Unsighted is my favorite Metroidvania of the year, and I played it immediately after Metroid Dread, so that’s saying a lot. Its meaningful world is the perfect canvas for Studio Pixel Punk’s intense and inspiring story.
Taking place in a world called Arcadia, the game shows a land that’s been devastated and brought to the brink of ruin after a brutal war between Automatons and humans. A resource that gives the robotic Automatons sentience, known as Anima, is on the verge of running out. Without the rare and dwindling resource, Automatons lose what makes them live and feel human. Once an Automaton runs out of Anima it becomes a mindless robot focused only on killing and destroying.
That that grim stage set, our tale begins.
Time to fight back
The story of Unsighted follows Alma, an Automaton with little memory of anything before the war. She’s also without most of her power, capable only of surviving and moving forward while searching for answers. And she doesn’t have much time.
An in-game timer displays the time left before Alma runs out of Anima and becomes a mindless unsighted. It adds a certain tension to the experience, especially when Alma is exploring or low on Anima. The component shortage is affecting all other Automaton as well, which means your list of allies is constantly in flux — or at least it can be. You can’t save everyone, especially during your first playthrough; time is your most precious resource and it’s ticking.
Players can also see the time left for other Automaton that Alma encounters, which makes the struggles of surviving feel that much more personal. Gifting Anima will buy them time and can even forge relationships and bonds between them and Alma, but failing to help before time runs out effectively turns them into a robotic zombie as discussed. The game plays a deft hand, making the dialogue and interactions with NPCs feel meaningful, which makes seeing them die that much harder.
After repeated conversations and interactions, losing someone actually feels like losing someone. And each death will weigh on you, or at least it did for me; this gave me an equal amount of motivation and stress, much like the tension of playing The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the first time and not quite fully knowing how to complete every side quest.
Alma’s mission starts out feeling impossible, almost absurdly so, but it’s also the hot, blazing fire at the center of Unsighted. Optimism and empathy quickly replaced my dread as I started my journey across Arcadia. Knowing some Automaton were going to die only motivated me further. I quickly found that exploring thoroughly rewarded me with the necessary items, weapons, and upgrades to be a more effective hero against time.
Crafting and upgrading weapons and abilities can make Alma far more powerful than she is at the beginning of the game, giving players the ability to carve through both seconds and enemies along the way. Combat is fast and fluid with melee weapons being the better choice for most encounters. Unsighted features a variety of different shotguns and other firearms but the game’s just so clearly built for hacking and slashing.
That being said, it’s not a simple button masher. Unsighted never manages to feel overwhelming or confusing but there are so many customization options, which also result in a more personalized experience. Different decisions and your chosen path through Arcadia will determine the kind of story you experience, including who lives and dies. It’s impossible to be everywhere and time doesn’t stop moving. Sacrificing other Automaton is part of the game, no matter what, especially in early playthroughs.
Repeat playthroughs, the game’s co-op mode, and other modes can give you and Alma the tools necessary to carve out a better future. Unsighted is a must-play game that understands what makes the medium special. If you play one Metroidvania game in 2021, make sure it’s Unsighted.