Unrest preview: an unexpected game from India about India

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Unrest is not your typical game from India. For one it’s not on mobile, an anomaly in itself given the fact that everyone and their grandmother in this country is making a game on iOS or Android. Secondly, it’s an RPG. It’s not a genre most Indians care about, let alone play. In fact it’s one of the least popular genres in the country. Thirdly, if this preview is any indication, it’s shaping up rather well.

Most of RPGs that fall into standard tropes, be it amnesiac heroes, a grand adventure to save the world, or a bevy of damsels to get romantically involved with, Unrest simply shuns all of these in favour of a tale that’s grounded, real and well-explained.

unrest-soldier-blockadeInstead of a hero riddled with memory loss, you’re Tanya, a girl born into peasantry in ancient India where your standing in life is determined by the family you’re born into. Rather than have a myriad of men fighting for your attention, you find yourself forced into an arranged marriage with Hanu. He is, from all accounts, a complete scumbag. However he has a better social standing due to being a merchant’s son.

And you won’t just play a peasant girl either, the game puts you in control of four other characters in the course of eight chapters. These include an ageing priest and a royal heir who is a street urchin. Forget saving the world, your mission is to survive.

unrest-dialog-systemAfter all, it’s not like you can hack and slash your way to victory can you? While most RPGs would love nothing more than to showcase combat as one of the most important things a game can offer, Unrest features little to none of it. Reason being, there’s a strict social structure in place that has dire consequences. Brazenly going against your arranged marriage could put your family in peril or worse, result in your swift death.

With these constraints, you’ll be spending a lot of time talking to NPCs, reacting to their opinions and along the way, open up new opportunities. So instead of being stuck in a loveless marriage, you could run away from home. Sounds too simple? Well how about stealing your dowry back as well as valuables from the village chief, loading up on provisions and then run away from home?

unrest-merchant-stallIt’s a game where you have to have your wits about you. And it’s all dependent on the conversations you have and how you approach them. Dialogues from characters come along with their perception of Tanya based on fear, friendship and respect. It seems like a nice way to guide conversations in the right direction but how deep or useful it actually can only be ascertained when the full game is out.

Sporting a solid, hand drawn aesthetic and appropriately ethnic sound track, Unrest had a comfort food kind of feel to it as I roamed the village conversing with everyone along the way. There are some fantasy elements too, what with the appearance of a race of humanoid snakes known as the Naga.

unrest-naga-gangFor me,there’s a sense of familiarity not too different from the original Mass Effect or Fall Out: New Vegas what with an apparent depth in characters and dialogue options. While it looks nothing like nothing from Bioware or Obsidian, it would be interesting to see if it can maintain this sense of atmosphere and spirit across the entire game.

Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long to find out. If you’re on the prowl for a PC RPG that doesn’t quite follow the norm, you’d do well to check it out. Unrest releases on July 23 on Steam. Or if you’re the rare sort who prefers PC games being DRM-free, you can grab it from the website of the developer, Pyrodactyl Games.

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