A Slow Stroll Through a Sleepy Town – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture review

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Developer: The Chinese Room & SCE Santa Monica Studio | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (PS4); Playstation Mobile (PC) | Available On: PlayStation 4 (reviewed); PC | Release Date: August 11, 2015 (PS4); April 14, 2016 (PC)

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, for the uninformed, is supposed to be an interactive drama about discovering what happened to the mysteriously missing denizens of Yaughton. What it actually is is a wonderful example of a good premise suffering from horrible execution. It’s also an example of the internet lying to me because they said this was a good game!

Visuals & Gameplay

Visually, this is a fairly gorgeous game. The landscapes are incredibly realistic, the lighting is dynamic, and the story moments are shiny and lovely. Very, very pretty experience.

Gameplay, though? That’s pretty much a thing that doesn’t exist. I’m usually fine and dandy with stretching the definition of “game” a little. There are some really wonderful things that come out of that idea. However, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture suffers from basically just being a movie you were dropped down in. There are some phones you can answer and some radios you can listen to, but basically you’re just walking around the world encountering memories of the Yaughton residents made up of shimmery balls of light.

Also, when I say walking, I mean it. There is no obvious way to run. Apparently you can, but it takes holding down a button for an extended period of time before it kicks in, making it an incredible unlikelihoodA  that many would discover this on their own. The walking you can do is incredibly, painfully slow, making it a nightmare to explore the world of the game. So those pretty landscapes I mentioned? Yeah, I was totally terrified to properly explore them lest I get off track. Which I did towards the end, and what a nightmare that was. Had I not already invested so much time, I would have totally just rage quit.

Characters, Story, & Atmosphere

When I started up the game, I was intrigued. The options menu gives the impression that this will be some sort of post-apocalyptic experience, which I guess it is, technically. However, it took a hard left turn from what I expected, and while sometimes that’s great, not so much in this case. At the onset, the game does a good job of creating an eerie survival game feel which left me intrigued. I wanted to know what happened. Where did these people go? Why was there this lone woman on the radio?

Unfortunately, my interest quickly gave way to exasperation. For the first few hours of the game, I slogged through the desolate town where nothing of interest happened, listening to the memories of characters I was given no reason to care anything about. That may be one of the game’s biggest flaws. In a game such as this, relating to and caring about the characters is so important, but Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture does nothing to connect me to the characters I encounter early on. They are all faceless entities with names that blend together. I have no history, no connection, nothing. There were eventually a handful of characters I cared about, but I never encountered them in any meaningful way until several hours in.

As for the story itself, it gets a little convoluted. It’s an interesting premise, and I held on so tightly to the hope that it would play out in an interesting way. Unfortunately, I feel that it never really paid off. It wasn’t a bad plot, at all. Actually, had the mechanics been different or the writing tweaked on way or another, I think it could have been amazing. However, due to the difficulty in caring for the characters, it is near impossible to care for the story itself.

Other than being pretty, the only other thing really going for this game is the soundtrack. The score is beautiful and helped lend more gravitas to situations than was actually there in the writing or presentation.

Final Thoughts

I feel like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture suffers from an identity crisis. It’s interface outside of gameplay tries to present it as a post-apocalyptic survival mystery, while the actual game tries so hard to be an art piece that it’s almost painful to watch. It seems to have taken itself a little to seriously, which made it suffer all around. Without characters to care about, a defined protagonist, or any sort of twist at the end, it falls completely flat beyond being something pretty to look at and listen to. Never mind that it’s agonizing to play.

Maybe had I watched it on YouTube or Steam, I could have stomached it far better. Alternatively, had this come out as a VR experience, it could have shined a lot more. However, as it stands, I, quite sadly, really think they missed the mark.

Inside

Developer: Playdead | Publisher: Playdead | Available On: XBox One, PC (reviewed) | Release Date: June 29, 2016 (XBox One); July 7, 2016 (PC)

I never played Limbo beyond getting stabbed by a spider and saying screw it. There may have been a bear trap in there, too, but either way, I never made it far. However, I’ve grown as a gamer since those long-gone days, and with that time, I’ve grown to appreciate the artsy-er, indie-er side of gaming. As such, when people started talking about Inside, my interest was piqued, but I still had no intentions of picking it up immediately. Then people kept talking about it, and I realized that if I didn’t want this game spoiled, I should really play it soon. In that spirit, I’m going to do my darnedest to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. However, if you fear to tread the waters in case of lurking spoilers, before I even begin, let me say that I highly, highly recommend you play Inside. Continue reading

History 102: Repeat and Relearn – Bravely Second End Layer review

When Bravely Second was announced, I was elated! I loved the first game, and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for our beloved heroes next. Then the demo happened, and I wasn’t so sure anymore. After all, a large part of what made Bravely Default so amazing was the changes it made to the JRPG formula. Without that newness, could the sequel hold up? Never mind the fact that I didn’t like any of the new characters introduced in the demo at all when I first met them. The future looked bleak!

I’m super happy to say I was wrong to be worried. I loved Bravely Second, if not just as much as Default, close enough. That’s not to say it wasn’t without fault, but as someone who loves the series, it was a wonderful next step on the journey.

