Gods Will Be Watching Review

In Gods Will Be Watching, the choices you make on the way to your end goal won’t always be popular, but that’s irrelevant. Sacrificing a colleague or a friend’s life for the betterment of the mission is a regular occurrence and developer Deconstructeam excel at placing you in a number of very tough scenarios where you’ll question your own ethics. But, to hell with ethics. You have a job to do.

Seen as a terrorist by some and a revolutionary by others, Sgt. Burden is a member of Xenolifer, a group that is attempting to overthrow the Contstellar Federation in a far distant future where androids are just as common as man and intergalactic warfare is the order of the day. Within minutes, the story evolves into something that swerves every which way it can, keeping you guessing about where it’s headed next, but that’s not always a good thing. The timeline jumps around a bit and the narrative loses its focus at points because of it. It’s an attempt at telling an exciting, space-themed tale, and there are occasions when it’s more on-point and comes together, but it’s hard not to feel disorientated for the majority of the time.

On the other hand, this adventure game definitely does get some things right. It almost seems reductive to put that moniker on Gods Will Be Watching because it’s not an adventure game as we’ve come to know in recent years: there’s no traditional inventory and you’re not expected to do your best MacGuyver impersonation by creating a bomb out of a paper clip and the tears of an iguana. Instead, you are tasked with managing the mental and physical well-being of those around you, learning that every single member of your squad is expendable for the greater good.

You don’t have to worry about a morality system here because I’ll tell you what kind of person you are – a terrible one. We all are. We have to be in Gods Will Be Watching. In each level you’ll converse with numerous NPCs and get an insight into their mental state. If they die, it doesn’t really matter. They’re just pawns in this story. For instance, the first chapter centres on a hostage situation where you’re attempting to obtain data on a virus. While trying to manage all the jobs that your crew is currently doing, you have four captives in tow. You must find a balance between keeping them at ease and instilling fear, by being a schizophrenic with an armed weapon. You can choose to calm them down, shout at them, shoot them in the leg, shoot them in the face and basically control their emotions through your options on-screen. It won’t always work out and some will attempt to make a break for the door, but that never ends well for the hostage. While this is happening, a group of soldiers are trying to breach the door and save the prisoners from your maniacal behaviour. Did I mention you’re also trying to obtain data on a virus?

Gods Will Be Watching asks you to spin myriad plates and if you neglect one for a minute, it will lead to your downfall and kick you right back to the beginning of that chapter. At one point, you’ll find yourself stuck in a cave with your team, with too much to do and not enough time to do it. You have to delegate the work that will lead to your escape, but you must also take into account how fatigued your team is and let them get sufficient rest. You may decide to have two people on digging duty, a team member charging the defibrillator, two squadmates at the computer and one connecting power lines so the CPU doesn’t die. All the while, a body is lying motionless on the floor because they were your guinea pig as you try to whip up an antidote for the virus, testing out potentially lethal chemical combinations. In this case, it was most certainly lethal. Ah well. Life goes on.

Decisions in Gods Will Be Watching are important, but you won’t last long if you try to play nice with everyone around you. You’re trying to track down a location on a sandy, dry, vast desert. One of your party is slowing the entire group down because they haven’t had sleep or water for days and time is of the essence. What do you do? You shoot him in the head and speed things up a little, of course. Self-loathing only lasts for a minute and then you realise it was for the best. Gods Will Be Watching is brilliant at conveying this message from the very early stages and its bleak tone continues throughout. It’s a delight to see something that doesn’t rely on a dialogue system where blue means good and red means bad. In Gods Will Be Watching, everything is bad, you’ll hate yourself, but you have to get on with it.

This darkness carries through every aspect of the thriller, including the visuals. Pixel art has become so tired in the small developer space, but here, it’s contrasted with some really grim violence. Sgt. Burden is being interrogated in one scene and when the inquisitor isn’t happy with a response, they’ll begin extracting Burden’s teeth with what appear to be some form of pliers. I was wincing in my seat as this madman was extracting molars and canines at will. Eliciting this reaction when it’s near impossible to see fully-formed facial features is a massive talent.

However, most of this is offset by the troublesome difficulty that will take you through a range of feelings – landing on anger and irritation. There are two difficulty options from the beginning; original and easy. The one common thread explained in both, prior to choosing either, is that you will die a lot. As there is no checkpoint system to speak of, all your hard work can disappear in a split second and you’ll find yourself at the very start of that chapter, possibly after spending thirty minutes or more on a level. Also, you won’t always be able to apply knowledge that you’ve accrued, as stages can change quite dramatically.

For example, the chapter where you are in the desert sees you leading a group of soldiers to a certain area in an allotted time, but each time you begin your journey, this area will be located somewhere different. Death after death, you’ll find yourself getting more and more frustrated. As failure is frequent, you’ll also find yourself getting annoyed at the opening tete-a-tetes Burden has with those around him, as a considerable number are not skippable. All you have to do is get click-happy and, after nearly dislocating your right index finger from skimming through dialogue you’ve seen twenty times already, you can have another go at passing the challenge at hand. You’ll fail. And then you’ll repeat the process again and again and again.

VERDICT: Gods Will Be Watching takes some tired features like pixel art and adventure-style dialogue options, and makes them feel fresh. Choices have consequence, but the mortality of those around you can’t be dwelled upon as your mission is far more important. You’ll question how inhumane you have to be and then, without batting an eyelid, become the efficient lunatic you never thought you would be. While the decisions feel weighty, the story is essentially disjointed and becomes confusing. Where Gods Will Be Watching is really testing, though, is in its almost impenetrable difficulty. There’s a fine line between challenge and frustration, and sadly, with all of its positives, Gods Will Be Watching will leave you questioning whether its really worth it.

6

DECENT. A 6/10 indicates that, while this game could be much better, it still has a fair amount to offer the player. It might be an interesting title sabotaged by its own ambition, or a game denied greater praise by some questionable design choices. Don’t avoid it outright, but approach it with caution.

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Review code provided by publisher.


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