One of the reasons I eventually decided to get a PS4 was because it appeared to be the platform for more interesting ‘smaller’ games. To be honest I expected that Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture would be something I would admire rather than like which is how I felt about Dear Esther, but this turned out to be such a wonderful experience.
It was the beautiful screenshots of a deserted English village that initially drew me and they didn’t disapoint. Nearly everything looks so real that it’s slightly jarring when a road sign font or number plate isn’t quite right but I think I mean that as a compliment. Perhaps because it’s depicting a world I already know it felt so real to me. I didn’t realise the game had started because I was too busy looking at the view.
Calling this a game is where people start to have issues but I don’t really want to explore that; if it’s not a game then what is it? Part of me thinks it would have been nice to maybe have some sort of collectables but a bigger part of me thinks that it would be a distraction. Perhaps upon getting to the end of the story a new mode could have been unlocked with some more gamified elements. The trophies already to this to some extent but they are nearly impossible to discover by accident and even when you know about them the minutes required to wait is excessively long. This is the third game in a row after Life Is Strange and The Last Of Us where I wish there was a reward for sitting on a bench and taking everything in.
I ended up adoring this experience which more than once had a transcendent quality like nothing else (although looking up the definition perhaps that isn’t quite the right word). Perhaps it was obvious that this would appeal to me so much (I am the guy who thinks every game would be better if it didn’t have guns). I was too swept along with the experience to notice if there were problems with the story, I suspect the sci-fi elements could be a considered hokum but it didn’t bother me. I also still don’t know how much of the story I saw or understood but the fact that it made enough sense even though it was told in such a fragmented and out of order only makes me admire the writing even more.
There are issues, the biggest being how stuck I was in the first hour having somehow failed to understand the motion controlled tuning of the lights and then not knowing what to do. Smaller gaming issues like trying to open every locked door feel out of place especially earlier on when it looks like all ajar doors could be opened and all closed ones couldn’t – this is one thing that could ruin the experience for non-gamers. The biggest problem I had is one that seems far too common to all games and that’s a delimitation between chapters. The end of each chapter are the highlights of the game, these are the moments when the game looks and sounds the best and combine into those transcendental experiences but they also lead directly into the next chapter without an opportunity to save. Perhaps this is to encourage you to carry on but I need and want points where I know I can take a break and continue later without breaking the flow.
A final word about the music, this is perhaps the real emotional drive behind the entire experience, it will be interesting to see how it plays away from the game (I bought the soundtrack immediately after I finished playing) if nothing else I suspect it will just bring back memories.