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‘The Unspoken’ Review: An Addicting Urban Magic Fight Club

by Joe Durbin • November 21st, 2016
Platform: Oculus Rift with Touch
Positives

- Addictively fun gameplay.
- Unique classes, spells and strategies to play with.
- Fantastic showcase for Oculus Touch and VR gaming in general.

Negatives

- Underwhelming single player experience.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Final Score: 9/10 – Amazing 

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.

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  • polysix

    *addictive.

    Please stop using ‘addicting’ it makes you sound like a moron, even if it’s now been forced horribly into the dictionary.

    • PK

      “addicting” is a very common word in this age.

    • Keith Ian

      I think people sound more like morons when they insult other people in a tactless way.

      • Sebastien Mathieu

        agreed

    • Joe Durbin

      I want to stop but it’s just so addicting

    • xxHanoverxx

      You forgot to use a period. Nice run-on sentence there.

  • polysix

    great, now all we need is the ability to use a rift without all the horrific facebook spyware on your system and we may be onto a winner.

    • CrashFu

      Good news! No “horrific facebook spyware” exists or has ever existed; you must be thinking of those knee-jerk click-bait articles about the “scary Oculus background processes” and never actually read the follow-up articles that detailed how completely harmless and minimal they are.

      Unless you think it’s “horrific” that the Rift automatically opens up Oculus Home when you put it on. Personally, I think that’s way more convenient than having to click through the archaic, ad-filled Steam interface every time I want to launch a VR program.

    • xxHanoverxx

      You people still exist?

  • Doctor Bambi

    If this game is anything like Wands on Gear VR, it’s sure to be a hit.

    I am kind of curious though, there’s no mention of a progression system of any kind. In multiplayer only experiences, these kinds of systems provide little incentives along the way to keep players invested. Can you unlock new spells over time? Any kind of leveling or stat tracking?

    • Joe Durbin

      There’s definitely new artifacts to unlock as you go and stat tracking for your most frequent spells. It’s more like Overwatch though in that your level corresponds to your skill and doesn’t necessarily increase your power.

  • Scott Wilson

    Sounds amazing, do you think it work well with Vive controllers?

    • Mario-Galouzeau de Bocsa

      Seems finger tracking is used for some spells, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

    • Sebastien Mathieu

      pretty shure it’s an oculus touch exclusive since they’ve paid for it… (just like feral rites and edge of nowhere)…

      • Scott Wilson

        Both of which work with HTC Vive using Revive

  • Tom Todia

    Too bad its not on Vive, but looks like a cool title.