Continuing in what is starting to be a running trend within my recent gaming adventures, I had no idea what I was doing in Unto The End. I’d like to preface this by stating that this time it wasn’t all my fault; okay, admittedly, some of it might have been my fault. I did manage to break the demo that opened the game, that’s new, leaving me going off half-cocked. Thankfully however, it appeared pseudo-intentional; Unto The End prides itself in not holding your hand, as I quickly found out.
The show demo opened with a harsh lesson that you had to pay attention to your surroundings. Just after getting up from a lovely campfire dream, you had to make your way across an unstable rock that bridged a deadly chasm. After standing on the rock for a moment it would crack and a nearby rock would fall in its place, crushing you if you stood there.
The right thing to do was roll out of the way before you were made into human paste. Then you’d be able to cross the new stable bridge – not that the game would tell you that. It was all up to you to decipher from the information presented, like a diorama puzzle presenting an optimal solution. Only this puzzle is life-threatening. You knew you had to get away from the falling rock, and you knew how to roll, all you needed to do was put those things together.
Being the expert games journalist I am, with my forged tutorial completion certificate, this took me a little time to figure out. I had tried running way from the falling rock, moving slowly, sneaking on to try and make it drop, but nothing seemed to work. I was waiting for a hint or something to pop up to tell me everything I was doing wrong as I had become conditioned to expect, but nothing came. Instead, I was left on my own to figure things out, and when I finally rolled out of the way and was able to progress it felt great, as it was my achievement, not one just given to me.
Finding my way without button prompts felt fantastic, and I found myself looking at the game in much more detail than others I felt I’ve only touched the surface of. Even on the chaotic show floor of EGX, with so many games vying for your attention, I was immersed and loving the experience.
I dislike anything that breaks the player’s immersion.’ Developer Stephen Danton told me. ‘Not needing any prompts is a high priority for me”.
That was until I faced up against the combat, where my forged tutorial certificate came around to really bite me in the ass. I quickly learned that in my tutorial breaking escapade, I hadn’t learned any of the advanced fighting mechanics. The first enemy in the game felt like a high-school bully from a generic American coming-of age flick. I was the generic nerd, suspenders and all. Into the locker goes my body, or in this case the ground.
I wasn’t able to just mash attack through my problems either. In Unto The End, you need to pay attention to timing, blocking and dodging, only one of which I knew about. Even in the shameful amount of deaths I had before trying other buttons, the combat felt fantastic. Each swing, impact, and dodge had a strong sense of the weight behind it, making each attack feel like a commitment so you needed to be as precise as you were brutal.
While the combat felt amazing, the lack of prompts ultimately proved not to be for everyone during its time on the EGX show floor. So, over the long night that led into the second day of the event, the game was tweaked slightly, adding in prompts around switches, levers and buttons to make things more obvious for those quickly jumping in. This small change made the game far more accessible, and had players finishing the game without any developer intervention should they get lost; however, the change won’t be seen in the final release.
The show floor at a convention such as EGX is an intense place. Few games get the focus they would receive when playing them in the comfort of your own home, and Unto The End felt this throughout the first day. In Unto, you need to be paying attention to the details, looking at what you could do as you’re not being told exactly what to do. When your mind is elsewhere, thinking about whether a three-hour queue to play Doom Eternal is worth it (and it is if you believe our amazing gaming editor Lewis – this line has not been tampered with, I swear), seeing those details can become a real challenge, so prompts were needed to keep people moving along.
When you’ve got Unto The End all to yourself it will be all about the details, even the little ones such as how snow will gather on hair and clothes. In your own time, you’ll be able to be properly immersed in the game, thinking about every interaction and every possibility that your skillset allows. “Honestly, I dislike anything that breaks the player’s immersion.’ Developer Stephen Danton told me. ‘Not needing any prompts is a high priority for me”.
And what a world Unto The End offers to get immersed in. Thanks to its striking low poly aesthetic and its flat shading style, that has the world being beautifully lit, everything is gorgeously crisp and defined. Even in the vast white snow storms, the touches of colour give the world its detail, that highlights the stunning backdrops and world design.
Unto The End is truly unique experience, a game that you get to play all on your own. Not having any prompts seems like a small change to make, but in my short time with Unto it was a completely different experience, and one I can’t wait to have more of. The lack of prompts might not be for everybody, but if you’ve ever longed for a more immersive gaming experience then Unto The End will be for you.