Unrest is an interesting game. It bills itself as an RPG, even though it differs heavily from every RPG I’ve ever played. Arguably it more deserves to be called a Role Playing Game then most of the games currently occupying the genre. While playing Unrest you take on different roles, ranging from a princess to a lowly peasant, from a humble priest to a mercenary captain. In these roles you must make a number of important decisions that will affect the fate of the city of Bhimra.
And that’s really what Unrest is about: the city of Bhimra and its future. Will it collapse from internal unrest, be conquered from outside, or will it survive. Each of the characters you play gives you a different perspective on the trouble the city is facing. The setup is that the city is facing a famine, which of course leads to a food shortage, and a large number of people in the slums are particularly discontent with the current situation.
The King and Queen of Bhimra have worked out a trade agreement with the Naga empire which may bring prosperity to the city and alleviate the effects of the famine. However, general distrust of the Naga makes this trade agreement unpopular even if it is ultimately for the good of the city. The Naga are a reptilian race, a fair number of which have immigrated to the Bhimra, and many live in the slums. A religious leader, Ranveer, who is quickly growing in popularity, blames the Naga for the famine and further exacerbates the situation.
All these issues quickly boil up into open conflict. I’ll avoid talking too much more about the story to avoid spoiling it, but it is very well written, and offers some tough decisions to the player. There are no easy solutions to the problems this city is facing. The game is fairly short, approximately 2-3 hours, varying depending on which decisions you make and how many optional people you talk to. Despite its length, the game is very densely packed with plot.
Unrest is set in a fantasy version of India, which is a fairly unexplored location in video games, and offers a nice change of scenery. This Indian influence can be seen in the architecture as well as the culture of the people in the game. The caste system and the effects it has on people’s lives will come up in the dialogue. A final touch is an excellent, although somewhat small, soundtrack. The authentic Indian instruments fit perfectly with the setting of the game.
This brings us to the gameplay of Unrest. It revolves mainly around making dialogue choices, some of which have life and death hanging in the balance. There are some choices of another nature to make, such as handing out a limited supply of bread and medicine in the slums, which is perhaps more interesting than any of the dialogue choices. It certainly presents a dilemma to the player, knowing they can’t feed everyone.
Also interesting was a section where you have a job interview to decide who will replace a sergeant that deserted. You simply ask the candidates a few questions and based on their responses you decide which one should be the new sergeant. While I appreciate having this unusual decision to make, it didn’t really seem to have any effect on what occurred later in the story, which is disappointing.
Unlike most other RPGs which focus a lot on combat, Unrest doesn’t have very much combat at all, and what little there is, is substantially different from what you get in other games. In my two playthroughs of the game, I only ran into one situation that might be considered combat, although there may be more in the game if different decisions are made. Essentially I was outnumbered and the enemy told me to surrender. My options were to lay down my weapon or fight. After choosing to fight I selected a target. The fight resolved itself after that. Choosing to fight is not something to take lightly and could have serious consequences.
The characters, both playable and non-playable, are very interesting, with complex backstories and motivations. You do have an inventory in Unrest, but most of the items have no actual gameplay purpose: they simply exist to give more insight into the character you are playing. There are exceptions, and a few items can be given to people to advance or alter the plot, but in general they just reveal more details about the character. Playable characters also have traits which can be viewed, such as naive or loyal. While most characters start out with a few, they can also gain new traits based on choices the player makes, which give a real sense of character development as the game progresses.
Overall my biggest disappointment with Unrest is that it seemed like the choices had very little impact in how the story plays out, which became more apparent on the second playthrough. You get good feedback in the short-term, with characters responding to your decisions, but it didn’t make much difference in the long run. There are a minor bits of dialogue later on which reference some previous decisions, but the major plot points are essentially unchanged regardless of what you do.
The ending is the biggest letdown of all. Keeping it vague to avoid spoilers, but basically the final section of the game is a conversation between two characters where they discuss the future of the city and how they think it will turn out in the aftermath of the events of the game. This in itself is okay, in fact focusing on the city itself is the right decision. As I said before, Unrest is about the city of Bhimra more so than any specific character. The problem is that the conversation is incredibly short and too vague. You don’t really get a good idea of what the fate of the city will be. Despite making very different choices, this final section was exactly the same in both of my games.
As a final note, I should mention a slight technical problem I had running this game. It appears to only be a problem on Linux, so if you aren’t playing it on Linux you can ignore this paragraph. When trying to run Unrest the first time, it couldn’t run because it wasn’t able to find some libraries. Which is strange because those libraries were downloaded when the game was installed; I could see them in the folder. This Steam thread helped me resolve the problems so it can probably help you as well if you need it.
This game was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on the Linux platform.
The Game has excellent writing, but fails to live up to its full potential. Lack of serious long term consequences and a disappointing ending hold back the game from greatness.