Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Review

By Brandon Fusco,
There has been surge in story driven first person exploration games since the release of Gone Home two years ago, and developer The Chinese Room's recent release Everybody's Gone to the Rapture follows in those footsteps. It's easy to see where following after such an acclaimed game could be daunting, but when you're the studio that made Dear Esther and laid the groundwork for this style of game, maybe you don't have anything to worry about.

False Advertising: You spend most of the game alone.False Advertising: You spend most of the game alone.

By design, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is a simple game. Throughout the game, the main character is limited only to walking, single-button interactions, and an accidentally hidden sprint function available when holding the R2 button for several seconds. At the start of the game, there is a closed gate, a single road, and a radio making funny sounds. From there, all that there is to do is to find out the story of what happened in this gorgeous but deserted little village.

As the valley is explored, this story unfolds by way of small electronic devices, such as phones and radios, that convey small bits of their recent usage, or through striking and well-acted light vignettes. A small golden ball of light leads the player to the most important parts of the story whereupon the light erupts into the shapes of people going about their business. If the light show that occurs is brilliant, then the orchestration and voice acting is transcendent. It's likely that none of these vignettes top two minutes, yet in just seconds these performances can contextualize whole relationships, as well as the struggles and stresses between the inhabitants of this village.

Swirling bits of light are all that are left.Swirling bits of light are all that are left.

While you start out seeking answers as to where everyone has gone, these character moments are the highlight of the game. The main mystery of the game more importantly serves as a unifying thread for the stories that unfold here, allowing a glimpse into the soul. Under such extreme circumstances, the excesses of character and the true substance of a person is revealed: some seek solace in decency, some panic, and still others grasp for answers. Every vignette drips with emotion, most with some combination of sadness, loneliness, or desperation, but always in a passionate way. In this way, the final event is more setting than plot.

That shouldn't dismiss the environment itself, however. The valley in which the game takes place is stunningly beautiful. The textures and other assets on display are not overly impressive on their own, but when coupled with the games' beautiful lighting effects, the world comes to life. Every piece of the landscape and settlement are meticulously placed to create a lived in feeling, although this sometimes doesn't come through. On occasion, the lack of motion to the world, such as how phones are never picked up when used or how doors and gates appear to be the only physical things that move, transforms the game world from a lived in place to just an exceptional, if slightly mundane, interactive diorama.

No wonder there's a trophy for doing nothing for five minutesNo wonder there's a trophy for doing nothing for five minutes

There's only one significant flaw with this game, but unfortunately it's a doozy. While the gameplay is simple by design in order to place the greatest emphasis and control on the storytelling, it's also the one greatest hindrance to that story. Due to the exceptionally slow walking speed, which is only slightly improved when sprinting, it's possible to wander for minutes on end with absolutely nothing stimulating happening should you lose the guide. The more wide open spaces are by far the most breathtaking with sweeping vistas and rolling hills, but they are also the places where it's easiest to loop around on yourself or lose sight of the guide.

The only significant reward in the game is the drip feeding of story, which is great when it comes at a decent pace, but when two 30 second vignettes are divided by several minutes of furiously walking down a road that's already been thoroughly explored, it's easy to lose interest. In many games, traditional gameplay kicks in between those two small bits of story that are entertaining, engaging or even rewarding in their own right, but Everybody's Gone to the Rapture fails to do this. Once you've processed your most recent story bit, you're left with nothing but a cringe worthy stretch of boredom that disrupts the flow of the story.

What does the light tell you?What does the light tell you?

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture has a total of 19 trophies, and every trophy could be considered missable aside from the trophy for completing the main story. With that said, most of them are quite simple. Several of them require you to do nothing for a set amount of time at a specific point such as a phone booth or bar. Aside from that, there are several standard collectible trophies, such as finding all of the maps in the game, seeing all of a certain type of landmark, or experiencing every bit of available story. For the most part, many of these are simple or silly trophies that shouldn't take much time to unlock, although the collectible trophies could take a considerable amount of time without some sort of guide.

Summary

The debate always rages whether the most important element in any game is the story or the gameplay. In reality, games with simplified gameplay can give way to exceptional experiences and are none the worse for it. However, in a game like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, the lack of interesting gameplay elements in between story, especially in such a large space, can be detrimental to the story, making an otherwise amazing experience slightly less so. Those who don't have the patience for the slow, sometimes monotonous, pace may have trouble maintaining interest at certain point, but for those with the patience to persevere, you'll find a compelling character drama about love, life, faith, and friendship of the highest caliber.
4 / 5
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
Positives
  • Deep, compelling story
  • Gorgeous setting
  • Beautiful lighting effects
Negatives
  • Painfully slow movement speed
  • Occasional diorama feel
Ethics
Brandon played the game for about 10 hours, enough to finish the main story and nab 11 of the games 19 trophies, and is eager to get the rest and see all the game has to offer. The reviewer purchased a personal PS4 copy of the game to write this review.
Brandon Fusco
Written by Brandon Fusco
Brandon is an Editor and TGN's Host with the Most. The most what? The most opinions, the most understanding wife, and the most *funny cat videos. Previously Host of the Trophy Talk Podcast. (*Not Verified)