Title: The Church In The Darkness
Available on: Microsoft Windows, macOS, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One
Developer: Paranoid Productions
Publisher: Fellow Traveler
Version Tested: Xbox One
Official Site: www.paranoidproductions.com/church
Release Date: Aug 2, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam, Xbox Store, Playstation Store, Nintendo Store
Cults! Who doesn’t love them? They provide food (usually organic), clothing (usually home-made), and shelter (usually windowless) and all they ask for in return is unquestioning loyalty!
There has been a renewed interest in cults in pop culture, what with the R Kelly situation and the recently revealed sex cult NXIVM that famously involved Smallville star, Allison Mack. In fact, one of the people who was consulted on The Church In The Darkness was the reporter who first broke the story about NXIVM, Brock Wilbur.
And it is obvious that great pains were taken in the development of this game. The Church In The Darkness takes cults–and itself–very seriously. And yet in other respects, the game seems rushed. What do I mean? Let’s find out!
Plot and Gameplay of The Church In The Darkness
In The Church In The Darkness, you play as ex-cop/soldier/PI, Vic. The year is 1977, and you have been asked by your sister to rescue her son, Alex, from a South American collective called “Freedom Town”. She is afraid that her son has fallen victim to a cult.
This cult is lead by Isaac and Rebecca Walker, a charismatic couple who’s personalities are randomly generated at the beginning of each playthrough. They can be different degrees of forgiving, violent, sad, or vengeful. Also, the actions you take during your rescue mission will affect how they react to your presence. For example, if you go in guns blazing and murder a dozen of their followers, even the more laid back personalities are likely to put a bullet in your head the first time the capture you.
At the beginning of each playthrough, Vic is inserted into a random point on the map. He is given some sort of clue and told to go find and rescue Alex. The clue is usually a contact within the collective; someone who, when found, can provide further information and narrow down a search area to find Alex. Once that person is found, they will usually give a further quest option as well. Completing these will further narrow the area in which Alex can be found and will also unlock different endings.
The Church In The Darkness is an open world in the sense that there is no prescribed way to complete your mission. It is theoretically possible to find and rescue Alex without completing a single side quest or even interacting with another character. It is also possible to kill every last resident of Freedom Town and drag your nephew out by force. The only requisite to successfully complete the game is that you rescue Alex. The game has 20 endings, each depending on your actions during the playthrough.
The game is a top-down point of view that relies heavily on stealth. While shooting is an option, it’s not a great one as ammunition is limited and you’re often outnumbered. I played at the medium difficulty and most of the time, 2-3 shots will kill you. So really, the best option is to hide and disable alarms, only killing when necessary. Also, as I mentioned before, killing opponents makes the game less forgiving in general.
If you get “killed” early in the game, chances are you’ll come back in a cage somewhere within Freedom Town and have a conversation with either Isaac or Rebecca Walker (the founders). If they are merciful, you’ll get a chance to break out and continue your search, albeit without any supplies you’ve collected. If they’re not merciful, you’ll die for real and have to restart from scratch. The most opportunities I ever got in a playthrough was three. The least was zero, as sometimes the game doesn’t even bother to resurrect you.
The Church In The Darkness should be a really good game. On paper, it’s excellent. You have a private eye infiltrating a Jonestown stand-in. You can complete the mission any way you like. The mood is great. The story unfolds in an interesting way. All the right ingredients are there, but it just falls flat somehow. It’s like going to your friend’s house for the big game and they got nachos, cheese, sour cream, black olives, and jalapenos but instead of cooking them they just threw them on the plate near each other. This game just needs to go in the oven for a few minutes and it would go from a good to a great.
In all seriousness, I really can’t put my finger on what it is this game is missing. I just never really felt pulled in. It’s not like the game is complicated–quite the opposite actually, and frankly that’s another point in favor. It’s hard to complain about the amount of content in the game considering it’s only $20. Whatever it is, The Church In The Darkness lacks the charisma of its subject.
Verdict: In summary, I liked The Church In The Darkness, but I didn’t love it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique gaming experience. Specifically, the type of person who is a completionist and who enjoys colder, precise gaming experiences. For anyone else who’s just looking for some mindless fun after a long day of work, I’d recommend spending your $20 on a case of beer and replaying Titanfall 2.
- The atmosphere
- Cheaper price point
- Research that went into the game
- Something about it leaves you detached from the game and it ultimately feels... incomplete due to that
- Too short