I can’t speak for everyone, but I know many gamers have a very glorified and fantasized version of the apocalypse. The end of the world makes for great entertainment, especially if it includes some act of the supernatural, zombies or even an alien invasion. As amazing as it is – I, myself, am a big fan of dystopian fiction – the extinction of the human race isn’t always used. What would happen to the world if everyone in it just disappeared?
No action, no blood, no evil force to face or health packs to pick up; Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture breaks many video game rules. Some might think calling it a game a bit of a stretch, but I choose to see this as a story told through a console (like you would read a story through a book) rather than a game with plot.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture takes place in a gorgeously detailed idyllic English town called Shropshire. You, or whatever you are, are whisked to this beautiful land to find out what’s happened to its inhabitants. Not knowing anything, you set out to relive the last moments of those in the town to find out what happened. Guiding you through the town is a bright orb of light. Is it trouble? Is it kind? Those are just a few of the questions that’ll go through your mind. For a long time you won’t understand what’s going on, so you’ll start to develop some theories. Many answers are ambiguous, so you’re left with an experience that’s completely up to you.
The best way for me to describe this game is that it’s a mystery wrapped in a drama. You, this unknown person/apparition/ voyeur, travel Shropshire learning more about the events that took place. Was it an alien invasion? An act of God? Was mad science behind it all? I can’t tell you, but what I can say is that the journey of discovery is amazing.
The game is divided into six chapters, which focus on the main characters in the game. The orb of light will guide you to the main plot points which are then activated by the user. During exploration, which is highly recommended, you will encounter other events of minor characters and what they think is going on.
You see, Shropshire is a small town and almost everyone knows each other. When things start to awry, with birds falling from the sky, dead, and people mysteriously vanishing, the people of Shropshire begin to take notice and slowly start to panic. All of these interactions, which are voiced brilliantly, take place at usual gossip spots, like the park, the lounge, the pub and even over garden fences.
Despite the game not having any people in it, it’s one of the most lifelike, realistic and thought-provoking games I’ve ever played. These characters are well fleshed out and brought to life with just the use of voice and a little of bit of light. It’s so real that it actually feels like this is exactly what people would say, think and do in this very situation. But despite the threat of the rapture, the game also deals with many different and difficult themes like adultery, betrayal, forgiveness, repentance, anger, loneliness, belief and ostracism.
The more you progress through each chapter, you begin to fill in the pieces of the story. I’d like to say it’s just wonderful, which it is, but it’s also deeply painful. Like the name implies everyone has died and you are reliving their demise. So to start a chapter with a new character arc, follow in their footsteps, understand their troubles and then, once you’ve become attached to them, see their end is a gut-wrenching moment, but also very powerful. And what makes it so much more is that it is treated with so much respect. I’m not going to lie, I nearly shed a tear when I reached the end of second chapter.
What adds so much to this game is the use of music and sound. I fully believe that music can make a game better, but in this case, it makes it great. Most of the sound effects are on point, except sometimes when it’s raining. But the music that plays during the end of chapter really shoots into your heart and soul.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’s greatest hiccup (and I have a theory regarding it) is that fact that it’s very slow. It’s so frustrating slow that you may get bored if you can’t find any plot points for a while. I also found that the light orb sometimes sends you on a little wild goose chase. I’m not sure if that’s part of the game – to annoy you – or a glitch. You can technically move a little faster, but it’s still damn slow. As much as I love exploring, slow as Hell isn’t exactly my favourite speed. There’s also some minor framerate fluctuations when viewing light scenes in a small room, but it only happened about three times. Then there are the controls. All you basically do is walk and look around, and sometimes press the X button to open a door or switch on an electronic device. The only other time you use the controller is to activate the light orb scenes which you do by tilting the controller left or right – that’s it. But, by the same token, that’s all that really needs to happen. The strength of the game lies in the story and the discovery, not by how many buttons you can press while doing it.
It’s a relatively short game, lasting about 5 – 6 hours depending on how much you explore. I’m also certain that you’ll probably miss a few things in your first run, so a second playthrough is highly recommended.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not a game for everyone. If wanting to shoot things is your kind of game, step away. If you’re looking for something with a strong story, interesting characters, beautiful scenery, peaceful exploration and coming up with your own theories, then this is well worth your time.