You open your eyes and find a world before you, yet this world feels entirely unfamiliar. Looking from afar, there are signs of human life but no one’s around to greet you, no one’s around to introduce you to the area, and no one’s around to give you direction. “The answers are in the light,” you are told by a mysterious voice, and as you take your first steps into a world entirely ridden of the swell of human life and the business it encumbers, a single question springs to mind: What’s happened here?
That is the question that will follow you throughout your journey within The Chinese Room’s latest game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. You’re given very minimal context and backstory as you make your way through a beautifully realized village in Shropshire, England, with a score equally haunting and beautiful accompanying you on your journey to find answers.
There’s an ever-present feeling of the unknown in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and as you make your way throughout various areas of Shropshire, you’ll come across recollections of events emanated from light that showcase various characters and their stories prior to your arrival. There are a selection of characters that recur throughout the game’s five-hour duration, and they all tell an emotional, grounded tale of the events occurring within the small community.
It’s through these recollections that push Rapture’s story forward, but there’s little in the way of exciting gameplay elements. You’re very much just exploring and investigating a world filled with mystery, intrigue, and pure narrative, and that’s the mainstay of The Chinese Room’s latest. It’s very reminiscent of Dear Esther, one of The Chinese Room’s previous titles, and Fullbright’s Gone Home, which both exchange action for pure story, in turn making Rapture more of an experience than it is a game.
It is a bit disappointing, though, that even with such basic gameplay elements, Rapture often suffers from FPS stutters and various amounts of crashes. I had to hard reset my console at one point because a major game crash, and it hurt the overall experience.
However, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a story worth telling, and an intriguing one at that. What The Chinese Room has conjured up is a narrative that consistently surprises and evokes a real sense of mystery. Its well-written narrative gets fairly complex by the time the credits roll, and encourages conversation with others post-game. Comprised of actors from all facets of media including Merle Dandridge, Timothy Watson, and Kezia Burrows, Rapture’s narrative is consistently engrossing, telling a story that firmly dances between themes ranging from loneliness and forgiveness to community and love.
Thanks to the non-linearity of the game, there’s actually quite a lot that can be missed. While there is a path you can take that entirely focuses on the main characters and will have you finishing the game within four or so hours, it’s worth exploring the exquisitely detailed world to really flesh out your understanding of what The Chinese Room has created.
There’s a good amount of story you can discover throughout the world that’s unattached to the main narrative, and these threads give a real sense of livelihood within an ironically desolate world. What culminates is a non-linear narrative experience that begs to be discovered.
Right from the beginning, Dear Esther composer Jessica Curry’s exquisitely crafted score sets the tone and establishes a real sense of wonder and intrigue throughout. As you make your way through the game’s locations, various themes will play out, all having their own unique – yet similar – tone and ambience to compliment the story you’re watching unfold.
From the more sombre, depressing moments to the uplifting moments of jubilation and excitement, Curry’s score compliments a tale rife with beauty and elegance, crafting an experience that truly culminates into something entirely unique.
The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is, quite simply, an experience unlike any other. It’s a game that tells a story of love, forgiveness, and community, and wraps it all into a package that encourages speculation and conversation. While it is held back by various instances of crashes and an unfortunate stuttering FPS at times, it’s a memorable, emotional experience that I won’t be forgetting for a long time to come.