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Gods Will Be Watching

Score: 82%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Deconstructeam
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Classic/Retro/ Puzzle (Time Management)/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Many readers of popular gaming websites will find Gods Will Be Watching familiar. It has been available as an in-browser game and has received a lot of attention for its minimalist graphics and puzzle style gameplay. That game is free, and still available to play at the time of this review here. So if the game is free and already available, what game am I reviewing? The answer is an even more awesome one.

The overall style of the game hasnít changed much from the browser-based game. The characters are still done up in that skinny-legged, wide-hipped drawing style. Thereís just enough detail in the backgrounds to flesh out a complex world to go along with the story. You can tell, however, that the developers had a bigger vision for the game than they were able to put in the browser game. Little details like a setting sun and an additional campfire scene have been added to the original level from the browser game. They're small additions, but they really help to make the level and the world feel complete.

Thereís something about the style, not just the graphics, but the overall feel of this game that feels genuinely retro. It feels like Iím firing up that yellowing, grey computer, turning on the giant CRT monitor, and listening to the grinding sound of the disk drive loading. And it feels just as mysterious and beautiful as games did back then.

Maybe this is a trend among retro, pixel graphic games (The Last Door also comes to mind), but thereís some pretty dark imagery in this game. Early on in the game, thereís a level where torture of various forms is depicted with just enough detail to portray all the gore. Thereís burning, teeth pulling, and a game of Russian Roulette that can end just how you think it ends. The game is not filled with gore, per se, but it when itís depicted, thereís enough there to make you feel some real emotional reaction. In fact, much of the game relies on you being able to read just how heavy a person is breathing or how nervous they look from their head movements. Youíre trying to gauge emotion from the animation alone, so it has to have just enough detail to convey that information, yet just enough detail to let your imagination run wild.

There are no voiceovers in the game, but there is a very nice soundtrack. This is a game built on repetition and trying things over and over, so you need to have something you can listen to over and over. The music perfectly matches the sci-fi feel of the game and the tracks are all lengthy, with layers that add on top of each other perfectly. The music is really so well-designed, it feels like it never repeats. With styles that range from lengthy guitar solos to catchy electronica, itís a soundtrack thatís easy to love.


Gameplay:

Gods Will Be Watching follows the story of Sergeant Burden, a character that never gets handed an easy decision. Heís also quite a mysterious guy, even to himself. Things start out with Burden working undercover with a terrorist group known as Xenolifer. His job is to help the groupís leader, Liam, hack into a computer to steal information on the deadly Medusa virus. The story is more about the situations Burden is thrown into than itís about Burden as a character, at least at first. But as the plot progresses, you find out that things might not be that simple. Burden can never seem to save everyone, only win measured, terrible victories. The title of the game says it all: thereís nothing you can do that will let you rest with a clear conscience.

Itís pretty creative how the game manages to wrap itself around "one-room" levels and interesting story. Though it may not sound like it, being trapped in one room for all of the action, there really never is a dull moment. (Some levels technically break out of the one-room pattern, but for the most part, it remains true throughout the game). In one level, youíre fighting to break out of the room by digging, but also fighting to obtain a cure to the dreaded Medusa virus. In another level, youíre managing the teamís sanity, food supply, and weapon stock; it all happens on one screen around one small campfire. For each scenario, youíre always managing lots of different risks, while at the same time, learning something about the people and the world around you.

I did say this is a better version than the free browser-based game thatís been floating around the internet for a while; the main reasons for that being the expanded content and the expanded choices. For example, Gods Will Be Watching does contain the browser game as a level, but that level is a greatly enhanced experience with more choices and more graphic touches here and there. Itís still as hard as the original, though.

One thing the browser version of the game couldnít get around to was depicting some of the humor found in this version. The browser version of Gods Will Be Watching was all about survival. The crew was at the edge of sanity already in that scenario, so there wasnít much room for joking around. Here, in the "full" version, we get to see a full arc of emotions from the crew, and a lot of new personalities as well. Sergeant Burden has some existential dilemmas here and there as well, so itís not just humor thatís enhanced in this game. Thereís also some pretty mature language added to the game, which also helps build a robust world.

There are a couple of extra features worth mentioning. You can view statistics at the end of each level to see how your choices stack up against the rest of the gaming community and you can also unlock concept art depending on whether you meet certain criteria while playing.


Difficulty:

Hereís the thing about Gods Will Be Watching: itís tedious, and thatís what makes it hard. Sure, thereís an easy setting if you simply want to get through and see the story, but much of the point of this game is that itís old school in its toughness and near impossible to get through on your first try. Itís the kind of game where having a notepad on the side will help, because youíll want to map out how different characters react to different actions. Which scientist freaks out more at the sound of a gunshot? Which one is less susceptible to intimidation? How much pain can Jack endure versus Sgt. Burden? Each action puts someone precariously close to the brink; the entire game is a delicate balance. Oh, and there is one level in particular that you will be pretty much forced to make a physical map; I really donít see how you would beat this particular level without a little pen and paper. Ah, it really brings me back to my Kingís Quest days.

If you donít like being left without a road map, you probably will find this game too tedious to handle. If you like figuring things out, Gods Will Be Watching is an interesting challenge. If youíre old school enough to remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books, you can think of Gods Will Be Watching in that way. If you were too frustrated to keep reading the books after too many dead ends, youíll likely find this game to be just as frustrating. But if you werenít daunted by the prospect of failure, and even liked finding out what the failure paths were like, youíll probably enjoy this game.


Game Mechanics:

Gods Will Be Watching is all point and click gameplay. There are pop-up text bubbles and menus, and for the most part thatís it. The few areas where you can actually move your character around donít actually produce any meaningful reaction in the game, so they donít really matter in the end.

As I progressed through the game, I realized it might be polarizing. Gods Will Be Watching is simple, yet wonderful. From the path it forces the player to go down to its graphics, itís an exercise in restraint. And that kind of restraint is not for everyone. There really could be some guidance offered in this game, but that would make it a different game. I will say that some later scenes, no matter how much you liked the beginning of the game, are exceptionally frustrating, even on the lower difficulty setting.

Gods Will be Watching is simple concept, really; One room, lots of decisions, repeat. It may not be for everyone for just that reason. Itís a throwback to retro games in a lot of ways. And those games were often pretty unfair, and pretty unforgiving. There were often no instructions, and you were meant to figure things out on your own. Honestly, it seems like a needless challenge at times, but then I keep coming back. Maybe itís because thereís just enough of that air of mystery in Gods Will Be Watching. Maybe itís because it seems to be one of the few "retro" games that really lives up to the title.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:



Minimum: OS: Windows Vista/ 7/ 8, Processor: Intel Coreô Duo or faster, Memory: 2 GB RAM, Graphics: Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with at least 512Mb, Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
 

Test System:



Win7 64bit, 8 GB, Intel Core2 Duo CPU E7500 2.93 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460

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