The first rule of fight club is do not talk talk about fight club. The first rule of urban, underground, magic fight club is always make sure your fireball is fully charged before throwing it. Welcome to The Unspoken.
At the core of The Unspoken is a central question: What if magic was real? What if the man that sells you your coffee, the woman across from you on the train, or the oddly quiet coworker at the office, secretly had the ability to fling cop cars around like snowballs or summon death itself to attack you? What if instead of robes and cloaks, wizards wore hoodies and Chuck Taylors? And what if all of these people wanted you dead?
The Unspoken, developed by Insomniac (Ratchet and Clank, Sunset Overdrive), is the third title in a trio of VR games for the Oculus Rift. Their first two VR titles were Edge of Nowhere [Review: 9/10] and Feral Rites [Review: 5/10]. The Unspoken also has the distinct honor of being a free bundle title for the upcoming Oculus Touch platform and therefore has a lot of expectations placed on its shoulders.
Not only does it need to be a fun game worthy of highly respected AAA developers, but it also needs to justify the purchase of a $199 accessory to a horde of content hungry consumers. On both counts, it succeeds with flying colors.
This game is all about one thing: making you feel magical. Whether you are launching fireballs, summoning ancient beasts to do your bidding, or casting a perfectly timed shield, The Unspoken wants to send you on an adrenaline packed power trip from the moment you move past the title screen.
Everything in this game revolves around multiplayer combat. There is a loose story about a secret order of magicians hunting you down for flaunting your otherworldly power, but for the most part it all comes down to your fights against other players. There is no single player campaign and the only thing you can really do by yourself is a rudimentary practice mode with an A.I. opponent. The Unspoken was built from the ground up as a multiplayer battler, even if the interesting lore and scope of this game will leave you craving some sort of single player story to play through in between brawls.
Naturally, it’s important to talk about combat. Every ounce of fighting each other in The Unspoken is fun. Like, really fun. It’s addictively fun. It’s “what do you mean my electric bill hasn’t been payed in three months I’ve only been playing for an hour…oh wait,” kind of fun.
Before you even get on the battlefield you’ll need to choose a class and a load out for your artifacts. Artifacts are powerful spells that can be used once per round during a fight and involve a more complex series of gestures than the average attack to pull off. These game-changing abilities allow you to deal heavy damage with a paper airplane that turns into a squadron of fighter jets, prevent your opponent from moving with cthulu-like tentacles, or wield a lighting infused spear that cracks through any of your enemy’s shields.
In addition to these heavy-hitters, each wizard class also has its own unique repertoire of gestural spells to dish out. There are three classes in total: Anarchist (a firey class armed with flame attacks, firework barrages, and a devastating molten skull), Blackjack (a nimble class requiring more precise aim with stealth abilities, magical blades, and a pack of mystical playing cards) and Kinetic (a telepath class that uses objects from around the world to wear enemies down before finishing them off with a devastating bombardment of flying automobiles).
Each class triggers their various abilities by holding down the grip buttons on each Touch Controller and demonstrating either a push (hands together), volley (hands apart), or shield (hands crossed) pose for a few seconds. The inputs are simple but when performed inside an immersive VR duel, they make you feel nothing short of unstoppable.
The Unspoken‘s Chicago setting provides several unique and memorable maps. The stages are divided in half with an assortment of pedestals on either side. In order to move during combat you must target a pedestal on your side with a teleport spell. Some locations have cover to hide behind and both you and your opponent can destroy each other’s pedestals. The stages themselves are dynamic, changing as each of a battle’s three rounds progress to provide more pedestals, different stage hazards, and a special, almighty summon that both players must fight for by attacking a glowing orb.
The different classes, dynamic stages, strategic mobility and varying artifact load outs all work together to make The Unspoken one of the most consistently entertaining and deeply competitive VR games made thus far. Once the game is out for the public, the servers flicker to life, and the online meta starts to develop, it would not be surprising to see a game like this become a staple of the e-Sports community and perhaps even earn itself a spot on some of that industry’s most famous stages.
For the purposes of this review, multiplayer matches were arranged internally between Upload employees for the most part, so the quality and consistency of finding matches will reside entirely with the community’s interest and support. One of the most important aspects of keeping a multiplayer-only title such as this alive for any stretch of time will be infusing it with regular content updates, new classes, new stages, and new abilities beyond just the launch window. Popular e-Sports titles such as Overwatch, League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Heroes of the Storm are perfect examples to look at for how to do post-launch support correctly.
The Unspoken is a message from Oculus and Insomniac that the next level of VR gaming has arrived. This is a title that could only ever work in a VR headset and it succeeds because of, rather than in spite of, the unique capabilities of its platform. The Unspoken represents everything that is fun about playing games in VR and has all the makings of an iconic title we will still be talking about for years to come.