Exploration games have always been intriguing to me. Often called walking simulators, games like Dear Esther, Old City: Leviathan and now Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, have a certain something that always pull me in, and it’s not just because of the hyper-realistic walking the developers have put into the game.
Initially, the biggest appeal of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was the setting. As an Englishman, I was pretty keen to see what the Chinese Room, a British developer, could create with a Northern 1980s village. As soon as I was able to, I wandered around the fictional village of Yaughton, taken aback by the extreme beauty of my surroundings. It’s a village so masterfully created, that I even had to check that it wasn’t a real village, as I was utterly convinced that it was set in a real location. It isn’t just the opening collection of houses that seem so real and lifelike either, as you progress through the game, every nook and cranny of the entire game is so incredibly believable and brilliantly put together. You’ll be treated to a stunning vista that you’ll never tire of while playing the game, that it alone makes playing it worthwhile.
There is more to the game though, much more. The idyllic village will likely draw you in, but the intriguing story and wonderful cast will make you want to stick around. If you’ve played Dear Esther, you’ll know that the Chinese Room can make a game very engaging with an excellent story, but only tell it to you in short bursts. Although that sounds slightly irritating, it never feels it in this game as you’ll always feel the need to understand what exactly happened in the game, and each time you find a new aspect of the story you’ll feel slightly more informed and yet, completely clueless as to what is going on around you. It may sound absurd, but the lack of information gained through each interaction makes the game so fascinating and playable.
As I’ve already stated, Chinese Room have gone to great lengths to ensure believability in this game, and they didn’t spare any effort when it came to the cast of the game. There’s a large number of characters in the game and none of them feel out of place or like they’ve been jammed in unnecessarily. Each one of them plays a part, through their interactions and conversations with other members of the village, to reveal to you the strange goings on of their fair hamlet. They all have their own stories unfolding before you as well, to further increase the notion that this could well have actually happened and you’re merely watching a documentary.
It’s fairly obvious that a lot of time went into this game, and you will also spend a lot of time in the game too, as one of the things I didn’t like about the game was the speed at which you can walk. It does sound nitpicky – and it is – but often it feels as though you’re moving through treacle. I also found this with Dear Esther as I was always finding myself plodding around much more slowly than the average human would walk. It’s almost as if the protagonist is an octogenarian that has spent the last decade in a wheelchair and is just beginning to figure out how to walk again. I don’t expect to be sprinting everywhere, and if that was the case then the game would likely be ruined, but making the playable character move even a quarter step quicker would resolve my quibbles with the movement speed.
The other issue I had, and it is slightly tied into the walking speed problem, is that you’ll often suffer with a lack of real direction in the game. Exploring the village and the surrounding area is an incredible experience, but when you want to learn more about the story, it can be fairly frustrating as you could go half an hour or so between finding “story points”. There is a few orbs that you can follow to direct you, but half the time they’ll take you back – sometimes quite far back – to previous story points that you may have missed, which will end up in the story being told backwards. It’s not really something that’d be very easy to fix, but after hearing the bits near the end, then having to backtrack to find out something you pretty much were already aware of is a bit of a ballache, especially when you’re moving so slowly.
Would I recommend this game to you? Absolutely. If you enjoy stories at all, this game is fantastic. The only negatives I have for it are fairly minor and definitely shouldn’t change your mind about playing this game. It’s a thoroughly interesting game that will hold your attention for as long as you take to complete it. Everything the developers set out to do – other than walking – has been done absolutely perfectly and if this game doesn’t win an award in the near future, I will be absolutely astounded.