We’re only a month away from the endless onslaught of Game of the Year awards. In a month, me and plenty of my friends and colleagues will be drafting up lists of our favourite games of the year, while also thinking ever so slightly less of the many people who don’t agree with us.
Before that happens though, I wanted to take a look back at some of the games I didn’t get the chance to talk about at the time for whatever reason.
These are not reviews, some of the games I haven’t played for months. They’re also not necessarily my Game of the Year™. They’re simply the games I found interesting (for better or for worse), but never really discussed when they came out.
This year’s been an utterly fantastic one for fascinating stories in games. Undertale, Life is Strange, The Beginner’s Guide, The Charnel House Trilogy, Emily is Away, the list goes on and on and on of stories I’ve really enjoyed. Notably, this year is finally the year where the quote-unquote ‘walking simulator’ genre finally clicked for mem and became something I can enjoyably play.
This is where The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture comes in. Set in a Shropshire village after the end of the world, when it came out I remember the gaming industry react incredibly weirdly to it. There were plenty of complaints about it being a slow, plodding game with a difficult to follow narrative, and, as a result, it was unfortunately left by the wayside as other games came out. I heavily, heavily disagree with almost every single complaint I’ve seen levied at Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
I’m from the Midlands in the UK, so not all that far from Shropshire; seeing how the area is represented in Rapture was incredibly interesting. I’ve walked through woodland and farms that looked identical to places in Rapture, and I even found furniture that looked surprisingly similar to things that are in my house right now. Exploring a setting that is often so close to my own environment was a weirdly memorable experience, and I’d argue that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the closest thing you can get to actually exploring the British countryside in a game.
Maybe this is why I never had a problem with Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’s pacing. Some argue that the game was too long (roughly six hours), and a lot of time was spent slowly ambling from plot point to plot point. However, I simply enjoyed the wandering too much for it to bother me. The freedom of really having a sometimes very personal and invasive around a village that looks very similar to ones just down the road from me was fascinating. Being able to see how the people really around me might be living and working succeeded in keeping me engages through the slower portions.
That experience was made all the better by the game’s overall presentation. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is one of the most hauntingly beautiful games I’ve played in a long, long time. Watching as the sun quickly sets over the church, or watching how the plants in the fields sway in the wind were very subtle effects that really made wandering through the game a pleasure.
That’s not even mentioning Jessica Curry’s stellar soundtrack (which I’ve pre-ordered the vinyl release for, that’s how good it is). Watching lights fly through the sky while a choir sings in the background sent shivers down my spine. Seriously one of the prettiest games of the year in every possible way.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is your usual soap opera, and all the small-scale domestic conflicts they’re known for, wrapped up in an apocalyptic science-fiction story. It manages to dive seamlessly between an unknown and potentially alien threat wiping out the valley to dealing with more relatable problems like religion and euthanasia in a way that doesn’t feel disrespectful or limiting to either narrative. I found myself enjoying Lizzie’s romantic problems just as much as I did Stephen’s more frantic race against time, and I equally cared about each of the different plot threads The Chinese Room juggled.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is one of those games that I wish had a bit more time in the limelight. While the game does sometimes veer more into being about that vague cultural concept of “Britishness” than actual realism, Rapture manages to handle effortlessly a large amount of plot threads worth discussing at greater length. Threads such as the religious debates present in Jeremy’s chapter, or how the game portrays a disabled character without ever actually physically showing them in Lizzie’s.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a game that’s stuck with me in a massive way in the weeks since playing it, and I’m incredibly glad I took a chance on it.