A Slow Stroll
In the lead up to the release of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture I was excited. The Chinese Room have delivered some fantastic titles in the past, with Dear Esther something of a defining game for them. The idea of a short science fiction mystery set in a small British town felt quite fresh in the swathe of new releases this year.
I dived into Rapture with a sense of wonder, engaged at first by the mystery ahead of me. “What happened here” played over and over in my head just as the developers intended. Then I got lost.
No, not in the good, immersive way – I found myself wandering around the centre ring road of Shropshire hot on the heels of a glowing orb I could never quite figure out, leading me past houses, pubs and recollections I’d viewed and explored minutes before. It was enough to break the immersion around an hour and a half in. I put the controller down, returning later with renewed patience to the world of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.This is the problem that lead to me enjoying the game much less than I thought I would have. The game is slow, open and relies upon a drip feed of intrigue to keep interest; the openness felt like a curse that really stretched out time between these moments, combined with an aimlessness that made getting back on track quite a task.
Thankfully visiting the sites around the small town for the first time are a joy – the world is beautifully realised and felt genuinely real. I imagined that somewhere in Britain right now people are living lives like the townsfolk did before the game began. Alongside the views, a stunning score punctuates the dramatic elements of the game and simmers into the background while wandering. When Rapture is good, it’s damn good.
This carries into the breadcrumb trail of a narrative you’re presented. As you wander from shimmering orb to shimmering orb you take a glance into the past, watching the several dramas unfold throughout the village. The wave of terror from the quarantine and ‘flu’ going around (leaving citizens bleeding profusely) is quite a fascinating thing to follow. The performances delivered through golden human shaped figures was surprisingly personal & I felt like a fly on the wall of what once was, following the main narrative and world building scenarios.The game deals with some quite serious and mature issues, exploring love, ageing and death in the small religious town. It was definitely interesting to ponder on but most of this, besides love, is explored in the world building side segments that breathe life into the town. Often left hanging for the furthering overarching science fiction narrative, the order in which you piece together the mysteries can be a little jarring as a complete picture.
I’ve barely mentioned the actual gameplay thus far and this is for a good reason; it’s as simple as simple can be. You move and look like any other first person game, using a single button to interact with doors, gates and anything else in the world. A hidden run button (holding R2) allows you to move a little faster through the world, but it didn’t always seem to have an effect.
Interacting with the glowing orbs I found the most jarring – a prompt appears on screen for you to tip and move your dualshock 4 in an odd wave – I wasn’t always sure I’d done it correctly, or even if what I was doing was having an effect. The mostly simple control scheme fits the title well and would be forgivable enough if not for the technical issues that occurred, such as stuttering FPS and a crash. In one instance I managed to get stuck for a good twenty minutes before deciding to close and re-open the game, allowing me to progress.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is quite a unique title. I came out of the experience lukewarm, having enjoyed some of the game’s truly brilliant aspects while teetering on boredom and disinterest thanks to the speed & size of the game. Rapture rewards the patient with quite an engaging story, with fans of Gone Home and Dear Esther sure to find a lot to love here. I just felt like there wasn’t enough for me personally to connect with, leaving me unaffected and uninterested in the journey I’d ventured on.
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation 4 (reviewed)
A review code was provided by the publisher.