It’s undeniably beautiful, but the eerie, uncanny calm in the fictional Shropshire village of Yaughton portents a running theme; one of sadness. It all starts innocuously enough. For whatever reason – it’s never explicitly stated – you’re caught in the little holiday village, one that’s bereft of life, and it seems that it up to you to figure out why its inhabitants have upped and vanished. Your own footsteps serve as the only sign of living humanity.
Games of this sort have pejoratively been called “walking simulators,” and this one most closely fits that bill. There’s honestly very little that you actually do other than walk. There’s a button to interact with things, but the only items you’re able to interact with are doors and gates – and the telephones and radios strewn across the village, each filling in some of the story’s blanks. There’re no “insert object X in to object Y style puzzles,” and no conundrum to really solve. All you do, in effect, is walk around the beautifully constructed, very nearly photorealistic village and listen to fragments of the past, told to you by ephemeral, ethereal bits of spectral, liquid light as they recount the past.
This is where Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture really shines. As you walk about you’ll encounter glimmering blobs of light that beg for you to follow them, revealing bits of the major story arch, uncovering the strange entity that’s perhaps caused the epidemic of the unknown sickness that led to the village being quarantined, and why there’s nobody left. It’s a little more Sci-Fi than its Christian nomenclature might suggest, cribbing relentlessly from the work of prolific British Sci-Fi authors (whose books can be seen within the game).
While the story, frankly, ends up going nowhere, it’s the interactions between the villagers – the human stories that emerge when people are dealing with catastrophe that become the most intriguing, driving aspects. The writing and the voice acting that relay these fleeting bits of narrative are superb, giving real insight in to characters that deal with things like death, separation and the mundane, everyday stuff. It’s a beautiful look at humanity, at how people are flawed and fickle. It perhaps even raises important existential questions, and might make you wonder how you’d cope in a crisis, or whether there’d be any point in even trying.
Special credit needs to be given to The Chinese Room’s Jessica Curry. As the dramatic tension of each chapter ramps up, the music hits an intense, orchestral crescendo – sometimes accompanied by Celtic vocal arrangements that are very much my favourite thing about the entire experience, seconded by the incredible attention to detail, and the care with which this village was brought to digital life. Everything is exquisitely, and painstakingly detailed, the art-style and the technology coming together to create a wonderfully realised, authentic and believable village.
As a game though, it falls a little flat, with an oddly slow pacing that’s exacerbated by the snails-pace your character walks at. Much ado has been made about the game’s run button, but it hardly affects the miserly gait your character trundles around at – it’s still unbearably slow. It’s very probably intentional; meant for you to soak up all of the sights and sounds of the quant little village and the minutiae that lies in the details, but it works against the game. Eventually, I found myself not wanting to stray from the beaten path, lest I spend another hour crawling along to find my bearings.
It overstays its welcome too. Games of this sort aren’t usually particularly long, making them more engaging than they ought to be, but this one, as it drags you along its guided narrative can take 6 hours to complete – and even more if you’re bored enough to examine every nook and cranny of its superbly realised world.
And as good as the writing was for most of the game, the last speech, the one that’s meant to tie it all together comes across as the poorly-scribbled pretentious prose of a teenaged Stephanie Meyer. Much of what happened, in the end, is left up to the imagination – for better or worse. As much as I enjoyed bits of the game, its conclusion and the vehicle through which they were delivered were utterly boring. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture isn’t a game for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for me, though I wanted very much to love it
Last Updated: August 17, 2015