Unexplored: Unlocked Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 17.10.2018 1

Review for Unexplored: Unlocked Edition on Nintendo Switch

Procedural generation will always struggle to compete with thoughtful, deliberate level design. For that reason, it's important for titles heavily relying on procedural generation to feature strong gameplay loops to keep investment high. The Binding of Isaac is by no means a shining example of level design, but it maintains a well deserved amount of praise due to how fluid its gameplay feels, along with how it handles progression. Unexplored relies quite heavily on procedural generation, more so than most titles, but does it have the gameplay to back it up?

Presentation is one of the easiest aspects of game design to overlook entirely. If a game is presented well, most will think nothing of it unless the presentation is truly exceptional; if a game is presented poorly, then good gameplay can mask lacklustre presentation. Regardless if a title's gameplay is sound or not, however, there seems to be a recurring issue with indie games, specifically where the general presentation leaves much to be desired - most of the time, these problems surface in an ugly UI and main menus that seem to take cues from Flash titles.

It perhaps goes without saying, but Unexplored's presentation leaves much to be desired. The main menu itself gives off no confidence whatsoever to the quality of the title. First impressions matter in any medium, and an ugly menu, especially in a generation littered with shovelware, tends to be a bad sign of what's to come.

Screenshot for Unexplored: Unlocked Edition on Nintendo Switch

It certainly doesn't help that the track accompanying the menu has no real sense of scope or scale. As a whole, the music is as generic as it gets. This does mean one can play their own music without missing much, but anyone who was looking to play music while playing a videogame was likely going to do so regardless of the score's quality.

Navigating the menu itself is responsive enough, but the title screen nonetheless feels too cluttered with a distinct lack of visual cues to either point players in the right direction or simply add flavour to navigation. This isn't to say that the title screen is complicated, but that its uninspired feel simply adds to the overwhelming lack of identity when booting up the title.

Worth noting, the options menu genuinely does offer quite a bit of welcome customisation, if nothing else. Certain gameplay features can be toggled on and off to make each run feel either automatic or more involved, and there's even an immersion mode that hides the UI outside of combat. In that sense, the options aren't presented well, but what is presented is more worthwhile than what most games tend to offer.

Screenshot for Unexplored: Unlocked Edition on Nintendo Switch

Gameplay-wise, the presentation is far too busy for its own good, making it pleasing that immersion mode is off by default. The left side of the screen is home to the mini-map on the top left, the player character's health right below it, and miscellaneous options at the very bottom. The right side hosts the inventory, the player's strength, and their gold. The major problem is that both these bars take up nearly half the screen with the gameplay sandwiched in-between. Immersion mode is quite frankly necessary for the smoothest possible experience.

Unexplored is at its best when exploration is front and centre, although not because exploring it is a particularly engaging act. In fact, the world's overall aesthetic makes exploration nowhere near as enjoyable or rewarding as it could or should be. Rather, the controls are so slippery and suited for a mouse and keyboard that using a controller for combat just feels counterproductive.

Screenshot for Unexplored: Unlocked Edition on Nintendo Switch

There are some weapons that feel good enough with the slippery controls, the standard sword in particular, but any weapon that requires aiming feels absolutely dreadful to use. The gameplay was clearly not designed with a controller in mind, and this wasn't remedied when porting the title onto Switch. Combat may very well have been rewarding in the PC version, but the home console port simply leaves too much to be desired.

If there's anything Unexplored actually does well, surprisingly enough, it's procedural generation. It isn't good enough to justify slogging through the uninspired exploration or unoptimised combat, but no two playthroughs will ever be alike. This is a claim many titles in the genre can make, but it feels as though every little detail is randomised here to near absurd levels. It honestly crosses a line where it results in such interesting level design at times where it's easy to forgive the lack of conventional level crafting.

Of course, this is a positive only in that the procedural generation results in uniquely interesting gameplay scenarios. After a few runs, the charm wears off and there's nothing left to carry the experience. It is by no means the worst entry in the genre, but Unexplored is perhaps best left unexplored.

Screenshot for Unexplored: Unlocked Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

With gameplay best suited for a mouse and keyboard, a frankly unflattering aesthetic, and truly dreadful presentation, Unexplored: Unlocked Edition comes off mostly unengaging. To put it bluntly, the core gameplay loop simply isn't strong enough to carry a procedurally generated adventure. On top of that, the procedural generation, while fairly extensive and capable of leading to genuinely unique sessions with each playthrough, isn't enough to make up for how lacklustre Unexplored feels overall.

Developer

Nephilim Game Studios

Publisher

Digerati Distribution

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

None (guest) 17.07.2019#1

When a reviewer uses the phrase "truly dreadful" you can tell they're an entitled snowflake that thinks they're a pro writer.

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