It’s a tale as old as time. Woman’s son dies in fire. Woman’s in grief. Woman gets told by an envoy of a disturbing cult that her son can be saved. Okay, maybe it’s not as old as time, but that’s what Unholy is about. The demo delivers about an hour of content that jumps between a few chapters to give players a taste of what it has on offer in the full experience.
Suffice it to say, it’s a mix of different gameplay styles that vary based on the goal of each section, all tied together by strong, creepy art direction. We got to check the Unholy demo out a bit early, and here’s what you can look forward to if you jump in when it drops soon.
The Unholy demo starts us off in the first chapter. Dorothea is tearing down the obituary notices of her son Gabriel as she’s aiming to bring him back. We only get part of the first chapter, where she examines her father’s apartment to conduct a ritual to reach the strange city where her son is being kept. This is fairly standard walking-sim-esque gameplay. You search for items or objects to interact with to move things forward. Many objects can be examined, which can prompt Dorothea to share a bit of additional information.
“I’m not crazy about sneaking in non-stealth games, although I find it likely that Unholy will give players more options when the time comes.”
Shortly after this, the demo skips ahead to the second chapter, which is set in between the real world and the Unholy world. Dorothea’s still in her father’s apartment building, but things have gone all Silent Hill, and you have to make your way in the dark while chasing Gabriel, who keeps appearing in the elevator. Naturally, calling it does nothing, so going downstairs is necessary. When she catches up with the elevator, she grabs Gabriel’s slingshot and ventures down further. Unholy then, once again, jumps us forward, this time to chapter three, where Dorothea has to navigate a tunnel to get to a cult meeting.
The slingshot can use emotions, which Dorothea will pick up in her travels. The first of these is electric, which can overload specific objects, and is required to move forward. Getting through the tunnel is a simple task and only really requires using a code on a device to open the way forward. But many more wrinkles appear when Unholy‘s demo jumps ahead again and introduces enemies. The following section appears in a sort of city where a cult is preparing to burn some people. Dorothea needs to sneak past spotlights and guards to make it to a valve control system and render it inoperable.
Dorothea also finds another emotion, sadness, which will prevent enemies from seeing her within range. However, she can’t fight at this stage of the game and can only take a couple of hits. Shooting guards with the electric attack will stun them very briefly, but this isn’t all that useful. After this section, the demo is over. I was fairly surprised by some of the vibes the game gives off.
Unholy is a surreal experience, with strange, highly variable environments that use space and colour differently. That being said, I’m not crazy about sneaking in non-stealth games, although I find that Unholy will likely give players more options when the time comes. Dorothea also has a mask she can use to identify any interactive objects in her vicinity.
This demo has a fair amount of meat to it that will give players a solid understanding of what exactly the game aims to deliver. People charmed by its unique presentation and many intriguing concepts would be well-served to take it for a spin themselves once they’re able. It’ll be interesting to see how exactly Dorothea manages to get her son back. That is, if she’s able. He does appear to be very dead, after all.