Gods Will Be Watching [Tea Tales]

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually written about video games.

Perhaps because I was burnt out on writing about it a little. Perhaps because I was feeling reserved writing about the subject that I own such high standards which my writing may never live up to. Either way, that dry period is over now, and I’m back. I realise the title may cause some misunderstandings, but that’s always how I’ve done. There’s no reason to change now, and I’m not going to apologise for it either.

The following presentation includes description that is graphic in nature. Consider the associated risks before proceeding, if at all.

Gods Will Be Watching is something I’ve played a while ago, after its success in the Ludum Dare challenge. As I played the ‘prequel’ flash game, I was rather absorbed by its refreshing approach to narrative, interwoven into micro-management. I’ve played plenty of RTS games before, but never a straight up turn-based management game with an actual storyline. It was hard as hell though, and I found myself losing again and again. I was frustrated, but also strangely entranced by its difficulty, though I was never someone that enjoys hard single player games very much. I made a note to watch for the full version once it came out.

The game did indeed came out, but a few months ago. Its release slipped completely under my radar, and I had no idea why. Going back to search for news surrounding its event, I was informed that it was met with overly mediocre review. Now I haven’t played the full version yet, but I somehow felt like such a score wasn’t quite right. I decided to get it anyways, and get my own impression on it.

I was greeted with the ever so expected 8 bit graphics. The game offered me two difficulties: normal and easy. I chose normal, not really thinking it over. I was thrown into a re-telling of sort, and was introduced to the story. It was something I appreciated a lot, since otherwise I’d have absolutely zero connection to this game. Games like that I usually don’t enjoy very much. From what I played of the ‘demo’, I knew this was going to be pretty much a disaster-management game, with narrative woven in through exposition and dialogue responses. What I didn’t expect was how damningly hard it was. I was destroyed. I was absolutely destroyed, no other way around it.

So I toned down the difficulty a notch. I found the game was still somewhat blurry (quite figuratively and literally) in terms of mechanics, but as I got the hang of it things became a lot more manageable. I beat Chapter 1 (of 6) not so long after, and moved on. What I got next was pretty much a torture chamber. Two characters I controlled was literally being tied to chairs, awaiting torture. What can I do? Mitigate the damage. There was nothing I could do to lessen the intensity of the situation. It started with a few punches. Then a jab to the abdomen and a hammer to the knee. It was slightly off, but I continued. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen men burnt at the stakes. I’ve seen families showered with white phosphorous which melted their skins to the bone. I’ve seen decapitation, jawlines removed from the base of the skulls and used as a pingpong ball. I’ve played a lot of video games.

Continuing to play Chapter 2 of Gods Will Be Watching, however, I eventually ended up seeing dental torture, and blow torches, and the wall of death, where someone would get chain up-side-down onto it, and would get literally ripped in half after a few spins of the wheel. At this point, after watching the pool of blood and half of a body fading into black, I realised the game was paused. I did it out of instinct, as I was getting visually uncomfortable. I exit the game entirely, half of my face in my hands, staring at the mirror. I can’t recall what I looked like at that moment, but I know that I didn’t want to continue playing, at least that night. This isn’t to say I was scared off, or anything like that. I’ve seen worse, heard worse, read worse, in much better visual and audio quality too. However, there was just something about the sound effects, the constant repetition, utterly unapologetic nature of it in this game, that had such an effect on me. I could feel myself shaking.

At this point, a day later, I’ve already finished the game in its entirety. I adapted to the reality of it well enough. Easy mode was manageable too, and I have no doubt I would get destroyed if I got back to normal mode. I’m not going to do it though. The story was put out well enough, and I got what I wanted out of the game. Frankly, it was overall a positive experience. It made uncomfortable at times, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Frankly, I felt it knew it audience well. Looking at the marketing material though, they weren’t kidding when they say the game was mis-marketed. The game delivered its narrative fairly well, and unlike Starcraft 2, its narrative was actually something worth experiencing. The randomness at times were annoying, but it almost felt like something put in to enhance the difficulty. I don’t really appreciate something like that, as it felt like I was cheated out a lot of wins. Maybe without it I would have actually had a chance in normal mode. I’m no established game designer, so maybe someone has a statistic somewhere telling me that this was a good idea.

Regardless.

It was a solid 7,5 game, pretty good considering my unreasonable standards. From what I’ve read from critique pieces, it seems that a lot of them expected something completely different coming into the game. It was marketed as an adventure game, and even though it was in a sense, it was far from the usual norms and didn’t bode well with the connotations associated with such a loaded term. I’m not sure how that would hold up later down the line, but then again, my tea cup is empty.

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