Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is the kind of interactive experience that has gained popularity in recent years, and led to discussion and disagreement about what constitutes a "game." It's a particularly apt example, because the interactivity is so superficial. Although you can interact with some doors and objects, you can’t really affect the story with your actions. In all reality, it leans more heavily on the "interactive story" portion. The emphasis on storytelling with only the barest semblance of interactive elements make Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture a game best suited for niche audiences interested in a very particular kind of storytelling.
Set within a small village in Shropshire, players must make their way around the large village and unravel what has caused all of the villagers to vanish. Built within CryEngine, the scenery of the village and surrounding countryside is stunning, and really helps to set the tone of the village as you make your way through hit. Quarantine posters are splattered across houses and doors, roadblocks are set up on the routes out of town. Something mysterious has happened in this tiny village, something that has caused every single person to vanish from sight.
The game’s story is told through flashbacks which players can trigger by interacting with small bright yellow orbs of light that float in various areas. It follows six characters, moving throughout the village until you eventually return to the area you started at for the final character’s story. The story is fantastic, well-written, and has plenty of twists added in to keep players happy. The story follows the six characters through their final moments throughout the town, weaving mysteries as the town slowly falls into anarchy and panic.
It's a brilliant story when you look at it from a creative standpoint. Strange noises emit from the radios and phones, something clearly trying to communicate, or attack, or get free. Whatever it is, everyone has their own theories. Is it flu like the government says? A alien life trying to communicate? Or is it a group of alien invaders looking to take over the world? You won't know until you've turned over every stone and experienced every flashback. The brilliant story is somewhat a turn off, however, as the player must walk everywhere, and this makes the pacing of the game feel much slower than it should be. There were several times I found myself willing my character to move faster. I needed to know more about what was happening, and yet by the time I found the next story moment I was already starting to lose interest.
Functionally, it is also extremely easy to get lost within the village. If you play games like I do, and like to move around and explore every nook and cranny then you’re bound to find yourself at a loss for which direction you should head next. Most of the time this can be taken care of by locating one of the floating yellow characters which guide you through the story, however, sometimes it’s hard to spot them since they do move around a bit. This can easily lead to getting turned around and having to retrace your steps (at an excruciatingly slow pace) until you spot your guide.
The experience is fairly linear. Yes you can go anywhere you want in the world for the most part, but the story only plays out if you follow your guide to the next story bit. This can be annoying for those who like to explore the areas and experience the vast beauty and care that has gone into the environments. Some of the story moments don’t always feel connected to the underlying arc, but overall the story feels connected and flush, and each moment shows more about the person that you are following at that point in time. The narrative is spot on, clearly establishing the relationships between each character, and effectively weaving the player into the story even though we’re only seeing the aftermath.
Coming from the developers of Dear Esther I was expecting more of an interactive adventure than anything. However, having played games of this same genre I can say that throughout the entire experience Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture feels less like a game than the creepy interactive story Gone Home which was released by The Fullbright Company in 2013. Fans of slower-paced story games will enjoy it, but others may very well lose their patience.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
- Beautiful graphics
- Twisting and gripping narrative
- Fantastic voice acting
- Almost completely unguided exploration
- Can be slow at times
- Exploration seems to be frowned upon by story system
- Very niche style gameplay
- CryEngine pushes PlayStation 4's graphical power causing minor FPS drops throughout
Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Review: A Fitting End