Unrest is described as an “unconventional RPG set in ancient India”. The unusual setting isn’t the only aspect of the game that is defying the popular course that has been ploughed by role-players since a dragon first got its dunge on. Unrest is a tale of survival on the streets of a city crushed by poverty, famine and drought. Combat is swift, deadly and always avoidable, and there are “no fail states, just failures”, meaning the narrative adapts to the player characters’ mistakes and mishaps. The big draw, for me, is the chance to experience new stories about characters who would be nameless extras in so many big budget troll-stompers.
The main activities in Unrest are exploring the city and conversing with its inhabitants. The game has four playable characters, straddling social divides:
A young girl betrothed against her will, who is trying to escape to a nearby kingdom.
An aging priest who might need to choose between feeding his family, his ideals and his religion, as his order becomes more involved in violence.
The chief of the mercenary guild, the person somehow holding the city together.
The sole heir of the former royal family, now biding her time as a street urchin.
The Kickstarter page contains a detailed breakdown of how relationships will work in the game but I’ve included the core description of the system below so as to put my copy and pasting degree to use:
Every person in the world will have their opinion of you – some might despise you simply because of your birth or caste, some might admire you if you are a priest of the religion they follow, or some may be indifferent to your fate. We measure all these possibilities using 3 values for every character – Friendship, Respect and Fear. This system enables the game to portray a number of nuanced relationships that are not fully conveyed with a single “opinion” value…
You may have noticed the word ‘Kickstarter’ above. Hopefully nobody has become allergic to mention of crowdfunding, because I’d hate to be responsible for a breakout of hives. This is one of those Kickstarter campaigns for a project that needs a final push over the finish line rather than an initial injection of eleventy billion dollars. Three thousand is all that’s needed to complete the game, which has been in development for a year.
I’ve actually looked at ‘leader/programmer’ Arvind Raja Yadav’s work before. I only played the demo of Will Fight For Food but remember being surprised by the detailed and experimental conversation system, which takes into account body language as well as words. It’s worth looking at that demo for an example of the thinking that may drive Unrest’s least conventional elements.
Initially, I wasn’t keen on the inclusion of Naga, hoping for more history and less mythology, but it’s entirely possible that “a species of reptilian immigrants”, as the campaign page refers to them, will reflect historical themes. Arvind states that the game will also explore “issues in present day Indian society”, which is a far more interesting back of the box bullet point than “TESSELLATED ORCS” or “LEVEL CAP OF 7,000”.