Every­body’s Gone To The Rap­ture

PS4

EDGE - - GAMES -

Fic­tional apoc­a­lypses are usu­ally pretty straight­for­ward, but in Every­body’s Gone To The Rap­ture, the end of the world is any­thing but sim­ple. There are no blasted wastes, sham­bling in­fected or 12ft spi­ders to of­fer clues as to why hu­mans are now an en­dan­gered species – all you know to be­gin with is that you’re in the vil­lage of Yaughton in Shrop­shire, it’s an im­pos­si­bly lovely day, and there’s not a soul in sight.

You might think The Chi­nese Room’s next game after Dear Es­ther and Am­ne­sia: A Ma­chine For Pigs sounds ex­plic­itly re­li­gious. The re­al­ity, of course, is far more am­bigu­ous. “It’s not a re­li­gious apoc­a­lypse,” says cre­ative di­rec­tor Dan Pinch­beck. “[The na­ture of] the apoc­a­lypse is the cen­tral mys­tery. It starts off with be­ing a few dif­fer­ent things, and it’s try­ing to work out what ex­actly has hap­pened over the course of the game.”

What’s fas­ci­nat­ing about this story-driven open-world ex­plo­ration game is that peo­ple will un­ravel that mys­tery in dif­fer­ent ways. Your role as the priest of Yaughton’s par­ish, and seem­ingly the only sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the world’s most pleas­ant apoc­a­lypse, is to walk around un­cov­er­ing snip­pets of story. These take the form of balls of golden light, and there’s no set or­der in which to en­counter them. “It’s tied into the mys­tery of the game why there are balls of light,” Pinch­beck ex­plains. “We didn’t just want to have au­dio diaries; we wanted to have a vis­ual thing in there as well. So when a scene’s go­ing on, there’s stuff go­ing on around you.”

Rarely will you find your­self tap­ping your foot and wait­ing for the au­dio to fin­ish. You’ll need to track it, ac­tively en­gage with it. It’s a so­lu­tion to the old dilemma of in­ter­ac­tive nar­ra­tive, one that in­spires play­ers rather than steer­ing them down spe­cific paths. Be­cause while these un­ex­plained phe­nom­ena serve to el­e­gantly de­liver snip­pets of ex­po­si­tion, their very pres­ence is also a mys­tery.

The golden orbs aren’t just float­ing au­dio tracks to chase, though – they’re able to morph into the vague forms of peo­ple. For ex­am­ple, you might dis­cover a scene in a house in which a mother, sur­rounded by bloody tis­sues, is gen­tly weep­ing. As she walks up­stairs to check on her kids, who haven’t been down in six hours, her light casts long col­umns of shadow be­tween the ban­is­ters. Of course, you could forgo this tragic scene en­tirely. Head into the vil­lage pub and you’ll spot still-lit cig­a­rettes in ash­trays and half-drunk pints on the bar, in­di­cat­ing that what oc­curred here hap­pened re­cently.

Although a small slice of ru­ral Devon might ap­pear like a lo­ca­tion only a small num­ber of peo­ple could pos­si­bly iden­tify with, its au­then­tic­ity as a set­ting is what Pinch­beck is bank­ing on to im­merse those who haven’t vis­ited Eng­land’s more pas­toral cor­ners. “My favourite games are Stalker and Metro, and I’m not from Moscow or Ukraine,” Pinch­beck says. “I think if you do a con­vinc­ing enough world, peo­ple are peo­ple, and we might speak a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, but ac­tu­ally we’re pretty sim­i­lar in a lot of ways.” De­tail is key, and in Yaughton there’s al­ways a sense that some­one has been there be­fore you.

It’s also a painstak­ing pe­riod piece: set in 1984, this is a world with­out In­ter­net and mo­bile phones. You’re ab­so­lutely de­pen­dant on TV and ra­dio for in­for­ma­tion, with the en­tire world end­ing at the bound­aries of your town. That re­quires rig­or­ous at­ten­tion to de­tail. “You drop in a prop and the prop doesn’t feel quite right, and you’ve lost the en­tire scene,” Pinch­beck says. “So it’s quite an in­tense process. Take the wheelie bins. Our artist put wheelie bins in and we had to go round and say, ‘They didn’t have wheelie bins in 1984!’ So we had to put in metal bins.”

In Every­body’s Gone To The Rap­ture, how­ever, you’ve got the power to ig­nore such de­tails. And that’s what sets this game apart from more di­rectly nar­ra­tive-driven of­fer­ings. What’s the na­ture of this apoc­a­lypse? That’s for you to de­cide.

Pub­lisher SCE

De­vel­oper The Chi­nese Room For­mat PS4 Ori­gin UK Re­lease 2015

The Chi­nese Room cre­ative di­rec­tor Dan Pinch­beck

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