“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
–1 Thessalonians 4:17
“The following is a guest review by The Timely Mage.”
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a story-based exploration game developed by The Chinese Room. It takes place in the small English village of Shropshire during the 1980’s where all of its inhabitants have mysteriously disappeared.
Often jokingly referred to as a walking simulator, Rapture’s pacing is indeed quite slow and hands-off. The experience is like a peaceful stroll through a garden while taking in the beautiful sights. In fact that’s exactly what the game is and it’s a brief stroll at that, spanning little more than 5 hours.
However, while it is rather slow and short, it does not suffer from a lack of depth and beauty. The environment perfectly portrays the quiet and sudden absence of life and the drama that plays out is believable and heartfelt.
The story itself is intriguing and focuses on the lives of the villagers just as much as the events that lead to their end. All of the people seemed to have (spoiler: highlight to reveal) been infected by some sort of energy-based alien entity. The phenomenon causes the host to develop a brain tumor before they eventually die and burst into light. The alien “pattern”, as it is referred to in the game, was first discovered in an observatory by a couple of astronomers. At first it seemed to be contained but of course this didn’t remain the case for very long.
You play the game through the eyes of a character whose identity is left a mystery until the very end. As you wander the open landscape you witness past events playing out before you through glowing wisps of light that coalesce around key locations acting out the drama that took place there (kind of like a reverse shadow puppet show). While this may seem strange at first I discovered that leaving their appearance and facial reactions up to the player’s imaginations made it an even more personal experience which was by no means unintentional.
Arguably one of the most compelling aspects of the game is the audio. From the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Jessica Curry to the wonderfully talented voice acting, being enraptured in the sounds alone is worth the experience.
As rich as the sounds are, the sights are just as stunning. As you briskly walk through Shropshire’s countryside you have plenty of time to take in the beautiful, almost tangible view. Very rarely have I seen a town so wonderfully realized in a game.
However be warned that your interactions with this world will be quite minimal. The game was designed to be slow-paced, arguably to a fault, as your max walking speed feels like you’re riding on a crippled turtle. I can appreciate a story-based game where I am more or less there to just watch a story unfold but having to spend twenty minutes backtracking because I got turned around doesn’t really do anyone any good.
Overall it was a compelling experience that was both emotionally and philosophically engaging. While its slow pace and lack of interactive gameplay may be too much to overlook for some players, I still felt it was a satisfying and memorable experience that delivered what I hoped it would.
The 8-bit Review
Some of the best visuals I’ve seen in a game, the small town of Shropshire couldn’t have been more beautifully realized.
The evocative soundtrack that drives this game will haunt you long after you put down the controller. Joined by the relatively unknown casts’ stellar voice acting, Rapture’s audio makes up the backbone of the experience.
Rapture’s story is far deeper than it is long and will give you plenty to think about if you’re in the mood for an apocalyptic science fiction. Even if you’re not completely into the heady philosophical themes, the human drama will likely tug at your heart.
Its gameplay is where Rapture finds its greatest struggle to engage the player. While I can understand and appreciate the intentions behind limiting your pace and interactions with the world, very few will probably share my patience with the game and even I at times got really frustrated as I realized I was lost and knew it would take at least a half an hour to get back on track.
Rapture is quite unique on many levels from its storytelling method to its 1980’s English countryside setting. However considering the exploration game genre that it identifies with it doesn’t deviate too far from its roots.
While the game is by no means difficult as there are no real enemies or puzzles to overcome, the snail pace and lack of direction are very real challenges that make this game only accessible to those patient and intrigued enough by the narrative to make it to the very end.
Rapture is a game that you will most likely play through only once. There is little reason to return to Shropshire beyond picking up details you may have missed your first time around or just reliving the experience but even these reasons are deterred by how long it will take you to move from one narrative point to another.
My Personal Grade: 7/10
Despite some of its shortcomings, I still feel that Rapture’s narrative and presentation make this game worth playing through at least once, especially for book readers or those already accustomed to the more artsy games. It may not be for everyone but if you go into it with an open mind it may surprise you how enjoyable taking a stroll through the peaceful environment can be.
Aggregated Score: 6.9