I missed my last few posts… This was partly due to World Of Warcraft dropping a new patch, partly to do with everyday life and partly to do with the fact I was making such little progress in the game I was reviewing…
None of those thing have changed, but I felt it was best to just write about my experience… The game I have been struggling with is Gods Will Be Watching. This was another game by Devolver Digital which i came across through Jim Sterling and his “Squirty Plays.” Much like Heavy Bullets, I saw a screenshot and knew I wanted to play the game. Unfortunately, I have been a little disillusioned by this game…
It is brutal.
Before I get too deep into the review, I feel it appropriate to say that, as of writing this, I haven’t managed to get past the first level of the game.
The game is somewhere between a Point-And-Click adventure and a Micromanagement game. From what I have played, you are a member of a splinter group who are hacking into the data banks of a corporation.
In the first level, you are in charge of managing the situation. This comprises the hacking attempt, the hostages’ welfare, the discipline of the unit and the approaching security forces. All you have to do, as far as I can tell, is complete the hacking with all of your unit alive. No-one said this was going to be easy… Each aspect of the environment can be clicked on and if you can interact with them, a menu will open with the various options available. These can range from the different people under your command to the utility items such as the Medical Supplies on the wall. The complexity comes with prioritising the right elements in the right order and getting a bit of luck on your side. Each member of your unit is working in a different way and can be interacted for different results. You play as Abraham and you are left in charge of the situation. Every decision falls on your shoulders.
Liam is your hacker. This means he is essentially inaccessible, but he can provide information, if you really need it.
Shaman is your tech guy. He acts as your port of call for reinforcing security on your hacking line and also charging up the Hack Boost; A risky manoeuvre which can significantly advance your progress. He can also hack into the close-circuit camera feed for an extra pair of eyes.
Jack is your arms expert. He is the negotiator, the firepower and your only chance at keeping the approaching security forces at bay.
These three are more than a handful of aspects to manage, as it is, but there are more people to worry about; The hostages!
In the first level, you have four hostages; a scientist and three lab workers. Depending on their movements, you need to interpret their moods and choose how to treat them accordingly. You have several forms of interaction:
Calm – Allows the hostage to talk and soothe their soul… temporarily.
Shout – Give them an earful and assert some authority.
Kick – Does what it says on the tin.
Shoot – Again, it does what it says. It rattles the other hostages too!
Trade – Offer them to the security forces in exchange for a small advantage elsewhere.
Send To Break Room – Gives the hostage some time to relax. Another factor to consider is the area design. There is the main play area on screen, but this also extends slightly further to the left and right. The left-hand side features the Break Room where you can send a hostage to calm down; don’t forget about them though or they may try to escape. The right-hand side features the entry tunnel, but more-importantly the security team looking to apprehend you. The only way to gauge the time you have left is to check where the team are on their advance. But if you are doing that, who is checking on the hostages? As you can tell, the game features lots of moving parts and, in the roguelike fashion, it doesn’t actually tell you how these parts work. You learn the parameters through trial and error… And there will be a lot of error…
See, my pride is part of the reason for my failure to report much on the game…
I like to play games in two ways: either at the hardest difficulty, so I have something to fall back on if I get stuck, OR at the “intended” difficulty to enjoy the auteur’s vision. In the case of Gods Will Be Watching, those two things coincide; “Normal” is the hardest difficulty and it is the “intended” difficulty. There are five difficulties which vary in the amount of unpredictable occurrences and general difficulty regarding each level. I spent a while playing the game on Normal and failed… A lot… I eventually gave in and dropped down a difficulty. I faired better, but still continued to fail…
The biggest issue I had was managing the hostages. It was easy to determine their stress levels based on their rocking or nervous twitches. But it seemed that I was making them too comfortable and then they would attempt to strangle me; this would result in their death, obviously.
I actually managed to finish the first level! I was playing while having my fellow writer, Khinjarsi, staying with me and she can confirm my strategy. I literally brute-forced my way through the level. I bombarded every option that seemed appropriate and hoped it would pay out.
I feel that my success was won by the Hack Boost which I triggered three times, but the yield of that technique seemed to vary and I think I just got lucky… I was relieved with my success, but I don’t think I necessarily deserved it.
After finishing the level, the game offers a small section of story and then takes you to an interesting window of information. By being accessed through Steam, Gods Will Be Watching is able to show your other player’s statistics in relation to your performance, a la Telltale Games or similar to Catherine by Atlas. It was interesting to see how my “strategy” compared with others and where it differed. I was a little startled by the presentation of the data as it seemed to take the form of multiple eyes and I wondered if these were supposed to be the aforementioned Gods who were watching; everyone else…? This does mean that I can confirm how the game progresses. The game seems to take place in the events leading up to the first level. After some interesting story beats, you learn about your character and the overall situation. This leads into the second level which takes the form of an interrogation. But you and Jack are being interrogated. The trick here is finding a balance between staying alive and stalling for time.
You control the actions of Jack and Abraham and you have access to a number of choices. Some actions result in both characters receiving torture, while others allow you to focus the aggression onto one of the captives.
On the third day of torture, you discover you need to survive for twenty days before rescue but at the end of each day, you can request a boon to receive the following night; painkillers to negate some of the damage on the following day, a health kit to restore some health overnight or information to make lying later more effective.
It may or may not surprise you to find out that this is just as hard as the first level. While the first level had a short cutscene at the start, which could be skipped, this level is VERY narrative-driven and features a mass of exposition and chatting. This makes it extra cumbersome when you fail and have to read through it all again…
While I enjoyed the story and visuals of the game, it really tried my patience. I like to think I have a high threshold for enduring games if I feel there is something to look forward to, but this feels like artificial longevity created through unnecessary difficulty.
I intend to play the game on “Narrative Mode” with all challenge removed so I can find out if the challenge pays off, but a small, cynical part of me doesn’t think it will. This was a huge shame for me…
I had high hopes for Gods Will Be Watching and they were smashed into the ground way too many times…
All pictures were created by Ellen and depict intellectual property by Devolver Digital. Ellen didn’t steal them and no amount of hammer blows to her kneecap is going to say otherwise.
“Uhhhh, I may have stolen them if it will stop yo-”
“I didn’t steal them and this is so lame….” =[
Last played, but nowhere near completed on 05/07/15 for Mac on Steam.