Genre: Point + click
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, Mobile
Release date: 24/7/14
TheIndieJar: Gods Will Be Watching – Review
Empathy Simulator seems to be a popular theme of games at the moment, and that exact title will probably show up next to ‘Grass Simulator’ or whatever trash shows up on Steam Greenlight these days. When you have fully formed characters and a well constructed plot, games are capable of breaking your heart. At it’s worst, you have digital characters you’ve just met crying on screen with a swelling orchestral score and you simply couldn’t care less (I’m looking at you, Beyond: Two Souls).
Gods Will Be Watching takes some of the best elements of games that do this well, and let’s you know there is no black and white in this world. You will never get the happy ending, not everyone will get out of this alive.
Except within minutes, the person who died is back in your team, as if nothing happened. I had a hard time with Gods Will Be Watching, and not just because I didn’t care about a single character.
In Gods Will Be Watching, you go through a number of high stress, micromanagement situations – like trying to manage a hostage situation, while keeping guards off your back, keeping an eye on your hacker’s security level, and making sure that your hostages don’t get too comfortable and do a runner. Or keeping yourself together during a torture sequence, while feeding just enough information or lies to your torturer to stay alive. You play as Sgt. Burden (Geddit? Because he has to TAKE the Burden of survival on!), a man who might not entirely be human, but seemingly is the only one willing enough to help people in a variety of taxing scenarios.
There’s some plot about being undercover with a load of bioterrorists called Xenolifer, while working alongside some faceless corporation, and there’s some level of mutual respect between your player and Liam, the leader of Xenolifer. I was only mildly aware of what was going on, mainly because I was too caught up with how bloody frustrating the whole game is. When we were given a code for the game, the developers told us ‘This game is hard and is meant to be hard’.
‘Whatever’, I thought. ‘I’ve played games before, this isn’t my first rodeo’, and I stuck it on the Original mode. It was around my forth failure on the first level that I resigned to sticking it on Easy.
When difficulty is done correctly, it encourages you to try new or different things to try and get through. When it’s done badly, it feels like a string of dick moves. When trying to play the Original Mode (The way it’s meant to be played), I felt it was bad design – It was slow, boring, with only the minimal amount of feedback as to why something went wrong. When I eventually stuck it on Easy to get through the first level, I was thrown into the aforementioned torture sequence, and found the game’s pattern. I am essentially managing a spreadsheet.
Every section in the game can be looked at as trying to keep a number above a certain level, while making sure another number doesn’t drop below a certain level. In the torture sequence, I can either spill the beans to not get hurt, or get punched / burnt / hammered while I’m thinking about a plausible lie. Every section of the ‘Think’ command makes a percentage go up, and increases my chance of lying. While undergoing torture, you need to make sure your character doesn’t get damaged enough to die (as you rely on a set of visual cues) and make you start the chapter again. Replace ‘Life’ with ‘Sanity’ or ‘Stamina’; or ‘Lying’ with ‘hunting for food’, and you pretty much have an idea of the entire game.
Visually, Gods Will Be Watching has the whole ‘8-bit and lordy do we know it’ look going for it. Everything animates nicely, and some violent sequences are just enough for your mind to fill in the blanks to make it look far worse than it actually is. The sound effects in these sequences are equally as gruesome, and the soundtrack does it’s job well enough – which is just as well, because you’re going to hear a lot of it.
How you actually play the game is through a series of clicking on things, like your common or garden point and click adventure. Want to inject someone? Click on them and select ‘Inject’. Want to knock a hostage about? Same thing. There is only the faintest of inventory management in some chapters, but when you’re primarily relying on a point and click interface, it can be rather tedious to click on a group of characters, select the right character, select the option to tell us how everyone is feeling, to find out that someone should probably nap for the next couple of minutes. It’s fiddly, and it’s just not fun.
That’s the theme running through this game. I just never had any fun. I spend 30 minutes clicking through various people only to find out the one thing I needed to do actually needed to be done twice. There was plenty of times I turned the game off to do something – anything – else, rather than continue in this exercise in tedium. I didn’t even finish the game – I got to Chapter Five, which I’m sadly not allowed to spoil, and played it multiple times before it proved to be the straw to break my spine. The core concept is interesting, but it’s just not enough to make it work. I’m sure there’s going to plenty of people who like this game, say it’s an ‘emotionally charged rollercoaster’ and it’s ‘exercise in moral ambiguity, that tests your resolve as you consider killing the weak to make the strong survive’. Feel free to use those for the poster. As for me, I find it hard to recommend this to anyone. I’m certainly glad it exists – I’d rather an experiment backfire than to never experiment at all. I was looking forward to this game for a very long time. It’s a crushing letdown.
Although I admit, I got a bit sad when the dog got a virus.
Gods Will Be Watching is a Point and Click survival management simulator, with all the excitement of a tranqualised caged animal. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t cry, and I didn’t learn anything about myself.
- Beautifully retro graphics
- Mechanically tedious
- Confusing plot, characters that I don’t care about
It’s certainly constructed in a well enough fashion, but it’s just no fun to play. Gods Will Be Watching spawned from a game jam with a theme of ‘Minimalism’. Sadly, that doesn’t translate to a full product, despite the price. A curio piece that sadly left me feeling uninspired and bored.
TheIndieJar: Gods Will Be Watching - Review,