Extra Features: N/A
Unholy is a first-person psychological stealth-based horror game developed by Duality Games and published by HOOK. From the start of the game, players take on the role of Dorothea, who witnesses the abduction of her son (Gabriel) at the hands of cult leaders. She must traverse between parallel realities in order to get him back. The realities are an Eastern European town and the Unholy (a twisted world).
Unholy has some fantastic graphics and overall atmosphere. It requires some pretty demanding requirements for its recommended graphical setting, so I had to turn many settings down a bit just to get the game running cleanly. Even at low settings, this game looks really good. The actual Unholy reality areas are dark and misty with tons of unwelcoming voices and whispers in the dark. The enemy design is quite good too. The world of the Unholy is being taken over by a type of growth that spreads its roots throughout landscape and spreads out a type of infection like a plague. Enemies have the look of an infected type of husk. It’s a very interesting world overall.
You constantly switch between two types of levels while playing through the main story. The levels that take place in the normal reality are often story-driven and focus more on exploration. Levels that take place in the Unholy reality still have exploration, but they break out into stealth areas more often. While traversing the environment, Dorothea arms herself with a mystical slingshot that can fire out spheres that contain different types of emotions. Each sphere has its own unique effect – fear (manipulate objects), sadness (create cover area), anger (destroy walls) and desire (enemy lure). The game has some interesting uses for just about all sphere types. Fear is your basic ammo type used to manipulate objects, Sadness can be used to hide yourself from enemies by entering its shield, Anger can be used to destroy red walls and Desire can be used to lure enemies away from you or toward certain objects.
Some spheres can be used to power objects, such as using an anger sphere to power a landmine. You can also take spheres out of objects in order to take away power. Along with the spheres, Dorothea can also equip masks that allow her to see or get past certain types of objects. She has one mask that displays all interactable objects and she has another that allows her to breathe in poisonous areas. So much of this game revolves around stealth and Dorothea has quite a few tools to assist her. While looking around the environment, you’ll have to solve puzzles and pull switches in order to progress. Some switches require power from your spheres and some need to be shut off by taking the sphere out of them or destroying their control panels. Puzzles are not too complex. Many of the puzzles are a type of key code puzzle where you have to find the correct solution. You get access to a few upgrades as well, which you’ll have to unlock by finding memento collectibles.
If you’re not a fan of stealth, you probably won’t find much to like about this game. You have to constantly switch between emotion spheres while traversing each environment in order to sneak by or kill enemies. Enemies can kill Dorothea in two attacks. This actually might as well be one hit since the first hit will slow you down a good bit and the next will kill you. For controller, this game’s run button is set to L3 (or push in on left thumbstick) and there is no option to toggle the run button, so I often found myself constantly pressing in on the left thumbstick while moving to get my character to run since she would often stop. It’s so easy to stop running on accident if you just simply let up on the left thumbstick in the slightest.
Even though this game looks beautiful, the game is plagued by optimization issues. Starting out, I got a bunch of skipping. The entire opening cinematic skipped a bunch to where the subtitles just basically gave up on displaying. Sometimes I couldn’t interact with certain environmental mechanisms in order to progress the story and had to reset the game in order to get a prompt. Every time starting out, the game runs at a super low framerate until everything loads in. The load times in between levels can be quite long as well – they are at least around 45 seconds to a minute or longer. The game only autosaves, there is no manual save. There is no chapter select either.
The narrative to the game seems like it could be interesting, but the characters are extremely boring. Voice overs are also wooden. I could care less about any of the characters in Unholy. Usually, cutscenes are the treat that you get for making it through a hard section, but the cutscenes in this game are just tedious. I would nearly skip them because they got so boring to watch. The main character is just as boring as the rest of the casts and, a good bit of the time, she wears a mask that hides her expressions, which she might as well because there is so little of a personality there anyway.
The normal gameplay also gets boring. Exploration is far better than the stealth areas. Stealth areas can get frustrating. You have to learn enemy patterns in some areas in order to get through them. Stealth areas are basically like solving a puzzle. Once you figure them out, you can get through them pretty easily, but all the trial and error you have to go through in order to finally sneak through them is annoying. The game has many notes and other information lying around to read. Sadly, the game continues in real time while you can read documents, so if an enemy is in the area, it becomes hard to read some documents.
Unholy is very much a mix of good and bad. The graphics are absolutely fantastic and so is the overall world of the Unholy. It’s too bad that the gameplay and story don’t hold up to the world it’s in. The gameplay is mediocre overall. It has some good ideas with its emotion-based attacks, but the stealth areas get so tedious that it ruins these ideas. I ran into a few times where attacks simply would not hit or take effect (such as enemies not being lured). If you can deal with the stress of this game’s stealth, you might find an alright game in it, but the game is overall more about style than substance. I would like to see these developers do more of a traditional type of survival horror – they definitely know how to do atmosphere well!
+ Fantastic graphics and overall atmosphere
+ Overall enemy design is great
+ Interesting slingshot attacks (uses emotions)
- Stealth gameplay gets repetitive
- Characters are boring
- Voice acting is wooden
- Optimization issues pull down game performance
Final Rating: 60% - Unholy sure does look good, but it doesn’t play that well.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.