Gods will be watching by Deconstructeam (2014)
The freedom fighter organization Xenolifer is holding the research team responsible for analyzing the deadly Medusa virus hostage, and it’s up to you to make sure things go smoothly. While your brave leader hacks the research data you must keep the hostages in check in addition to holding security forces at bay. Let too many hostages go or allow the security team to get too close and it’s game over. Oh, did I forget to mention that you’re actually a double-agent on a mission to bring Xenolifer down from the inside-out? Welcome to Gods Will Be Watching…
Chapter 1 – Frustration
This game is hard…really hard. Even the developers say “you will fail a lot” in the original difficulty but you must endure this hardship if you want the authentic experience. Blurring the lines of morality is a great story premise and all, but getting bogged down by repeated failure is…frustrating. At its core, the gameplay is all about resource management. Success is based upon the numbers and figuring out the ideal strategy is a mathematician’s wet dream. I, however, am not a mathematician. I came for immersive moral conundrums to darken my day but instead got hostages who’s sole purposes were to ruin my happy terrorist life. Eventually, after six or so unsuccessful runs, I chose an easier solution…
Chapter 2 – Taking the Easy Way Out
In easy mode, the numbers are altered for higher chances of success while the core strategies remain the same. In the absence of near certain failure, I grew to appreciate the artistic style a bit more. The minimalist retro-style graphics, composed of simple character models and slow movements, allows the player to focus on the important stuff such as dialogue and atmosphere. The soundtrack worked wonders on the mood with tense beats and appropriately placed cowboy western flare. Working my way to the second chapter however, I discovered something that would change the way I played the game entirely…
Chapter 3 – The Expendables
Gods Will Be Watching emphasizes that every action you take will affect the survival of your comrades and the success of the mission. If you let one detail slip, you may end up with a dead crew member on your hands. This permanence of consequence is what initially drove me to meticulously ensure that things went well. After losing a team member for the first time however, I discovered that the loss was not as permanent as I thought. Once I moved on to the next mission, the dead crew member returned as if he never left. I understand that the story must go on with all of the characters in place, but now that I realized that as long as I completed the mission everyone will come back, my strategies became a bit…ruthless. Who cared if the deadly Medusa virus killed a team member as long as I found the cure in the end? After every level the game compares your actions with other players’ through a diagram, letting you reflect upon your choices.
Chapter 4 – Moving Along
As I mentioned earlier, Gods Will Be Watching is all about resource management, but each chapter adds a novel twist to this theme. In one scenario, you must survive excessive torture while in another, you must lead a squad of freedom fighters out of a hostile desert. In any case however, there is one inescapable quality to every chapter which has genuinely disappointed me: repetitiveness. Even with a successful run, chapters can take a while to complete with little to no variation in your actions. Top this onto repeating missions after every failure, and suddenly you are faced with more clicking than you bargained for. Making it to the next chapter provides a sigh of relief as the story progresses, especially with the final two chapters that were definitely smoother sailing than the others.
Chapter 5 – Let’s get Meta-Physical
While I had high hopes for the story to reward me for my grueling efforts, it only touched upon the most typical of moral dilemmas: sacrifice for the greater good and rebels fighting against an evil/corrupt galactic empire, without adding much to the genre. Sgt. Burden played a very interesting role as the mysterious leader with a hero complex; but besides him and a surprisingly charismatic torturer, all the other characters were just cut-out tropes with little to no depth. The final plot twist was well executed, but could not ultimately justify the difficult journey to get there.
Final Chapter – Judgement
Based on a Ludum Dare game with high potential, Gods Will Be Watching falls short of expectations with long repetitive tasks and difficult gameplay. While boasting a unique art style and riveting soundtrack, the story was just too plain for my tastes. Sgt. Burden’s existential monologues did well to flesh out his character, but little effort was put into the rest of the cast. If you do decide to take the long journey that is Gods Will Be Watching, bring a strategy guide and a lot of patience.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW