Reviews// Future Unfolding

Posted 15 Mar 2017 17:09 by
I'm the sort of gamer who likes to play as many games as possible. While some have a preferred genre or developer I'm happy to move from game to game to experience as much as this medium has to offer.

Despite my need for trying the next big game some games manage to stick, leaving me to return time and time again and stopping me from moving on. Sometimes it's a story that just wont let me go, other times it's just too fun to turn my head away from it. But eventually I'm happy to let go and try new things.

Then something comes along that's different. Games that manage to embed themselves into my brain. It could be years after completion yet they still manage to find a place in your head to remind you of how much you clicked with it. Games like this are special. They feel personal and a simple screenshot or 10 seconds of the soundtrack can be overwhelming as the feeling of playing for the first time takes over all of your senses.

For me Future Unfolding is one of these games. It's one that will stay with me, that I'll be bringing up in conversation for years to come as I reference it when talking about other games. It affected me in ways that I can't quite put into words but will happily try to if it manages to convince others to give it a go.

The fact that this game has managed to earn this special place in my head is surprising. I hadn't even heard of it when I first booted it up. Developed by indie studio Spaces of Play, Future Unfolding has been in development for four years and has gathered little attention.

It's been shown off at gaming events for a while and started to get noticed back in 2014, but then seemed to drift away as many of these projects have. Now though, it's out and as you play you can see where the years of refining and development have gone.

Knowing nothing about the game plays into how the opening hour or so is set up. You start in a forest, you walk around and notice the wildlife around you. There's no tutorial, no mission, no hints at what you're supposed to do. So you walk. You stab at the buttons to see if any of them do anything, then you experiment.

Interacting with the animals around you slowly builds up rule sets and mechanics. If you manage to tame a stag, you can ride it. If you manage to calm it down, you can control it. Petting a rabbit will make it follow you and so on.

Your first hour is spent trying to peace together the rules of what you can and can't do. The next eight or so will be applying everything you've learned into increasingly complex puzzles. Before long you'll have had your first jaw-dropping moment and it's at this point that you'll realise that Future Unfolding is not just a good game, but an incredible one.

It won't be the last moment that the game blows you away. This game is full of puzzles and surprises that will leave you wondering what the best bit was after it's all over. From seeing new wildlife that you didn't know existed to working out a complicated puzzle that makes you feel like a genius.

There are moments that made me question whether what I was doing was even going to work, before making me laugh as it did. Others that were so beautiful that I just wanted to sit and soak it in for a while, and the more I spoke to others who were playing, the more I wondered how it was even put together.

It helps that everything is so intuitive. Carefully placed nods to certain mechanics will subliminally feed you information that you'll need later, but the sense of discovery that you go through at the start will always be at the back of your mind.

As you explore, the map of the forest you're in will open up. If you see an exit, you'll avoid it until you're confident that you've seen everything around you because you'll want to see everything that it has to offer. Knowing that you might have missed something is a feeling that you don't want to take into the next level.

This gets a little confusing when you start talk to others.

Future Unfolding is even more clever than you think. It's a game that has one toe dipped into the hugely popular ideology of procedural generation. For the most part each area of the game is hand crafted, but the dressing around it is randomised. Some puzzles won't even appear in your first play-though, others appear at polar ends of your run.

Think No Man's Sky with the design of The Witness. Each area feels important and is integral to you understanding how to progress, but also manages to feel personal as you discuss the game with other players.

"Did you do this bit?"
"No, but I did this."
"What? I had no idea that even existed."

These conversations went on day after day as I was playing along with a close friend and made me feel as though my adventure was my own and didn't leave me feeling cheated that they had seen things I was trying hard not to miss. Instead, it made me want to jump back in for a second run, something that is a huge rarity for someone who wants to see what other games have to offer.

What also helps is how beautiful everything is. From art direction to sound design Future Unfolding will manage to send you into a trance. Turning it off feels like waking up from an incredibly strange dream.

Visually it's stunning. The simplistic graphics coupled with the constant change of colour palate keeps things fresh and intriguing. It never gets dull or drab and the hundreds of trees, varied wildlife and changes in terrain mean that you're always looking at something that grabs your attention, be it from artistic flare or a sense of adventure.

Then there's the soundtrack. Play this game with headphones on because what it does with music and sound is as good as everything else it has to offer. The violins coupled with the responsive sound effects from your in-game movements work together to relax and educate throughout.

Certain changes to the music will warn of danger, others will fill you with relief. Listening to the music away from the game will effect you emotionally as it takes you back to playing even when you're as for away from you computer as possible.

When I review a game I try to think of how it could be improved. What could have been done differently to make it achieve what it sets out to do? I'm struggling to find anything here. If the main goal of Future Unfolding was to be a clever puzzle game, then it nails it. If it tries to affect you emotionally then it's equally a home run and it does all this so effortlessly.

Some games are special. Some stick out and others cement their place in your heart and mind. These games are why we play. They're what we're all looking for and manage to affect you in ways that no other medium can. Future Unfolding is one of them. An extraordinary experience that I'll never forget and one that elevates itself above others with such flawlessness that I had to sit back as the closing sequence played and try to gather myself.

Play it.

+ Fantastic Puzzles
+ Beautiful art direction and music
+ Gripping from start to finish

- Nope

SPOnG Score: 10/10

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The Reformed Ham Burglar 16 Mar 2017 11:20
Needs the Ubisoft treatment, not enough towers... 2/10
The Colonel 16 Mar 2017 14:04
Zinger TOWER meal..? Am I right..?
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The Colonel 16 Mar 2017 14:06
No chance I'm touching your mutant chicken meals! I'm all about the ham burgers fam...
PissMan 16 Mar 2017 16:57
Nice review, I want to wait and pick it up when it's out on PlayStation, but your review has made that wait a tough one!
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