When Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians was announced in January 2014, it sounded too good to be true. In an industry dominated by AAA action games and shooters one studio, Playdek, was willing to take a risk with making a game in one of the least common genres in the industry: Strategy RPG.
Myself and thousands of others consider Final Fantasy Tactics to be one of the greatest games in history. Playdek's Unsung Story promised to be the spiritual successor that was previously only dreamed of. It went a step beyond simply being inspired by the legendary SRPGs that came before it by enlisting noteworthy talent behind famous works such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, people such as artist Akihiko Yoshida, designer Yasumi Matsuno, and composer Hitoshi Sakimoto.
Equipped with the best talent in the genre and a successful mobile developer, Unsung Story sounded like a Kickstarter game destined for success. I was compelled enough to make it the first game I ever backed, with the only other title being Yu Suzuki's Shenmue 3, announced more than a year later.
Since its exciting Kickstarter campaign raised $660,126, the development situation for Unsung Story has gone from exciting to troubling.
Prior to the campaign ending, Playdek offered frequent updates on the game's design and provided several ways for backers and potential backers to ask questions and get answers. Within the first month, PayPal payments were opened, and a Reddit AMA was run. between the completion of the Kickstarter in February 2014 and its latest update in May 15th, progress updates have been posted at a rate of once every two months.
The last update offered by Playdek was May 15th, 2015. The update was thoughtful, sharing information about the Unsung Story's combat design, equipment mechanics, and more. At first glance it indicates that everything is fine. Upon further inspection, it appears that Unsung Story is in development hell.
Originally, a July 2015 release date was proposed. We are now two months past that mark with no finalized design and art ever being shared. There has never been news about an alpha build, or any gameplay demonstration to showcase what the game will look like when played. For all backers know, it's a project still stuck in early development with years of work left to complete.
As crowdfunders have learned during the past few years, accountability is non-existent in the crowdfunding space. In the case of those like myself who have only backed a project with $25 or less, the failure comes as a minor inconvenience. However, in the case of Unsung Story and many other failed crowdfunded games over the years there are several people who pledged thousands of dollars. Unsung Story collected amounts surpassing $400, $1000, and in the case of four individuals, $2500. That money could materialize into nothing at this rate.
Thankfully, hope comes in the form of this week's news that a state court has ordered a Kickstarter game creator to pay $54,000 for failing to deliver the proposed product. It's a huge case for those who have been taken advantage of over the years, or been disappointed by a poorly managed project, as in the past failure to deliver has come with no ramifications other than the spite of backers who have lost money.
There's a fair chance that Unsung Story will never complete development, and those who backed it should be prepared for the worst. With that, the hope for any spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics will die along with it.