Unavowed dev's new time travel adventure shows just how messy going back to the future can be

Fia and Nozzo in Old Skies
(Image credit: Wadjet Eye Games)

Old Skies is the upcoming time travel point-and-click from Wadjet Eye Games. Dave Gilbert originally created Old Skies for a game jam anonymously after the release of Unavowed. The designer was considering his options for creative outlets after many, including PC Gamer, thought his previous work rocked. So after completing his brief look into time travel, and seeing a reasonable ripple of attention, he was happy enough to take the concept and create a full game following the adventures of Old Skies' star, Fia Quinn. 

From the moment I drop into the demo of Old Skies, it establishes Time Agent Quinn's personality. She's confident, humorous with a sarcastic undertone, and suitably weary of the management (or brass) at her job. Despite her unconventional work, her tone is almost familiar to the player like an old friend and that's always a good start for a point-and-click. Especially when I'm a Grim Fandango's Manny Caleva type of girl. 

Perhaps that's helped by her handler Nozzo, whom she can have a casual chat with whenever she's stuck. Rather than murmuring to her at every turn, Quinn has a conversation—a pleasant change from most point-and-clicks. 

(Image credit: Wadjet Eye Games)

In Old Skies Fia will be transported to several different time periods to essentially babysit some extraordinarily wealthy individuals. Time travel is now a commodity for the rich, who can travel forward or back in time with supervision, and even pay to save the lives of friends or family members if that person's influence on history is small enough. I began my journey with Quinn in a New York construction site in the year 2024. Her client is a Dr Joe Anderson, a brilliant scientist who is responsible for medical tech advancing so far to push the average human life expectancy past the age of one hundred. So you can say his influence on humanity is pretty hefty. 

Anderson's mission is simple enough. Take the scientist to a local diner for some food and then bring him back in one piece. Easy. Or it would be if Anderson didn't have an ulterior motive in mind and escapes out the back of the diner leaving you with the bill and a potential time travel disaster on your hands. I'm not sure which is ruder. 

The demo for Old Skies surprised me in its depth. Within only an hour, I felt like I fully understood Fia Quinn's personality, her relationship with her company and trusty colleague Nozzo, and ultimately what's at stake as a Time Agent. A mission that starts out as simply as a man reminiscing about his young adult appetite becomes a drawn-out chase sequence ending up on a rooftop and a delicate moral decision. 

(Image credit: Wadjet Eye Games)

Here is that question. Do you tell someone the truth even if it hurts, or leave them in blissful ignorance? Is it better to lie or to let someone in their last moments know the truth? Neither will feel good for Fia Quinn or yourself, but it's these sorts of questions that will show just how painful time travel can be, especially for those who have to protect the timeline. 

As for those time travel puzzles, well, this demo only showed us a few logic puzzles, but Gilbert previously mentioned puzzles get a little wackier with time travel in future missions. Do you know someone needs to trip for you to best them? Well die, rewind time, and then place a banana peel there for the next time around. You get the idea. 

I've always enjoyed point-and-clicks because they give you some of gaming's best puzzles and characters in combination. Although the demo of Old Skies had a few brain teasers to trial, I was mostly impressed with the games' inhabitants. It exhibited expressive voice acting and writing that clearly showed its casts' personalities. 

One young woman appears in a single scene of the demo but as a time traveller you know her fate. She's plucky and smart and just a few years away from death. It hurts, you've known her for five minutes and you're already mourning the loss of this brilliant woman. But while she's there, and you're having a conversation with her, she's a joy to talk to, and so you savour it.

Dr Joe Anderson is also a complex character. You find out very quickly he's sick, and despite his own ability to extend the lives of his patients, he'll die quite young. It's unfair and so all he wants, or at least all he tells us at first, is to enjoy a greasy meal like he did as a teen. When his true motives are exposed, it's not that he's a bad man, or a terrible person. In fact he's morally trying to achieve a good thing, but the potential consequences of his actions are bad. Very bad. And so much worse than the good he's trying to achieve. Again, it's not fair. He's a good man addled with bad luck despite the masses of talent he has been given.

Although Old Skies won't have massive branching narratives where you can decide who lives or dies, it'll have key decisions. Fia Quinn must protect the timeline no matter what. But I have a feeling she one day might break her company's code and delicious chaos will ensue. Without a time machine, I guess we wait to find out. 

Imogen has been playing games for as long as she can remember but finally decided games were her passion when she got her hands on Portal 2. Ever since then she’s bounced between hero shooters, RPGs, and indies looking for her next fixation, searching for great puzzles or a sniper build to master. When she’s not working for PC Gamer, she’s entertaining her community live on Twitch, hosting an event like GDC, or in a field shooting her Olympic recurve bow.