An hour into Gods Will Be Watching, I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to finish this review. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t beat the first level. I couldn’t even come close. The hostages kept making stupid decisions, my hack accelerations kept failing, I lost over and over and over again. The game had warned me that it was designed to be failed, but this was getting ridiculous. Shamefully I switched the difficulty down to ‘easy’, and continued to fail for a good while longer.
For the first few hours the game had a hold on me, one that started as a grim determination to see things through, mixed with occasional bouts of fascination and intrigue. Over the course of the game this wore down to a dull sense of obligation, a need to wrap each level up just so that I could write this review. What emerged from my time with Gods Will Be Watching was a weird experiment that I admired a great deal, but which I couldn’t love.
This game, which started its life as a cool, twisted and minimalistic Ludum Dare entry (which can be played here: http://www.deconstructeam.com/games/gods-will-be-watching/) has been expanded out into six scenarios of varying difficulty. The basic premise in each scenario is that you have a limited amount of time to manage numerous resources and thus survive a situation. The simplest level (and thus the best one for illustrating the mechanics) is the second one, in which you control two characters who must endure a lengthy period of torture until they are rescued. As your captors demand information you must choose when to give in (tell them too much and they’ll execute you), when to provoke one torturer to give the other victim time to recover, and when to stop and take time to construct a good lie (which will result in you getting tortured), all the while monitoring the health and well-being of both prisoners. Only the one on the right needs to survive the ordeal, which means that you can theoretically sacrifice the other.
This is the chapter that gives you the most usable visual feedback – it’s really clear when a torture victim is suffering – but it can still be horrifyingly unfair. Luck is built into each level in a way that makes some of them practically unwinnable – in this case if you don’t give up a whole heap of information during the Russian Roulette stage of torture, there’s every chance the bullet in the torturer’s gun will be in the first chamber. In other instances a randomly generated environment might be unsurpassable in the time limit provided, or hostages you need to control may act incredibly irrationally, or an anecdote chemical sequence you need to find out through trial and error just won’t reveal itself to you. It’s maddening being forced to restart the same scenarios over and over again.
For a long time I was willing to forgive and forget, because this is a damn interesting game conceptually. It asks you to make human sacrifices that carry real weight and it conveys hopelessness effectively through gorgeous pixel-art and simple text prompts. But it’s a game that never quite manages to justify its own madness.
Gods Will Be Watching will wear you down. It will punish you unfairly, it will waste your time, it will make you swear and gnash your teeth. And while it’s almost worth all the damn frustration, ultimately the fascinating heart of Gods Will Be Watching doesn’t quite make up for how annoying it is. This is a game to admire, and one that many will appreciate, but it’s just a bit too harsh to work as well as it could.
- Buy it
- Wait for discount
- Don't buy