Replayability and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

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I recently wrote about the film Crimson Peak, which I look forward to watching again as soon as I can. I’ll know the plot of course, but rewatching films is about more than that. It’s about reliving the mood, finding nuances and details or just poking that bit of the brain the film poked first time. So, having just today finished the game Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture I was quite surprised that many reviews mentioned it wouldn’t be very replayable.

For those who don’t know it, Rapture is set in 1980s Shropshire. You’re tasked with exploring a deserted village to piece together what’s happened to everyone after an ‘event’ (and who exactly you are). Rather than being an actiony shooter or stat poking rpg (nowt wrong with either of those, by the by) it really is just about exploration. You wander sedately around the village and the surrounding countryside getting glimpses into the last days of the people who’d once lived there and what happened to them.

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It is, quite simply, beautiful. The village and landscape, trees in bloom and bluebells poking up through the earth, look heavenly (pun very much intended). There’s so much rich detail, from scrawled signs for parish meetings and pub menus to discarded books and magazines. The scenes that you witness, played out in points of light coalescing, are up there with the best writing and acting the medium has to offer. The music and sound design are so wonderful that they could do with a blog post to themselves, but for now let’s just say they’re lovely (and eerie) in every way. It’s a game that makes you feel both lonely and loved at the same time.

And that’s why I want to replay it. There won’t be a different outcome if I play it again, though there’s a chance I missed some clues along the way. But it’s not that kind of game. It’s not a mystery in the common sense – it’s pretty clear what’s happened in the village – rather it’s about fleshing out the detail for yourself. Wondering who these people were and what they wanted. And would they have been happy if they got it?

So yes, I know what’ll happen, but why would that stop me wanting to replay the game? I’m not one for endless rereads or rewatches of favourite books and films – I’ve read Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles probably three times (and mentioned it on the blog here), Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms five or so. My favourite films, Harvey and Donnie Darko, I probably haven’t reached double figures between them. But I do go back.

Less so in games, though – not counting things like Civ which are geared less towards individual stories. That got me wondering why. Sure, I’ve played through each of the Fable games a couple of times (Fable 2 is The Best Game Ever though – read about why here) and Witcher 2 as well (Second Best Game Ever – I’m working on Witcher 3 at the mo FYI). But there aren’t that many others I’ve actually completed multiple playthroughs for.

Time is a factor; some games are just too huge to allow for it – I’ve started a second Skyrim playthrough, a second Mass Effect trilogy character and many more, but have yet to be able to really commit to them, let alone follow the narrative all the way through. Rapture is probably do-able in five or six hours rather than the thirty to two hundred hours some games demand.

But I think the real killer is time in a different way. I first read Men At Arms in the mid 90s somewhere and have reread it around 5 times. So that averages to once every four years. I first saw Harvey in 2004 or thereabouts, so that’s rewatched once every couple of years (but is considerably shorter than most books or games). Unfortunately the lifespan of a games console generation is relatively short – the technology moves on and (seeing as backwards compatibility is increasingly unfashionable) the older games become either unplayable or the reason for carting a car boot-full of consoles with you every time you move house.

Things are changing in that regard, with endless HD remasters to re-buy (I figure Doublefine have earned the right to ask me to pay for DoTT twice in 20 years), and perhaps streaming options too, but will I be able to revisit Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture in 20 years and enjoy it in the same way I can with books and films? Or will the game itself have gone to the rapture?

Are there any narrative games you put alongside favourite books and films? And if not, why do you reckon that is (assuming you’re a gamer – I think I can guess the answer if you’re not!)? Also, interesting to note that my other half absolutely hates Rapture – if you’ve tried it what did you think?

@BornToPootle

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