Unsighted Review

I don't quite remember when I first laid eyes Unsighted, but upon seeing its artstyle alone, I was immediately eager to check it out. A slick pixel-art presentation with a sci-fi dystopian aesthetic piqued my interest, and learning it was an exploration-focused action RPG was icing on the cake.

Unsighted features a cast of characters known as Automatons - humanoid robots that have miraculously gained sentience after a strange meteor lands in the metropolitan city of Arcadia. However, humankind wasn't too keen on having their creations gain wills of their own, resulting in war between humans and the Automatons, leaving a desolate world in the wake of battle. Alma, an Automaton & our main heroine, wakes up in this hellscape. Devoid of memories, she slowly realizes not only what happened to her prior to the events of the game, but also what she must do to bring an end to the conflict.

Unsighted_20210615_02.jpg

You soon learn that you must acquire five meteor shards in order to craft the ultimate weapon to end the war, and the five of these act as your ultimate collectible macguffins. The game generally gives you free rein at this point, where you are set off to explore the ruined city of Arcadia to take on foes, find materials/weapons, and collect these shards. Much like a Metroid title, Arcadia is constructed as a series of connected rooms, and various paths will be blocked to you early on. As you gain new weapons and abilities, you'll be able to open up more shortcuts to unlock new areas and find new loot. 

Exploration is a highlight in Unsighted. Navigating the landscape, learning how you can use your tools to access different paths, and finding all the hidden loot tucked away is entertaining and rewarding. While the game will clue you in on the best direction to take and even offers a suggested route at times to complete your main objective, savvy enough players can often find their own paths, even going out of the recommended order if you'd like. 

Unsighted's simple artstyle is something reminiscent of games like Hyper Light Drifter, featuring minimalist but very fluid pixel-art with a top-down viewpoint. The combat is somewhat similar too, where various foes are tackled in real-time with emphasis on learning enemy attack patterns and countering accordingly. Alma can equip various melee weapons, such as swords and axes, as well as some ranged blaster-type weapons, which gives the combat a slight twin-stick shooter feel. The game controls pretty nicely on gamepads, with each weapon tied to one of the triggers. If this set-up isn't suited to your preferences, the game does offer fully remappable buttons.

Unsighted_20210615_01.jpg

A big component of Unsighted's combat is its parry system. Almost any attack from any enemy is forewarned with a red flash, prompting you to prepare your reflexes for a well-timed parry. If your timing is good enough, the oncoming enemy will be momentarily dazed, leaving them open for your own assault. Not only are they temporarily harmless in this dazed state, but you'll also do much more damage, leading to quick and efficient takedowns if your parry game is good enough.

You can get through most of the game fine enough if you aren't big on parrying, but it does make things a lot easier on yourself if you manage to master the timing. Combat can get reasonably tough later in the game, and some enemies often require Alma to parry a few times in succession before they reach a dazed state. What I found is that some enemy attacks were readily blocked while some I could never get the timing down just right - you're sure to find your preferred way to take down foes as you play.

While Humble Games frequently bills Unsighted as an action RPG, it only barely fits the mold. There are no levels or EXP, but you can find various Chips you can install that can affect elements like Alma's health, stamina, or damage output. You can also strengthen your weapons with certain materials so they do more damage, but otherwise, the RPG elements remain fairly light. It's important to note that Alma's chip loadout can make a pretty significant difference later on when taking on certain enemies, especially bosses, so it is something to keep in mind.

Advertisement. Keep scrolling for more

Unsighted's most novel mechanic, though, is a sort of time limit that perpetually ticks down as you navigate through the ruined world of Arcadia. Every time you enter a new screen on the map, the game will warn you how many 'hours' you have left before you are unsighted. This titular term is a key problem facing the livelihoods of Automatons. The energy that allows them to maintain their consciousness is known as Anima, but it's not something they can produce on their own. Run out, and any Automaton will effectively turn feral and dangerous, dubbed "unsighted". 

