Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture for PS4 and PC

I’m a bit of a defender of the ol’ ‘walking simulator.’ Where they don’t seek to engage through mechanics, they do so through atmosphere and story. A lot of them are bad, but often that badness is laid at the feet of lacking mechanics well in reality it’s that the story or world isn’t good enough. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture has been out for a while, but it’s only recently I’ve got round to playing it. This is a game which does show some annoying tropes of the genre, but through excellent storytelling and an unbeatable atmosphere manages to stand as an excellent experience.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture takes place during the 1980s, in and around a deserted Shropshire village named Yaughton. All the people are gone and in their place are dancing and shimmering balls of light, whilst ghostly voices and apparitions fill in the player on what befell the town. Yes, you discover the strange events that led to this situation, but you also drop into a lot of smaller, more personal stories about the people who lived in this town. They may not all be tied into the grand events that underpin the story, but everyone in Yaughton is the protagonist of their own lives with their own joys and tragedies.

I won’t go into specifics of the story too much, but suffice it to say that the world of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is extremely powerful. Listening to the shadows of the townsfolk speak about everything going on in their lives provide snippets of information which form part of a larger patchwork whole. I’m sure there are elements I missed; I wasn’t exhaustive in my approach to this game for reasons I’ll mention later, but the sense of piecing together the prior events is very satisfying. Despite never physically appearing in the game, some of these ordinary Shropshire residents’ stories genuinely moved me.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture doesn’t make any pretence to be a puzzle game or anything like that; this is a game where you wander about and that’s all. Thankfully, the setting is unbelievably beautiful and captures how stunningly lovely these sleepy corners of England can be. Nowhere is quite as picturesque and well laid out as Yaughton, but it’s about creating a feeling for a place rather than a faithful representation. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture triggered an odd nostalgia in me, which is strange as I have never lived in a place like Yaughton. There’s something buried into the national psyche that seems to respond to places as quintessentially ‘English’ as this. This nostalgia can manifest in very negative ways, such as calls to return to a mythic past which only worked for one specific demographic, but it’s hard to deny it’s power.

The biggest flaw of this game is an odd one, because it strikes me as an intentional design choice and I totally understand why they did it; your walk speed is too slow. The reason for this is obvious; Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a beautiful, leisurely game and should not be experienced whilst sprinting all over the place like the Doom Marine. I get it, I really do, but the walk speed is just on the edge of annoying. You can ‘sprint’, but in reality this is little more than a brisk walk. This makes backtracking feel far less appealing. I explored pretty thoroughly in the first half, but towards the back end I cut down on this and simply followed the set path. Some sort of system where you must walk slowly the first time you travel somewhere but can speed up whenever you return could have worked? I don’t know, I’m not a game designer, but the current speed is a problem.

To bring it back onto a positive, I want to mention the music, which is nothing short of stunning. A sweeping orchestral soundtrack backed by a full choir truly elevates the experience. I’ve played lots of games with good soundtracks before; Ocarina of Time is my favourite game soundtrack ever, but the game would still be great without it. Not since Thomas Was Alone have I played a game where the music is so tied into my enjoyment of a game. The game is frequently quiet, but at certain moments the orchestra will kick in with full force to an extent that’s actually breath-taking. If taken simply as an interactive showcase for composer Jessica Curry’s work, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a worthwhile experience.

If you hate walking simulators and everything they stand for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture won’t change your mind. I played it as a palate cleanser between big AAA releases, something I think I’m going to do more. I have less time to play games these days so I’ve been sticking mostly to the big releases this past year, meaning I have a backlog of cool indie games to explore. This is a game worth it for the soundtrack alone, but the unsettling and gorgeous village of Yaughton is a worthwhile place to spend a couple of hours.

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