Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a beautiful game. In the opening sequence, layers of detail are added swiftly to an ink line drawing until, finally, the environment which you will explore is laid out in front of you in fine detail and saturated colours. The game’s visual strength creates a sense of the hyper-real, guiding you into the uncanny valley where everything is recognisable and familiar yet somehow deeply wrong.
It’s a good choice for a game in which the narrative relies heavily on disaster tropes. The bright summery hues that dominate much of proceedings are in sharp contrast to the grey colour palettes most commonly associated with post-apocalyptic titles and keep the material fresh. Quarantines and nosebleeds, panic and confusion, all these genre staples are present in Rapture but their skillful deployment is anything but routine.
As you explore the Yaughton Valley you will come across the former residents of this entirely typical English town, now mere echoes, formed of wispy ethereal light. Wander through the valley and, gradually, more will be revealed about the lives of its resident’s.This is the crux of the game; while you as a player are physically exploring the environment, the real journey is through the lives of those who lived in these villages and hamlets.
Rapture requires its players to pay attention. Its semi-open world approach means that the valley can be explored in almost any way that the player sees fit. This allows the writers to adopt a nonlinear style of storytelling. Parts of the story may be discovered in an uncertain order and only fully understood when the last piece falls into place. The danger is that this approach could give rise to a chaotic tale, one in which the player is unable to emotionally engage as their energy is absorbed into making sense of the fractured plot laid out in front of them.
While the quality of the writing is inconsistent throughout the game it’s certainly never bad and the dialogue between the characters is written in such a way that each conversation adds meaning to other conversations. The end result is not so much fractured as layered. Detail is poured upon detail and the moment of clarity, when you finally understand something that was previously confusing, carries significantly more weight than a traditional reveal.
It's somewhat inevitable that comparisons will be made between Dear Esther, the previous game from developers The Chinese Room. However such comparisons are not necessarily helpful. It is fair to say that if you didn't enjoy Dear Esther's rather loose approach to gaming conventions then you will almost certainly find little to entertain you in Rapture. However the reverse may not be true and fans of Esther should not approach Rapture expecting a straight rehash. Conceptually and stylistically these games are two very different beasts. Where as Esther was about isolation, Rapture is about the interconnectedness of people and things. The loading screen is perhaps a giveawy, presenting a silhouetted image of a man and a woman hand in hand. While this might seem, at first, to stand in stark contrast to the deserted Yaughton Valley it is in fact a neat representation of the game’s essence.
The accusation that Esther was not a game, but rather a walking simulator, could be applied to Rapture just as easily by those that were so minded. But to do so would ignore the fact that the writers, developers and musicians involved in this game have put together a story that could not have been executed in the same way via any other media. If you enjoy games with impressively rendered visuals, an excellent score, and a story that is both compelling and moving then Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture will provide you with a bountiful return on your investment.