So, the game's time limit mechanics reflect this. Simply put: take too long, and you fail. This isn't only true for the playable character Alma, but for every NPC you meet in the game, including story-important ones and shopkeepers. The way this looming issue is mitigated is by finding Meteor Dust as you travel, which is a source of Anima. As it is collected, you can either use this consumable on yourself to delay your own clock, or you can use it on the dozen or more NPCs you'll work with throughout the game. 

Giving Meteor Dust to NPCs not only delays the time left until they are unsighted, but it can also reward Alma with bonus capabilities or weapons, depending on who you decide to give the dust to. Studio Pixel Punk also states that the game will have various endings depending on who is alive by the end.

Unsighted_Capture_03.png

If the thought of having an ever-present clock ticking down at all times stresses you out, especially in a game where you are spending most of your time exploring, you're not alone. When I first heard about this mechanic, my interest in the game wavered a bit. However, Studio Pixel Punk did seem to anticipate hesitation like mine. In Unsighted is an Explorer Mode option, which basically acts as a cheat mode build into the game. Here, you can set a slowdown on the time restriction mechanics, which basically all-but-nullifies the time limits entirely. They are technically still in place, but you'd have to be egregiously slow to have them ever become a point of consideration. Explorer Mode also offers other cheats that you can toggle, such as reduced difficulty and increased stamina. You can even just straight-up enter god mode if you want.

The only 'catch' to Explorer Mode is that it does restrict some of the achievements you can earn, if you are into that scene. However, the achievements locked in Explorer Mode are ones you probably wouldn't hassle with on a first playthrough anyway - a speedrun, hard mode, and a low-level challenge.

I personally played Unsighted in Explorer Mode with the time limit slowdown on, as going in I simply didn't want to be stressed out knowing I was on the clock at all times. While it does alleviate any sense of stress as you can leisurely explore the interconnected world looking for secrets & back-tracking for new items, it is a little odd that there's now a whole system in place of earning time extension dust that is basically invalidated. But, that's a fair trade-off for those who just want to explore with no repercussions on who lives and who dies.

If I do replay the game in the future, I'll probably try with the time limits in place now that I am more familiar with the game world and controls. It's certainly a nice option to have, so you can either decide to leisurely explore or work with the thrill knowing every second counts.

Unsighted_Capture_01.png

A couple of niggling issues do come up as you proceed through Arcadia. In Unsighted, you can only have two weapons equipped at any time, one in each hand. However, a couple of traversal items also take up a weapon slot, such as the Hookshot or Ice Grenade launcher. Neither of these weapons are especially great in combat, but you'll be using them frequently simply to get around from room to room. So, in later areas of the game that have more tricky dungeon layouts, you'll find yourself constantly going into and out of your menu to re-equip and un-equip items like the Hookshot, or whatever it is you need to get around, and then back to your preferred weapon loadout to fight, then back to traversal items to move around again.

Advertisement. Keep scrolling for more

It's certainly not a game-breaker, but I can't help but this it would have been optimal to have traversal items accessed and utilized separated from your combat weapons, so avoid having to menu shuffle so frequently.

Some of later areas of the game also tend to get a little bit overwrought with puzzle elements, too. A late-game dungeon requires you to move a mech-like robot around a fiery temple, which landed just a bit dull for me. Nothing that wasn't difficult to figure out or execute, more that proceeding through the dungeon felt more tedious than interesting.

Unsighted's story is heartwarming and charming in places, but I never felt too invested in the outcome of the characters or world. It works well enough as a motivating force behind the exploration and the game's stylish setting, while also offering a diverse cast of characters and some queer representation. 

Unsighted also offers two extra modes for players: a self-explanatory Boss Rush mode and a Dungeon Raid mode, which playable more like an action roguelike. I didn't put much time into these two modes, but those who really gel with the game's combat and really want to test their skills may find a considerable amount of replay value here.

Unsighted is a fun, quick little game, lasting me around ten hours on my first playthrough. Its combat and exploration are rewarding, the presentation is stylishly retro, and the narrative is good enough to round out the package. Some of the systems in place come across a little bit more tedious than they feel they should be, and the time-restriction mechanics don't do anything for me, but nitpicks aside, Unsighted is a solid pixel-art indie worth checking out.

8
Enjoyed this article? Share it!