Deconstructeam and Devolver Digital present the almighty, Gods Will Be Watching, a trivial game designed to challenge the strongest of players; in terms of empathy, ethics and survival instincts. The original idea for the game has manifested since Ludum Dare in 2013, raising the stakes for players to overcome the perils of making judgement calls, as to who lives and who dies. While the stakes may be higher, does Gods Will Be Watching excel beyond the prototype?
The end of the world is near approaching, or so it is for planet Sineicos where the deadly “Medusa virus” exists. A paralysis of the mind and body that is expected to destroy 4 billion lives (yep, that’s genocide), unless the Everdusk Company for the Universe Knowledge (E.C.U.K) can prevent the bioterrorist, Xenolifer. Under the command of Sargent Burden, the E.C.U.K research team consists of; Br4nd-On (Robot), Donald (Engineer), Sarah (Therapist), Dr Zenész, Jack (Soldier) and Marvin (Dog). The primary objective of the game is survival, with the minor flaw of all characters (aside from Sargent Burden- as you control him) returning in following chapters after being killed off. Therefore, players should not feel the need to mourn, no matter how tragic the circumstances.
Over six bloodthirsty chapters in Gods Will Be Watching, players must conquer Xenolifer by stealing back their research and creating a cure for the Medusa virus. While the mission is clearly outlined in the introduction, the real challenge is “playing God”. There are no specific guidelines on how to approach each of the infuriating puzzles, so players are encouraged to run countless trials and errors to determine which method is the most successful for moving forward.
The first chapter, ‘Self-Justified Sacrifices’ demands players to use tactical thinking and effective time management. By assuming the role of a guard in a hostage situation, where Xenolifer are holding Burden’s crew hostage to hack information about the virus, your priority is to decide how to handle the hostages, monitor the transferal of data, and tap into security footage to prevent E.C.U.K from hijacking the room with explosives.
The second ordeal ‘20 days of Empty Words’ introduces players to the disturbingly pleasant, Irving and Alexander Show. The macho men from the Holistic Empire take Sargent Burden and Jack captive in a chamber, to interrogate them about the organisation they work for and how they broke into their lab at the Matriarch. The impossible and torturous situation will come at cost, to suffer physical abuse (and Russian roulette) and lie over 20 days, until their enemy – Xenolifer – can save them.
In the third operation, ‘Everdusk’, the team are sent to planet Sineicos to create a cure for the Medusa virus, however Xenolifer interfere with their plans by barricading them in their research cave. With only 32 hours left to live, players need to divide tasks between the research team over 30 minute intervals; digging their way out, conducting research to create an antidote, as well as adrenaline and sedatives, and resorting to human experimentation for analysing components of the correct formula.
The fourth task, ‘Gods Will Be Watching’ is very similar to one-screen simulation, where the E.C.U.K team are left stranded on Sineicos to survive a set period of days. What makes this chapter particularly challenging, is that Sargent Burden is restricted to five decisions per day – whether to create a campfire by collecting wood, having Br4nd-On fix the radio, Dr Zenész create an antidote, Jack and Marvin hunt for food- with the rifle or spear. Players can only hope that they’ve made the best decisions before the sun sets.
The final chapters are best described as a major “suicide mission”, although Sargent Burden isn’t one to complain. When told there is a 32% chance of surviving a crash in a one-man cruiser, headed towards the matriarch, Burden says:
“32%. That’s a gift from the Gods, in the face of saving 4 billion lives”.
Without the trace of humour in Gods Will Be Watching, the story would not have the same impact on players. When faced with dire situations, comedic relief is all that remains on Gods playlist.
Visuals & Audio
The pixel art animation is beautifully illustrated, with a minimalistic structure designed to limit the gruesome horrors that await players. The cinematic features enhance the gameplay, and players who perform exceptionally well in each chapter receive the original concept artwork (featured above) and alternative soundtracks for the game. In addition, a visual map of online statistics allows players to view their results and gain insight into the decisions that others made.
The eerie soundtrack in the game blends in well with the rising tension and offers players great background music for pure concentration. However, for the dialogue, there were a few grammar issues that made most conversations feel awkward in the players’ minds. (For example: “You fools WHERE trying to understand the deadly virus”). While the dialogue helps lighten the mood, it would have been better if voice actors were incorporated in the game. My favourite quote was from chapter three, where Jack says to Sargent Burden, “You should update your resume and put specialist in fucked up situations”.
Gods Will Be Watching is one-of-a-kind, a unique point and click thriller that will simultaneously drive you insane and make you all the more appreciative of life. The adventure centres on despair, commitment and sacrifice, teaching players that playing the role of “God” is not all that it’s cracked up to be. The decisions you make are what you must live with, and that hard truth is what makes Deconstructeam and Devolver Digital’s work so masterful.
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