Everybody's Gone to the Rapture uses subtle cues to guide you through its world and then gives you the space to digest what you find. It's a wonderful example of what games can achieve narratively while presenting minimal physical engagement and tasking player imagination with the rest. That sense of futility never leaves you, but whether or not you cling to the story's threads of hope is entirely up to you; no happy ending is forced on you... just an ending. The moral of the story is whatever you think it is, and there's no wrong way to feel as you sift through its bright, empty world. And while I had my moments of frustration in navigation, that didn't stop it from dazzling me. I left Shropshire exhausted, spent, and utterly impressed by The Chinese Room's magnificently crafted journey, both in how it brought me to its conclusion and the conclusion itself.
It's a bit surprising that a game where you literally never see another person has the most humanity of anything I've played this year. And that makes it all the more unfortunate that a few of the design choices — the walking speed in particular — pushed me away and weakened my experience. Everybody's Gone to the Rapture has some incredible, down-to-earth stories to share, emotional stuff that transcends its end-of-the-world scenario. But, not unlike any of the game's characters, you'll have to see past its flaws before you can learn to love it.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is brave, it’s challenging, and it’s essential. How The Chinese Room has managed to convey this level of narrative artistry, while simultaneously offering us the freedom to dig through it’s characters’ lives so freely, is beyond me. It has to be experienced to be believed.
But for those willing to take the plunge in what is ultimately a cross between a game and an experimental piece of interactive fiction, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture combines scenes of utter beauty, touching, desperate, and sometimes even angry emotional moments between people, and a score to die for into a narrative that's gripping, involving, and thoroughly rewarding.
And really, despite putting too much narrative attention on characters who don’t quite warrant it and not enough attention on what’s ostensibly the biggest mystery, Rapture is still a good story. It’s a unique, modern take on a concept that’s had so many interpretations over the years, and it’s fun to ruminate on as the game concludes. But the narrative scope is limited; there’s little to interpret or glean from the game that isn’t told outright. With much of the narrative heavy-lifting done in the last hour of play, I look back on everything that came before as simply a beautiful walk through empty British countryside. And if there’s one thing about this strange genre that The Chinese Room’s latest effort makes clear, it’s that beautiful, empty walks might be better served by things to do and see.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is a masterwork – a gorgeous and subtle experience, which treats you as an adult, without ever indulging in pretence. It cares about its characters enough to give them interesting and meaningful things to say, while also playing host to some truly breathtaking art direction and music.