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.
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.