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Gods Will Be Watching PC Review

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I Love You But I Gotta Stay True

If you know where the late night seedy area of your conurbation is, you might find someone willing to don a pair of red shiny stilettos and stand on your scrotum.  If these services are available for around £7 all the better, it will be over quicker and be far less painful than trying to play Gods Will Be Watching.

I love point and click games, I’ve written about my love for them before, when I previewed the unfunded Kickstarter project for The Breakout.  GWBW is not a point and click game, well the game is controlled via point and click but that’s as close to the DNA of the genre that it gets unfortunately.

It’s more like torture porn, and I don’t mean in a good way where you can sit back relax and knock one out whilst watching some slap and tickle.  You are the subject of the torture, and if the developer wanted you to feel like a Daddy Longlegs having each limb pulled off, then bravo. It’s an accomplished piece of game design, but I think I’d rather book into Gitmo for a fortnight all inclusive.

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My Morals Got Me On My Knees

So I’m going to try and be constructive with this critique, but first here’s a bit of history about the games development.  GWBW was the product of the Ludum Dare 26 Game Jam.  The theme for the event was “Minimalism” and with that in mind the team created a single scene with minimalism  as the core gameplay element.  You and your team had to survive 40 days in an isolated environment before being rescued.  It was a neat idea, filled with morally ambiguous decisions, and the plaudits soon followed.

Following the success of the game jam, a crowd-funding effort soon materialised and the $20,000 raised on Indiegogo smashed the $8,000 original target back in August 2013.  At some point darling indie publisher Devolver jumped on board and the rest as they say is history.  Fast forwarding to 2014, and the game has now hit full release.

I’m Begging Please, Stop Playing Games

The first mission finds you in control of a team trying to hack a computer aboard an enemy installation.  Your team each have their own responsibilities.  One is in charge of ensuring the security team doesn’t storm your position, another is looking after hostages, a third controllable character is your electronic warfare specialist-  tasked with boosting the hack speed and crippling attempts to stop your hack.

Are your hostages looking a bit too calm for your liking? You can shout at them or give them a bit of a kicking. Likewise, if they are on the edge of doing something stupid you can try and calm them down.  It’s the same mechanic for keeping the attackers back, firing a couple of shots forces them into retreat, where as negotiating halts them in their tracks and gives your team breathing space.

The second episode- titled ’20 Days of Words’ concentrates on just two of your team, who after being captured must survive 20 days of extreme interrogation. I’d hazard a bet that this would be Dick Cheney’s favourite part.  Don’t answer the questions? You get hurt. Sustain enough injuries and you die.  You can give your merciless captors the information for a brief respite, but give too much away and it’s game over.  Another member of your team does come into play and offers some limited help, but I think you’re getting the idea of this game now. The 6 playable scenes all revolve around the same mechanic, and to be honest I only progressed through trial and error.

Described as a point and click thriller, in reality it’s a point and click resource management game, a brutally tough one at that.  I was lucky enough to get early access to Gods Will Be Watching and was stuck for over a week on that second mission.  It really can be that tough to figure out.  A challenging game can be a great thing, look at the success of Dark Souls.  Where that particular spirit crushing game requires skill, GWBW is all about the unseen algorithms running in the background that are quite honestly incomprehensible to people like me.  The game became a real chore for me, any enjoyment I was having was completely sapped.

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You Got Me Begging You For Mercy

Gods Will Be Watching was designed to be hard, PR spiel suggested that I savour the difficulty and it has been designed to crush.  That’s why this review is coming a good couple of weeks after release, holding back on writing this has also been rather fortuitous, in a 180 only beaten by Microsoft dropping Kinect, the developers have dropped a big patch titled “The Mercy Update”.

The update adds several new difficulty options when playing, from just decreasing the difficulty to doing away with it all together with the simply titled “Narrative” option.  It’s a great idea, but for a game that has been designed to crush it’s a surprising flip flop.  Difficulty aside, the biggest stumbling block is that it’s really hard to develop a connection to the characters and hence care about their fate.  Interesting relate-able characters would have made me plough on through the torture, or even want to play through the narrative again, but it just missed that spark for me.

Gods Will Be Watching is undoubtedly a great concept mired, by lacklustre characters. A game mechanic that at times is unfathomable as it is tough.  The dark and mature themes are a refreshing addition and the developer; Deconstructeam has clearly got some strong unique ideas about game design, and although I find GWBW a bit of a misstep I am excited to see what they come up with next.

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Gods Will Be Watching is available now on both Steam and the Humble Store

 

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