Gameplay & Visuals

Bravely Default breathed some new life into the turn-based JRPG strategy, and the amount to which it did that is hard to measure up to. However, Bravely Second does a good job of continuing down the path its predecessor forged. All the important gameplay aspects from the first game remain – customizable random encounter rates, brave and default, and job asterisks. Newer mechanics include battle chaining for increased experience and pg, a mildly addictive mini game, and sort-of branching story lines. These things are done to varying degrees of success. The battle chaining is a great way to level grind as each successive battle you win in the first turn gives you a multiplier on your exp, job exp, and pg. The mini game includes making stuffed animals which you can “sell” to earn points which can then be used to up your production of the plushes or be traded into pg. It was fun at first, but greatly lost it’s appeal before I ever hit the half-way mark of the game. The branching story lines kind of get my goat, though. In order to get the job asterisks from the first game, you must mediate between two opposing sides presented by those asterisk holders. At first, this seemed a great and compelling way to frame the game. Sometimes I was forced to choose between which asterisk would be more beneficial or which side was more in line with my morals and values. However, the wind was quickly removed from my sails as these choices are made moot by having no impact on the world of the game, as well as the opportunity to change them later on in order to get the opposing asterisk. What started as a great risk/reward system quickly turned into something that just seemed pointless. After all, why am I going to not get all the asterisks if I can?

On the note of the job asterisks, there are a whole slew of new ones, and I quite honestly can’t think of a single one I didn’t like. I definitely was partial to certain ones over others, but they all were great. There are also plenty of the old ones to get, as well. They aren’t all there, but the important ones are definitely available. Technically, however, you could probably get by without them due to the new jobs being more than capable of filling certain roles. It all depends on your preferences and play style. Plus taking the time to get the old asterisks greatly helps in levelling your characters.

Visually, the game isn’t that different than its predecessor. It’s 3DS graphics, so what can you really ask for? The environments and sprite designs are pleasing on the eyes, plus there are some nice looking cut scenes. Not much to praise in this area, but also nothing to really complain about.

Story, Characters, & Atmosphere

The story is a little convoluted, but then again, so was the first one. There were a lot of times I found myself rolling my eyes at the over-the-top nature of things, however, in the end I was pretty happy with it.

Without going into spoiler territory, the start of the game finds Agnes as the new pope of the Crystal Orthodoxy, Edea as the next Grand Marshal of Eternia in training, and Tiz asleep in a fish tank. You begin the game playing as the Three Cavaliers of the Crystal Orthodoxy, which is comprised of Yew, Jeanne, and Nikolai. Through a series of events, you lose Jeanne and Nikolai, at which point Yew joins up with Edea, a newly awakened Tiz, and a lady from the moon known as Magnolia. Together, they fight to bring down the Kaiser Oblivion and the dark powers behind him.

I abhorred Yew, Jeanne, Nikolai, and Magnolia in the demo, and I could not imagine having to play these four characters for a whole game. However, Bravely Second does what the Bravely series seems to do so well, and it made me care deeply for all four of them. I was actually really emotionally invested in all of these characters by the end.

Despite the fact that there were a lot of repetitive moments and things that don’t quite get explained, I really enjoyed the story. There is a lot of focus on the events that led up to the first game, as well as more about the realm the fairies come from. It’s also basically all one big love story, and what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good, well told love story.

I also loved getting to explore more about the characters from the first game, namely, the asterisk holders. Getting to explore their histories and personalities in a whole new way was an absolute delight. I really loved most all of the new characters, too. This game did a fabulous job of creating individuals I cared about even when the story itself may not have been as strong as it could have been.

Also, you only go back in time once this time around, so hey! That’s way better than the first game. However, I will say that I don’t feel like what you need to do in order to go back in time is readily apparent. I cheated a little and used a walkthrough at that point, so maybe I’m wrong and I just didn’t look hard enough. Just know there is a trick to it, and if you do it wrong, you could wind up “going back in time” more than the once that is necessary.

When it comes to atmosphere, all there really is to talk about is the soundtrack and voice acting. Soundtrack was actually really good. It definitely played on the emotions. The voice acting, however, was slightly hit or miss. I can’t say anything was actually bad, per say, but some of it was super over the top and corny. One could argue that that’s in line with the feel of these games, but it really wasn’t necessary. There were several times that the excessiveness of the voice acting took me completely out of the experience. I found myself very often just pushing buttons through dialogue because the voices were getting on my nerves.

Also, puns. All the puns. In the world. They are all in this game. It was funny at first, then incredibly annoying, and by the end I think the part of my soul that was capable of caring about them was sufficiently trampled to death.

Final Thoughts

Bravely Second was a super fun game that definitely kept my love of the series going strong. However, it is not a good introduction to the series. The game relies very heavily on you having played the first game, not necessarily because of story, but more in just the sense of giving you something to care about. Like I said, the game does a great job of crafting individuals to invest in, but there’s a lot of emotion and investment that also comes with having played the first game. I think if you’re missing that investment, Bravely Second will fall completely flat for you.

Over all, if you played the first game and liked it, I think you’re sure to enjoy this one. However, if you were hoping to jump into the series on game two, you may need to rethink that approach.