What can you accomplish in 21 days? That's the question the narrative adventure game A Place for the Unwilling poses its players. Live out the handful of days finding rich and fulfilling moments with new friends, dominate the markets, or uncover the secrets lurking beneath the layer of normality throughout the city. ALpixel Games pitches it as a game that mixes Sunless Sea with the time limitations of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, along with dashes of authors like Dickens and Lovecraft. With a ticking clock, players have three weeks before the city and all who live in it find themselves among the dead.
Following the death of a close friend who leaves you his house and trading business, players move to an unfamiliar city full of quirky characters and dark mysteries. Players can choose how they approach living in this new location, exploring the streets and meeting locals, investigating the death of their friend, or carrying on with running the business. While many activities might overlap, there isn't enough time to go deeply into everything, meaning that players will have to playthrough multiple times if they want to experience everything that A Place for the Unwilling has to offer. Developer ALpixel Games has tried to give all of the NPCs quirks and hooks that make them interesting and draw player attention, whether it's the crazy old man who runs the local bookstore or the strange mother of the player's deceased friend who holds a stilted party shortly after the player arrives in town.
Since this is an adventure game, how players spend their most precious resource, time, will have huge consequences. The open world nature of A Place for the Unwilling forces players to decide how best to tackle living in the city, both opening new paths and closing others. Diving into trading, for example, means that the player will have money to throw around. Money can be used to bribe NPCs or buy items that would be impossible to acquire otherwise.
Of course, the distinctive aesthetic of A Place for the Unwilling stands out as another selling point. The character designs are reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but with some slightly unnerving undertones. As players explore the city, NPCs go from being faceless, scribbled outlines to being fully realized people. However, despite how aggressively normal many of the city's residents might seem, the gloom that hangs over the city feels oppressive, constantly conveying that something isn't right underneath it all. And perhaps that twisted heart is better left alone and fate simply left to its own devices.
How players choose to interact with the city's denizens, what paths they choose to pursue, and how they spend their time, all contribute to a changing world and, perhaps, the eventual outcome for the city itself. And, yes, the player can even choose to do nothing at all to change life in the city. The city itself isn't in the best shape - the developers want to investigate issues of income inequality, loneliness, and the way those concepts could fuel an oppressive and overwhelming eldritch evil. The king is coming.
A Place for the Unwilling releases later this year for PC. If it interests you, take the warning of the developers, "The city is hungry. It will devour us all. Dream with caution."
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