Unworthy is a minimalist monochrome Dark Souls

unworthy-1

There are only three colours in Unworthy – black, white and blood. It’s an upcoming minimalist monochrome Metroidvania that isn’t so much “inspired” by Dark Souls as it is a pixel demake of it. In one sense, it’s very derivative. The health and stamina bars, the slow and deliberate attacks, the “sin” you collect from kills (and drop on death), the depressed ramblings of NPCs. Even the places you roam have names both intentionally Gothic and unintentionally funny. The Throat of Despair, the Catacombs of Ur, the Cradle of Death. “The human soul is a sponge that soaks up our sins,” it growls in the intro, “until it simply rots away.” But this grimness barely matters, because Unworthy is a competent pastiche of what many people love about Souls games. I still haven’t beaten the first boss.

I also have no idea what’s going on. Cryptic dialogue and uncertain mechanics being part of the Soulsbag. The first boss is a scary giant with a big sword, in case you were wondering. Or rather, a silhouette of a giant with a big sword. Nothing here is given detail beyond its outline, the shadow of a crossbow man or silhouette of a gravedigger. If Dead Cells took Miyazaki’s formula and added speed, colour and randomness, Unworthy takes the same formula and just distills it over and over again until only a black and white 2D plane is left. “There’s no jumping,” says creator Aleksandar Kuzmanovic, pointedly.

It’ll take the average player between 8 and 14 hours to complete, guesses Kuzmanovic. There are other powers and weapons I’ve yet to get my hands on. For example, I’ve been the victim of a firey blaze which hurts you over time, but you’ll also be able to command this pyromancy yourself at some point. Likewise the hammers and halberds of certain enemies. Large Olympic-sized braziers act as save points, and some areas I visited were so dark I had to immediately retreat, presuming there’ll be a way to light this place up later on.

It’s a small game by a lone developer, but based on my brief foray through its Boneyards (and my many deaths) it’s one for Souls flagellants to keep an eye on. Luckily it comes out soon, on May 29, when it’ll be on Steam for for $14.99.

22 Comments

  1. eric_the_zookeeper says:

    The no detail backgrounds remind me of Mable and the wood. Definitely makes it look different to 99% of the other pixel art games out there!

    I like to die a lot in games too, so this is now wishlisted.

  2. Nelyeth says:

    No mention of Salt & Sanctuary ? If we’re talking about metroidvania souls-likes (I’m still dumbfounded this is an actual genre), there’s bound to be some comparisons to make, especially since this looks much more similar to S&S than it does to Dead Cells.

    The trailer is neat though, gameplay looks tight and reactive, and while I bounced off S&S hard, this seems to be more up my alley.

  3. Godwhacker says:

    Oh great, another one.

    • DantronLesotho says:

      More like, “Oh great! Another one!”

    • Blackcompany says:

      More and more I am coming to realize: If you are looking for new and novel experiences, dont bother with the video game industry.

      All of this technology. A world of inspiration from movies to shows to books. And all the industry can do is copy cat the latest buzz words.

      • Arglebargle says:

        If you like a particular experience, you’re more inclined to try out various iterations of it. If you like zombie movies, you don’t stop at the first good one. And innovation and Hollywood are rarely bedfellows anyway, and then usually just by accident.

        For me, the Dark Souls type of hairshirt game is anathema, so this revue is quite useful in telling me to avoid it.

      • Babymech says:

        Today I played a multiple-ending, dialogue driven, character-switching conversation game about first contact with an alien species, and an action adventure game about an AI learning self-preservation where part of the game mechanic was cycling my interface from an ‘objective’ perspective to a perspective focused on the self, to a perspective focused on others, synthesizing a complex personality to solve puzzles. I don’t know how you’re not finding new experiences in video games.

        • Tacroy says:

          oooh what was the second one? That sounds interesting

          • Babymech says:

            The Fall part 2: Unbound. It’s certainly got problems, but it’s a nice, short game and the perspective-switching is a mostly successful way to both provide some thoughts on what self-awareness consists of and to add a decent game mechanic.

        • Talahar says:

          What’s the name of the game with the alien first contact, if I may ask?

          • Babymech says:

            Quarantine Circular, by the team behind Subsurface Circular.

      • poliovaccine says:

        And what if you want new and different videogames?

        Pretty sure it’s about the same in any media, actually, be it movies or books or music or even painting. Every genuine innovation comes after countless little incremental advancements, and only those who are either lucky or else truly have their finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist can manage to embody those occasional high water marks.

        I mean, bands do “like ____ crossed with ____,” so do authors, same with movies, and to a large extent that’s just a result of those peoples’ particular individual passions and favorites – they embody what they like. They make what they want to see. And when they want things that are typical enough of the moment, the moment wants *them* and their work becomes a classic, in whatever its genre or medium.

        All genuine points of significance occur only between vast spans of relative nothingness. That just seems to be the rule. It takes time for greatness to muster itself up. It’s a process that can only produce results so often. Just like you can only take a crap as often as you first eat and digest… yes, in this analogy, feces is great art.

        “Poetry is the ash of a life burned well.” – Leonard Cohen

  4. Monggerel says:

    This quote, from Deirdre Bair (a biographer of Beckett’s), found in the Wikipedia article about Krapp’s Last Tape, one of Samuel Beckett’s plays, seems relevant here:

    “Magee had a harsh, gravely voice which had little superficial charm but had a hypnotic effect on the listener… He was grey-haired but ageless and could combine debility with menace, as Beckett characters with their suppressed violence often do… He had developed a rather strange accent with only faint Irish overtones and prolonged vowel sounds. The general effect was strangely déclassé but still indubitably Irish and thus ideally fitted for the performance of Beckett… As an actor, he had the good sense to see that one played Beckett for the weight and mood of the words and the situation without bothering about the ultimate philosophical import.” (emphasis mine)

  5. 111uminate says:

    I’ll most likely never play this (Far too busy with Dead Cells, Synthetik, and Isaac), but given it is low complexity pixel art, AND with a limited palette, churning out content should be relatively simple and fast. We’ll see how that pans out.

  6. Viral Frog says:

    I’ll take a hard pass on this. If I wanted to play Dark Souls, I would play Dark Souls, not some game that apes everything from the series but isn’t an entry in that series.

    Every game that likens itself to Dark Souls has been disappointing. And other games that are compared to Dark Souls tend to only vaguely resemble it in extremely insignificant ways that do not warrant a comparison in anyway.

    I dream of a day when people stop comparing things to Dark Souls and start taking them on their own merits… and days when developers try to be original instead of just kifing the concept of Dark Souls and failing.

    • heavyweather says:

      Nothing that Dark Souls does is particularly novel, it’s simply a superlative combination of a lot of different mechanics, genre tropes and well trod gaming territory, a synthesis of what a lot of folks like in their games. Lock on targeting 3rd person character action games might all derive from Ocarina of Time, but we’re far enough away from that milestone that we’ve now planted the “all games are this game” flag in the more recent memory, 2011, with Dark Souls.

      This game looks a lot more like Abuse to me than Dark Souls, mechanics aside.

      • dethtoll says:

        I view Dark Souls as being a modernization of the 80s golden age RPG. The isolation, slightly alien feel, the way certain places become landmarks in collective memory, the somewhat obtuse story, all with modern graphics and controls — it’s what I wanted games like Wizardry to be like.

  7. mlj11 says:

    Not sure how Dark Soulsy this really is. It plays a lot of right-to-left, but from what I understand, Dark Souls was a lot of back-to-front.

  8. poliovaccine says:

    I have a hard time taking anything seriously when it attempts grimdark use of the word “sponge.”

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