Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture had a weird road to take. Prototyped 4 years ago as a PC game about the world ending, and playable hero having a limited amount of time to do whatever they think they can or should do before the world ends it ended up being much closer to the first The Chinese Room’s project – Dear Esther. And, to be completely honest with you, despite loving Esther (and Pigs), I was sad to hear that Rapture will abandon the original plan. Afraid to see that Rapture will overstay the welcome of less interactive games and have a cold reception and, well, be simply much more boring then Esther was. In a few ways, I was right to be afraid. But mostly, Rapture is a huge “this is how it’s done” lesson on how to make a beautiful theatrical touching story with little to no interaction, which, at the same time, simply wouldn’t work in any other medium, other than games.
So let’s start with the beautiful – the game looks and sounds fantastic. The art design, the details, the huge map of a small town and it’s surroundings is phenomenal. There’s just one loading screen – right as you start the game, and everything afterwards is just a huge map with outdoor and some indoor areas, full of details and beautiful things. All of which also sound amazing. Sound design, voice acting and music, oh the music, are all top notch.
Soundtrack sounds good outside the game, but in game it’s not just good, it’s simply perfect. And, as always, slightly overtly poetic and intentionally slightly (and sometimes very) theatrical prose in the script completes the game, makes it work together. It’s a rather simple, yet very clever and intriguing story about love, in all of the meanings of the word. And as a story it manages to be both a melodrama, a thriller and even a horror story that would fit some philosophical episode of The Twilight Zone.
Sadly, there are bad things too. The thing that is simply not great for PC version specifically, is the optimisation. Thankfully, it can still be resolved in the future, as even while the game looks like it deserves to be very hardware hungry, even the developers acknowledge that they weren’t able to optimize it for PC as good as they could at the time the publisher decided to release the game. So future patches might solve this issue nicely. The only truly bad thing with the game itself, though, is the walking speed. While I fully understand the lack of jump, as it’s hard to take a story seriously when you bunnyhop everywhere, I do not understand the logic behind the run button in the released version of the game. Initial plans indicated a very Mirror’s Edge-like concept of character simply building momentum as they walk, but in the final release, the game has a run button, and that run button simply doesn’t work in many spots, and that’s an apparently intended feature. Moreover, in some closed spaces your walk speed from normal goes to extremely slow. And that’s really really bad for a game with huge environments to explore, because as a player you can hit the point when you DON’T want to explore in the game all about exploration. Because it will be too slow, and you can get into a dead end and need to go back etc. I’m hoping this too will be rebalanced in the future, because the current solution simply hurts the enjoyment a player can get out of the game.
But overall, it’s still atmospheric, beautiful and unique. I’d still say that at least some of the original ideas could’ve been more fun to see – after all, we’ve seen examples of much uglier games’ environments and characters feel very much alive with games like Deadly Premonition or Sylvio, just due to clever use of gameplay elements. But as is, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is something you really need to experience.