The recent release of the point-and-click adventure game Gods Will Be Watching has created quite a divide in how some people view the game, as well as some lopsided criticisms on what the game managed to get wrong on a massive scale. The funny part about it is that the frustrations extend well beyond the typical game reviewer and actually managed to catch quite bit of critical ire from the average gamer.
So just a quick recap so we’re all caught up and on the same page: Gods Will Be Watching is a pixel sprite adventure game that promises tough choices, harsh consequences and unforgettable moments of tension… on the surface, anyway.
The game follows a crew of six, lead by Sergeant Burden. The objective is to get through each of the game’s six chapters while minimizing the casualties of the people under your command and having to make sometimes regrettable decisions that will affect the lives of many. The game’s premise is exemplified rather well in the launch trailer, which you can view below.
Now after all that preparatory promo puffing, one would think that this is some deep, philosophical take on the adventure genre with existential consequences that carry over with you from one chapter to the next… unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Developer Deconstructeam managed to receive quite a few positive reactions for their stark atmosphere and uncompromising depictions of harrowing scenarios, scoring a few big numbers from IGN, PC Gamer and Meristation. However, a few websites tell a very different story, such as Strategy Informer, Shack News and a very wonderfully written (and thorough) piece by Digital Spy.
As noted in the Digital Spy piece…
The ideas of consequences and sacrifice are central to the story; the protagonist is even named Burden, seemingly because he is so weighed down by the burden of his own past actions.
Yet, throughout most of the game it isn’t the consequences of your actions which determines who lives and who dies, but random chance and events outside of your control that seal their fate.
The opposing factor to the high review scores lays out frustrations with the game’s lack of follow-through on the consequence factor. It’s something that has gamers on the Let’s Play videos saying “WTF?! Didn’t that guy just die in the last chapter?!” and a bevy crowd of players taking to Steam’s review thread to lament the game’s blatant lack of addressing its own proposed thrills and frills.
In fact, if you check out the official Gods Will Be Watching user review thread on Steam, you’ll see that there is an overwhelming majority who all come to the same conclusion: The game would have been leaps and bounds better had the choices created consequential effects, with one user – appropriately named AltriusmIsDead – textually grieving that…
Initially the trailers made it look ( to me) like: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream / Maniac Mansion / Clock Tower meets Heavy Rain. Basically a point and click (adventure) thriller where choices played a heavy role in the out come of events….
Not quite, I just finished beating a chapter where 3 of my crew members just ran off (damn deserters….) and lo and behold, in the next chapter they magically came back! So yeah…. choices you make don’t matter towards the outcome of the game.
In a way, it’s the same sort of complaints that were levied at Bioware over the original Mass Effect 3 ending – a problem that has been rectified, to some degree, I might add.
The user scores on Metacritic are a bit more divisive and show a lack of unison that you’ll find on Steam, but given the thorough and often detailed accounts by the Steam user reviews, as well as watching some of the game being played via a Let’s Play session, I’m inclined to side with the Steam users on this one.
Replayability is also castigated often in the reviews due to the fact that none of the effects of the choices carry over into the new chapters, so many gamers feel it’s not really worth playing again.
I haven’t played the game so I can’t speak for every element to which it receives some kind of averse criticism, but I do think that if you’re more-so keen to screw around with varying results just for the heck of it, the game does offer that opportunity. Although, since the choices don’t carry over and don’t branch through the chapters, it is easy to see how the replay factors would become diminished greatly.
In the end, Gods Will Be Watching seems like a niche game for a very niche audience. I think that Deconstruteam definitely has an interesting premise to work with, though, and they could easily make an enhanced edition that enhances on the criticisms that gamers have leveled against the title.
TL;DR: Gods Will Be Watching is all about making tough choices, except the choices don’t matter at the end of each chapter, causing gamers to feel disappointed with the game.