Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Indie Impression - Future Unfolding

Future Unfolding

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Spaces of Play


A passion project over 4 years in the making, Future Unfolding displays a remarkable level of dedication and ambition. With an unmistakable and hypnotic visual presentation and soothing soundtrack of earthly melodies, the game captures perfectly the majestic and unknown deeps of uncharted wildlands and the unknown heart of nature. A top-down adventure with a very broad and open do-anything approach and an addictive act in fantasy world cartography, there's no real right way to play and only the most curious of explorers will be rewarded here.

This is an experience of pure exploration and curiosity. You are dropped into the confusion of Mother Nature with little to no hand-holding, with only your senses and instincts to guide you through landscapes and the hazards of predators. Future Unfolding does not point you in any particular direction and instead leaves you with the determination to feel and chart the world out for yourself. As you set out and dash your way through the secretive and cryptic world your crude hand-drawn map will slowly fill in, pushing to to spread out in different directions and uncover more of the exciting and colorful world.

What's really amazing is how despite this lack of any real hand-holding, guidance, or tutorials the game manages to strike a perfect balance of relaxing and entertaining. There was never a moment that I felt stuck, or like there was something I had to do that I didn't get. Everything flows so perfectly well, and just when you think you've strayed far from whatever you're looking for something appears and sets you right back on track in inexplicable ways. It's mysterious and cryptic, but that certainly doesn't keep Future Unfolding from being accessible, enjoyable and fun as heck.

The animals of the forest that whisk you away for rides and lead you to unexpected destinations, wise and talkative elder spirit creatures who share prophetic bits of speech, as well as other unknown magical forces that light up the world all guide your navigation through this magical and natural trek and eventually to pink triangular nodes that activate to your touch. Finding and activating three of these peculiar floating pyramids completes the trifecta and places a welcoming marker on your growing map, and gives you the ultimately satisfying task of playing cartographer to fill out your self-charting map and reach this ominous new landmark and complete the area. Where it leads you and what else is in store would just be a spoiler, and this is a trip I recommend experiencing yourself.

The expanse of forest thick with autumn red and lush green trees, the winding pathways of meadow and flowers so bright and colorful they make an almost psychedelic effect. Round blue lakes and ponds scatter across the lush landscapes, rippling occasionally with the movement of fish swimming close to the surface. It's a gorgeous and natural setting with earthly colors and a whimsical colorful playfulness, and it all seems very true to life at first. That is until discovering the pyramids of neon light that activate to your touch, or the writhing balls of strange miasma that transport you to different darker realms which interconnect for obscure shortcuts. All in all Future Unfolding has a gorgeous and breathtaking visual style that I can guarantee you haven't seen in a top-down perspective before, and creates a mesmerizing sort of magical realism only found in the darkest heart of the woods.

The vibrancy and lifelike movement of the art and animation are matched only by the elegance and grace of the soundtrack that guides your journey. The very fitting hypnotic and dreamy synth chimes and twinkles atmospherically to your every action, and ambient tones rise and fall with the movement and action. Ominous rumblings set a tense mood as hostile elements inhabit the area, and overall the entire soundtrack works meticulously in the background to set and transition each setting and mood appropriately.

There's a certain unbridled sense of wonder and excitement in the discovery of new anomalies throughout the colorful and living world of nature surrounding you. Pushing through thickets of trees to explore for secrets deep in its cover, and happening upon the many strange and exciting landmarks and happenings doesn't get old. Winding through secret trails to stumble upon large and mystical white beasts who share their humble bits of wisdom with you. Strange symbols in the dirt summon a dark fog that beckons you to follow it to a decrepit glowing tree that transports you to dark underworlds. Many of the woods' lifeforms communicate with you in cryptic and unpredictable ways. This mysterious and dreamlike world of uncharted nature holds many loosely connected secrets to discover, and only the most in-tune with its earthly roots will be keen enough to uncover them.

Future Unfolding is an experience not comparable to any others in the interactive media category. The closest thing that comes to mind is perhaps exploring the mysterious island in Proteus of the earlier hey-days of indie gaming when these sort of artistic game projects were first finding their identity. It's that same idea of abstract and open-ended composition that leaves most of the "gameification" up to the limits of the player and their imagination, a whole dreamed up new world for you to explore and create your own narrative within. Games like Future Unfolding only come once in a blue moon, and when they do it's important to seize the opportunity. Highly recommended to experience at least once.

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