Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Following the Light - The Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Take Your Time Review

Quick Note: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is a fantastic story-driven experience. With a slightly creepy atmosphere and a world full of narrative tidbits and mystery put together by the player, there's a real joy in exploring every aspect of the game. The collectibles for trophies can be off putting and the running speed isn't very fast, so patience is required, but definitely rewarded.

Some game locations are great for their escapism, dragging the player to far away places that are hard to reach in our own world, such as a fantastic castle in some fantasy kingdom or a gigantic space station in the middle of the universe. It's this escapism that draws us all in, enticing us to explore a world we couldn't see any other way. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture captures that similar power of bringing the player to an escape, but this diversion is a small, seemingly mundane English village, and if that sounds odd, it's because it is. But the oddities are what make Everybody's Gone to the Rapture so charming and hard to put down.

The game positions players into the role of an unknown character who awakens just outside of the Valis Observatory, which itself is just outside the small fictional  town of Yaughton in Shopshire, England. From here the world is open to be explored, starting with the first of five major areas around the small county. The simple premise of the game lends itself to simple controls, which require only to use the right joystick to move the player, the left joystick to move the camera and the X button to interact with items, though most collectibles simply need to be encountered to count.

Your journey takes you far from the small beginnings at the Observatory.

The game play is not why you come to Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, but rather the story telling. As the player explores these areas around Yaughton, he/she will come across different memories of the small villages inhabitants. These memories revolve around one particular important individual, who is introduced as the player enters the area. These memories tend to come from inhabitants around the time of  the mysterious 'event' and give details on the characters that fill this sleepy town. Some of these memories are older, giving the player insight on the people of Yaughton and why the player should care about them. Others happen right in the middle of the 'event' and are important to understanding just what the hell happened. 

Some of the cast appear as villains while others are easier to love, but ultimately they are all fascinating, and because of that there's always a desire to learn more. The mystery of the 'event' itself also helps the player push forward out of sheer curiosity, but the character stories are definitely the glue that holds this narrative, and this game, together. 

Never would have thought shimmering silhouettes would be so damn interesting.
The amount of these interactions found truly depends on the players sense of exploration. It's entirely possible to skimp through each area without completing any of the main area's story sections and move straight to the end with very little narrative closure. But it's also this desire to figure out what is going on that leads to thorough exploration. Searching each tiny corner of the map is not only gratifying because of how beautiful and unique the world is, but because each new story facet adds another wrinkle to the complex story of these characters. For such a small town there's a lot going on, and piecing all the puzzle pieces together is part of the journey.

The attention to detail is rather remarkable when you look at the way each scene comes together with the overall story.

These stories come together in this beautifully realized world that is enhanced by the sound and graphical design of the game. The setting of Yaughton is not a typical locale for a video game, which is only emphasized by the wonderful lighting and art direction in each part of the world. From the homey village to the gorgeous orchard, it's hard to not want to be inside the game and wonder around, exploring every inch of the luscious environment. Even if there was nothing crazy going on in the sleepy town I'd still want to dive in and explore every nook and cranny of the village. 

Just look at how luscious this alleyway looks and tell me you don't want to slowly stroll down it.

Add the wonderful score and excellent voice acting, and it's almost the perfect package. The music acts as a wonderful accent to the game setting, building up at the perfect moments of tension and dying down to almost nothing when the moment is just right. There's a reason why this score has been so popular since the release of the game.

The narrative encounters are the easiest way to get large chunks of story about what happened in the area, but they aren't the only way to figure out what's going on. With empty buildings to walk into full of various radios and phone calls to listen to, there are a lot of smaller ways to pick up on the story of 'the event' as well as the memories. 
What a gorgeous night...
The biggest fault that Rapture has is how little there is to do game wise. It's one of the best first person walking simulators (as they have come to be known as) but if you are a player who longs for skill based game play or maybe you don't have the patience for slow building story telling, this is not the game for you. The slow burn and ambiguous story lends itself to more patient players, and the walking speed (even while holding down R2 to run) will definitely drive the less tolerant players nuts. But if you are looking for a story that isn't your typical narrative and want to walk around a beautiful, realistic world, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is the game for you. The story that can be pieced together in whatever order the player stumbles across it is interesting and engaging, and the world itself feels quite alive for such a desolate apocalypse. Don't forget to look over every nook and cranny and remember, follow the light.

9.0 out of 10

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