Gods Will Be Watching is a game that I was desperately clawing at for the duration I spent with it, trying to love it. It’s a bleak, vicious sci-fi story with all the tropes that I thoroughly enjoy about any sci-fi world. It feels like it’s a place and you only really ever get small glimpses at it in the individual stories, that then link into each other as time progresses.
Where I started to fall out of love with the game was in the actual game itself and it’s writing. When your entire game revolves around reading masses of text to make decisions which is the basis of the game and something feels off the entire time, it’s maybe a huge issue.
The developers of the game portray Gods Will Be Watching as hard. It’s supposed to be, to reflect the decisions that you’re making and the consequences they’ll have on the story and to ground them in a reality that you really don’t want to be in. This would be really great to do, if it didn’t feel arbitrary every single time I did something in the game.
For instance, let’s use the very first situation you find yourself in to avoid major spoilers. It’s a hostage situation and you’re in charge of keeping the hostages level headed, amping up the charge for the hacker and making sure the guards don’t get too close to mess things up. It’s an excellent way of introducing to how the game is going to work, that your decisions will have some kind of outcome on the situation and that failure is something to embrace. I’m good with embracing failure, learning from mistakes and then working to improve on it.
The thing that Gods Will Be Watching never actually does though, is help you learn from the mistakes. You have to balance on their tight rope of failure or success and while I understand that’s the feeling they’re going for, this make or break decision could ruin everything for you as a player, but after several times, it just feels forced.
When you finally do succeed, there’s no moment of “Eureka!” or anything of the sort. It’s when it boots you into another scenario and makes you endure the grueling torture of having to do all of this again in yet another situation, one that for the life of me, is so hit or miss in how you handle it – as in, I still can’t figure out how I managed to get through it without luck – that I began to despise that it was going for a difficult approach.
This mostly comes in through having to click through the story over and over again. Sometimes the game will change up what characters say and the such, but dang. The writing in the game isn’t fantastic to start out with. In fact, sometimes it comes across as a little hamfisted and almost as if it were written by someone who was trying to be cool. Characters are mindless stereotypes from every sci-fi story you can think of. What they say and do, it’s all kind of lost when you have to sit through what the developers thought was a horrific act about fifteen times in a row.
There’s not supposed to be any joy in the game. Gods Will Be Watching and the story it wants to tell through the gameplay, is that of a depressing future world with terrorists and a tangled plot, grounded in some kind of reality of everything that’s planned going wrong. Where it fails in giving you this world for you to mess up in, is having game overs.
For a game that takes generic tropes from the adventure genre and places them into some weird amalgamation of a puzzle and survival, with a heavy emphasis on story, it’s a shame that the game over screen is even included in the game. There’s a story they want to tell, but it’s hampered by the mechanics that lead so often to the game over screen. It throws up information that I found to be completely useless, unless I was heavily invested in picking apart the game for its secret mathematical mechanics.
Which, for a game – like I’ve already said – with a story to tell amongst the bizarre gameplay, is not what I’m here for. I’d like to see how the story plays out, maybe receive a fail state at some points, but this type of game feels like it shouldn’t be burdened with fail states. It feels like it should just continue and if everyone dies, then that’s how it goes. But maybe they couldn’t get that to work, I don’t know.
Gods Will Be Watching is a game that tries too much to take its scary and worrying situations to another level by amping up the illusion of choice, the split second decisions that could ruin you or help you onto the next bit of the game. But it’s by doing this and everything encasing what’s actually a pretty cool, if generic story, that it trips over itself. It wants to make out it’s a bit different, alluring you in with presentation and the attitude it carries over its head. But at the end of the day, it’s just another point and click adventure game, with some kind of puzzle that you’ll eventually bash your head against to figure out what makes it tick. All it needs is for you to decide whether it’s worth putting up with this shit every single time.