By Sam Smith
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the strongest argument yet for computer games as an art form. This is because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before, but also as I can’t imagine it being told in any other way than the medium of a video game. With other games, you progress in a linear fashion towards an outcome, and what you see along the way is very much pre-determined, rather than based on choices.
However, where EGttR differs is that there is no linear progression as such, as the game world is open to you from the start. And while there is an achievable outcome, how you get there is entirely up to you. How much of the story you choose to reveal is exactly that, your choice.
”orbs of light lead you like will’o’the wisp from one story event to the next to form the narrative”
The premise is that you find yourself in the quintessentially English town of Yaughton, but every single inhabitant has mysteriously vanished. It’s up to you to discover how and why this has happened, and to help you in your journey to unravel the truth, floating orbs of light lead you like will’o’the wisp from one story event to the next to form the narrative.
In these events, characters appear as particles of light, and a 20-30 second exchange will take place. As you progress, these will coalesce to form a larger over-arcing narrative, but also shed light on various character’s lives before the main story.
The way in which the mystery unfolds is very well done, with snippets of panicked conjecture from the townsfolk mixed in with religious dogma and science babble, to create an ever changing and contradicting version of the truth.
”like the bloke from Memento recounting an episode of The Archers.”
Because the characters in Rapture remain unseen, and the story is told in such a disjointed fashion, it can sometimes be a disorientating experience to try and keep track of, like the bloke from Memento recounting an episode of The Archers.
It’s good then, that the voice acting is some of the best ever heard in a video game. Each and every character has their own distinct personality that you’ll come to know and recognise. Even bit part players are done well, and really convey the feeling of not knowing what the hell is happening but being very British about it.
It’s why the game lends itself well to repeated playthroughs, as you’ll want to go back and find out what happened with a particular story. And if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a far richer and more satisfying experience.
Without giving anything away regarding the ending, they definitely do it justice. The mystery at the game’s core isn’t explained, but any definitive explanation following the m
ountain of contradictory evidence would have been anti-climactic. Rather, the game allows the player, with the story they’ve gathered, to make up their own minds about what happened in Yaughton.
”There’s also a fantastically eerie atmosphere, a growing sense of unease that remains throughout”
There’s also a fantastically eerie atmosphere, a growing sense of unease that remains throughout. It’s even more impressive given the game never relies on anything like cheap jump scares or gory visuals. This is more about what’s not seen. The fact that it’s a perfect English village minus the people is otherworldly, and though you never see another living soul, there’s always the sense that someone is just out of sight, a face in an upstairs window or a figure in the far corner of a field. It’s a very specific and unique sense of creepiness and one that another game would be hard pushed to replicate.
The atmosphere is also supported immensely by the amazing soundtrack, mostly ethereal choirs that complement the game’s feel. So too does the sound effects, the rustle of the branches, the distant hiss of a radio, the click of a car’s hazard lights. It does a tremendous job of not being noticed, which is exactly what you want from an experience as immersive as this.
”In many ways, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the perfect post-Brexit game”
However, it’s not without its faults. The orbs that lead you from one story destination to the next can sometimes misbehave, whether by accident or design is hard to tell. This can cause the game to descend into something of a confusing goose chase. Also, the autosave feature is hard to decipher, and somewhat insubstantial, as it only saves after you’ve completed certain story actions. Again, this can cause confusion and may lead to one or two instances of losing data and having to backtrack across the map. Overall though, these are minor niggles in an otherwise outstanding gaming experience.
In many ways, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is the perfect post-Brexit game, at a time when the English national identity is being scrutinised and everyone’s re-examining what exactly it means to be British. Let’s just say I’m fairly sure the majority of Yaughton would have voted Leave…
Gameplay – While it doesn’t involve quick reactions, button mashing or any particular degree of skill, the gameplay is still impressive, and its simplicity will catch you off-guard.
Audio/visual – Brilliant. Really evokes a strong sense of atmosphere.
Future classic – I’d like to think this is a distinct possibility, even though it won’t be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey.
Controller Smashability – Pretty much 0. Unless the sight of picturesque countryside makes you angry.
Memories – The overall experience of playing through the game will be the most memorable, rather than specific points in the game itself.