Editor Note: We have tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. The Let’s Play at the bottom is not spoiler free.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an intriguing game and one it’s nice to see it being championed so much by Sony. From the creators of the Dear Esther the game wears some of the traits of its predecessor on its sleeve. Some of those traits are great ones to have, whilst others hinder it slightly.
It’s June 1984, the world has ended and, somehow, a small village in Shropshire is the key to figuring out how. Memory fragments, which are shown as balls of light, float around the village. Some will even try to guide you on your journey on uncovering the truth, but how they tell your story however, is all up to you.
Although at the games core, the fragments will help you piece together how the world ended and you’ll soon find out a lot about the village and some of its residence. There are stories of romance, of loss of faith, of sibling disagreements and, most importantly, those last moments as the world ended. Each character feels realistic, even the minor ones that only appear a few times throughout. Anyone that has spent time in an English village will be fully aware of the petty politics that occur within it and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture does a great job of capturing that essence.
There are plenty of hidden moments to witness, kept away off the beaten track. The game does a great job at guiding you towards where you need to go with audio and visual clues. A ringing telephone or radio signal gets louder when you get closer to the source and the smaller fragments that can be found let off a noise to let you know that they’re there.
There is a problem with trying to hunt these down though and that is the slow pace you wander through this world. Much like Dear Esther, there is no run button and if you’re following the memory fragments that are guiding you to the key parts of the story, then that’s fine. Once you start going off the beaten track to explore intriguing looking landmarks it can start to become a bit tedious, especially when there isn’t a memory fragment in the area that you’re exploring.
In the later stages of the game I found that the memory fragments became a bit confused on the path that they at times followed. On several occasions I was following them in what seemed like the right direction and then they’d suddenly change their path, meaning all of my progress had been for naught. There are also moments in the game where several memory fragments could be vying for your attention, which can make it a bit confusing.
That issue is one that presents itself due to the non-linear story telling of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Although it may be tempting to finish off one characters memory fragment arc at a time, there is no real reason why you have to. Each area has memories from various parts of the narrative timeline. Even as you near the end game you’ll still witness moments that you would fit at the start of the timeline. This is the key puzzle of the game. Letting you piece together what has happened and understand the overall narrative arc.
The fact that the key puzzle to the game is something nearly anyone can do, is in part what makes it such an interesting experience. Its minimal, but effective, the use of the DualShock 4 makes it easy for a person of more or less any skill to play. Issues may arise if you’re hard of hearing, as audio guiding is key. Luckily though you can experience most of the main story arc following the visual guides and the subtitles provide you with a character’s name, making it easier to keep track of who’s who.
The visual guides are great at guiding you through the game and do so in a way that takes you along some intriguing paths. There’s lots of small attentions to detail that help build the world, which is essential considering the absence of humans to occupy it. Whether it’s a drawing left on a table or a tissue left on the floor, there is a rich tapestry painted by the games developers, even outside houses you can’t enter. Nothing appears to be placed as filler and everything feels like it holds some purpose.
When it comes to holding up examples of storytelling within the videogame medium, then this game deserves to be near the forefront of the list. The tale it tells of an apocalypse that is a truly wonderful slice of science fiction. The way it portrays its heritage grounds itself to British culture brilliantly and doesn’t feel like the caricature in the way in which Britain is often portrayed in some games. Not only does it tell a great story, but it does it in a way that only the medium of videogames could do effectively.
It’s a shame that the lack of a run button at times hinders the impact of some moments, such as when you want to be chasing after a memory fragment due to witnessing something dramatic, you can’t. It’s a small issue but something that makes the drama ease, rather than increasing the tension. When it comes to immersive experiences though, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is definitely one worth exploring and will leave you pondering it even after you’ve finished. It’s a nostalgic, sci-fi mystery and is one of the finest indie games to grace the PlayStation 4 this year.
+ Looks superb
+ Great art direction
+ Audio is wonderful
+ Quite a lot to explore
+ Some lovely set pieces
- No option to run
- Without subtitles can be hard knowing who's who
- Back tracking to explore is tedious
- The memory fragments can be awkward to follow