Review: Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture Is A Walk Through A Transcendental Park
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture seems to be a very limited if exceptionally beautiful game, but will it be good enough to hold our attention?
- Worth The Time?Yes
- Things LovedBeautiful world with excellently composed and scripted accompanying soundtrack. Beautifully crafted characters, whose narratives craft a hauntingly beautiful end to the world.
- Things HatedIffy overarching sci-fi plot. The movement is, at times, agonisingly slow.
- RecommendationEverybody's Gone to the Rapture may or may not be for you. It's certainly an experience worth a playthrough, though perhaps when the game's on special if you're not generally inclined to slow, narratively-driven games.
- Name: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
- Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Developer: The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica Studio
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
- Price: R299
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
I dislike the label “walking simulator” for games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. They relegate games that are defined by their narrative exposition and intimate storytelling to their relatively scant style of gameplay, which is a disservice to them. Definitely, while Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture may be very light on interactivity, the game has more than enough to it to dissociate it from a stifling and misrepresentative label.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is set in a little British town — Yaughton, by the signs you encounter not far into the game — during 1984. The town is a little blip in the countryside of England, with a couple of big exceptions: there is a large observatory at the tip of the town, outside of which you start the game, and the town is absolutely deserted. You’re greeted by the voice of Katherine Collins, who tells the player that she is the only one left in the town.
And so you start the game — with only a vague premise and the sound of numbers being read over a radio station to set you on your way. This is largely how Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture will lead you through the game, through subtle audio cues, a natural path or the presence of the almost ethereal being of light that exists in the town. This path is very well set out, since it’s never particularly confusing or misleading; throughout my time with the game, I only got significantly lost once, which was more due to my own personal exploration than the game’s path being laid out badly.
Things like radios and telephones will grant you snippets of the now-absent population’s past conversations and internal monologues, while certain sequences where you encounter the being of light will play out as echoes of interactions that happened in the town prior to its desertion, generally through the eyes of a character whose experiences you are currently following which changes as the game progresses.
The game has been described as a sort of sci-fi mystery game, however, I found the sci-fi elements of the game to be its weakest. While they’re not terrible by any means, they’re presented in tatters and pieced together throughout the game, which means they’re always a little underexplained. That’s not really an issue however, as the sci-fi elements of the game are completely overshadowed by the portrayal of the lives of Yaughton’s citizens.
The aforementioned monologues, conversations and echoed scenes which you use to progress through the game rarely actually explain the phenomenon which emptied out Yaughton, but rather build the background to it — you learn about the population of the town, and how it was in that particular neck of the woods in the days and weeks leading up to this. This, for me, was the highlight of the game.
The Chinese Room has built what can only be described as vignettes to give the player a look into their lives of the population of Yaughton and the types of people they are (or were). They’ve written more than just a few cardboard cut-outs to fill up some time between big scenes: they’ve written believable, genuine and flawed characters whose stories you want to hear and engage with. By the end of the game — which isn’t particularly long, ending perhaps five hours after I’d started — I wasn’t chasing some explanation about what happened to the town, I was looking for background, relishing the stories that the game had to tell me, even though they all had the same inevitably grim ending. The mystery wasn’t the interesting part of the game, and that’s a credit to how perfectly the characters were written and how well their roles were voice acted.
From this perspective, it’s a bit disenfranchising to call this a walking simulator, simply because it’s not about that. To call it a walking simulator implies that there is a particular onus on the player character and their actions, but honestly, your character is of so little significance to the game and has such a negligible impact on the world around them that to overemphasise their part in it would not do the game justice. Nothing ever gives off the impression that your character is of any particular relevance to the world, a point which is rather hammered home by the fact that you never see any of the character or hear their footsteps. In essence, the character is more of a vessel than anything else: a necessary tool used to carry the player through the story rather than anything of relevance.
This doesn’t mean that the player experience isn’t important to the game: it’s just not prioritised in the same way as in more mainstream games. Instead of holding the player with strong, varied gameplay, it’s holding the player with beautiful vistas, a gripping accompanying score and excellent writing.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture‘s world begs to be explored. Despite the fact that you can’t carry any items, and exploring won’t get you anything other than a couple of extra audio logs, the world is beautiful and curious. Exploring puts you in other people’s homes and lives, and allows you to be a part of some of their experiences. It’s a highly detailed world — a benefit of it not being particularly dynamic — and surprisingly, especially given the meandering pace at which your character moves, even with the faster movement button fully depressed.
The game won’t be for everyone. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the type of game which is to games what art house is to the film industry: it’s never going to be a mainstream success or have the mass appeal of the behemoths of the industry, and it would be pointless to look at it through the same lens. But what it does have is special — even if that will only truly resonate with a small part of the community — and it has the impeccable production values and stellar support to be a success in its own way.