“The Light We Cast Transcends Our Death.”
One of this month’s free games on PSN is “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture“. Before November I don’t think I’d heard of this game as I tend to steer clear of walking sims given my first experience, Gone Home, left me somewhat embittered toward the genre due to the lack of payoff for the narrative. Since then I’ve not been inclined to try it again. That being said though, free is free, and I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m glad I gave EGttR a chance, because while this game may not have been the most exciting I’ve ever played, it was certainly one of the most curious I’ve seen in a while. There was a question lurking throughout the entirety of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture that I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my hands or my head around, and that fascinates me more than the game with all of its twists and turns.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture originally came to the PlayStation 4 in August of 2015, and this past April finally saw a PC port on Windows, so this is a very “Late to the Game” review. Nevertheless, it’s worth writing about, especially given that the game will be free for a few more weeks. If you haven’t played it yet and have PSN, I urge you to give it at least an hour of your time. If the narrative doesn’t interest you, the beauty of the game alone should.
It’s unclear who you are in control of throughout most of the game, but what the player will learn within the first few minutes is that you are in a small, fictional town named Yaughton in the county Shropshire, England. Most importantly, you are the only person there. All signs of life are extinguished save for the sound of birdsong and the buzzing of insects. This naturally raises many questions, but you are told via a radio broadcast by a Dr. Katherine Collins that in order to learn what has happened you must follow the markers left by the “event”, that “the answers are in the light”. This naturally seems like senseless babble, until you meander down the paths and see the small auroras of light flickering down the paths. Following these leads the character to seemingly sentient orbs, and this is where the story really begins.
These orbs lead you throughout the town to various points of Yaughton. As you progress, tiny dialogue sequences projected through the light begin to play, piecing together the story of not only the events that lead to Yaughton being emptied of its inhabitants, but about Yaughton itself months before the event. As to which is more interesting is up to the player. The majority of the story revolves around Katherine (Kate) in some form or another, though is not told from her perspective. Snippets of the narrative are trickled through other points of view including Stephen, Kate’s husband, Lizzie, Stephen’s on again-off again old flame, Frank, Stephen’s uncle, Wendy, his mother, Jeremy the local parishioner, and a few other minor characters. None of the excerpts you receive through radio, telephone, or the orb markers found along the way reveal anything in order though, so the more neurotic among us may want to take notes during gameplay. Thankfully, the plot isn’t so complicated as to make this necessary.
I feel that though it should go without say, it bares mentioning that there is absolutely no action in this game. You will literally do nothing but walk around and find pieces of this vast puzzle that has brought Yaughton to its pariah status. If you are expecting any scares, any tenseness, this game will not deliver. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is solely a walking simulator game with narrative components. Regardless, these narrative components are stellar.
Without spoiling too much I will say that the cataclysm that has left Yaughton a ghost town starts with the residents falling ill. We are told via these played out scenes that nosebleeds and headaches are the first signs of “infection”, which then escalates to feelings of weakness. No one ever sees what happens next it seems, the afflicted citizens simply “disappear”. They are put under a village wide quarantine and told by local authorities that they must wait until the side effects subside. No one, of course, is buying this.
As the story progresses we learn that there’s much more going on here, and that this illness isn’t an illness at all but something that seems to have started with Kate and Stephen’s work up at the observatory on the outskirts of town. Nothing is determined about this phenomena other than it is a pattern of unknown origin and is presumed to exhibit some form of sentience. It can travel through radio waves and by contact with others, makes those who have contact with it fall ill which then leads to their eventual disappearance. Stephen spends the duration of his story trying to stop it while Kate tries to understand it, and their part in this is weaved in and out of the other happenings of Yaughton.
These happenings generally revolve around relationships within the community of Yaughton. Jeremy, the parishioner, has had issues with his faith and coming to god. Frank recently lost his wife and is trying to collect himself after his loss. Wendy also deals with the loss of her husband as well as the fate of her son’s love life. Stephen himself deals with the conflict of his affections being split between Kate, his wife, and Lizzie, his old fiance, while Lizzie herself deals with similar feelings between Stephen and her abusive husband, Robert. Kate seems to be the only person centered on her own workings with “the pattern” and never deviates from this path. Receiving this story in pieces, it is hard to come by the significance of the relationships until we begin to see their conclusions. These are people finding themselves, and what makes them whole. In the wake of death, they realize what gives their lives purpose.
The narrative concludes with Kate’s final moments, and it is there that we come to realize that this game was, at least in part, about finding our “other ”. Going back and playing the game over again makes this sink in a little more as we reflect on each of the character’s final moments. Jeremy succumbs and passes in the church while talking with god, the one thing he had a hard time finding peace with. Frank’s final moments are of him reflecting on rejoining his wife on the other side, and the same for Wendy. Stephen and Lizzie’s story seems to be the most confusing, as you’re not certain what decision they made upon their conclusion.
Recordings of Kate’s final moments as she solves and communicates with “the pattern” are telling but still leave much of the happenings and conclusion open to interpretation. I won’t spoil it here, but just remember that every ounce of dialogue in this game is essential for advancing the narrative. If you miss good portions of the story in the recordings and telephone calls a lot of this probably won’t make sense. It’s worth it to take the time and explore everything, it will make the journey so much more worth it in the end.
Before concluding this review there is one major attribute of this game that is absolutely essential to point out and that is the soundtrack. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture has one of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve heard in a game for a long time. The a cappella choruses are equal parts haunting and ethereal and fits with the story so well that it’s hard to imagine the game without it as they are as much a stalwart companion throughout the game as the orb markers that lead you through Yaughton.
Overall, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture was a pleasant surprise. It’s breathtaking graphics, astounding soundtrack, spirited voice acting and mysterious storyline really made this game just about everything it needed to be to keep you going just a little while longer. One could easily play through the span of EGttR in one sitting, but I would recommend taking pause and revisiting areas before completing it because it is easy to miss things.
Get it while you can for free on PSN!
Final Verdict: 5/5
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture.
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC; Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment ; Developer: The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica Studio; Players: 1 ; Released: August 11, 2015 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $19.99