affair shown in Unworthy, but its likely to have the same polish and feel. Secondly, the world building will be intricate and hidden, giving lore hunters something to work towards as they uncover all of the games hidden secrets. And thirdly, the enemies and bosses are going to be full of imagination and challenge, something to be mastered through muscle memory leading to insanely high skilful gameplay that few of us will master. I absolutely cannot wait for Crowsworn, and I’m already missing the feeling my first playthrough of Unworthy gave me.
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