“You took a soft approach” the game reprimands me on my first failure. I’d shot two people.

The first thing that really struck me about Gods Will Be Watching was how hard it is to try and be a good person. Besides The Walking Dead, I’m generally pretty unbothered by morality in games, but with GWBW  I try to play ball, and I get punished for it.

Victory in the first scenario comes at a price. Three hostages lay dead, the trust in our small team shattered, but I’m mainly thinking about the prisoners’ blood congealing on the floor. “You took a soft approach” the game reminds me, and I’m not sure what sort of monster it wants me to become.

There are only six chapters (and an epilogue) in GWBW and initially each had an effect on me. The second has you as the victim, trying to resist 20 days of torture through your five dialogue options. I’d like to go into a bit more detail with chapter two because I feel like it’ll spoil less and is one of the simplest. I want to get across the general hopelessness. Skip below the lines if you want this to be mechanically unspoilt.

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You’re sat in a chair with your partner tied up behind you, two antagonists stand around, promising torture and fun with a variety of implements. If you want to avoid this, you have five dialogue options:

Beg: General plea. This will usually work once or twice a day.

Think: To prepare for a lie, but you will take a beating for using it

Lie: If you can get away with a lie, they change the question and you get no beating

Confess: You should never confess unless in an emergency, it gives up real information and if you give up enough over the torture, you’ll be killed.

Provoke: Either character can provoke, they take a beating and the other character gets to avoid one.

It’s quite poorly signposted, and a lot of the time you feel like you’re struggling desperately against the tide, living for the end of the day and a chance to heal yourself. If you get this wrong, you can lose all progress in the scenario so far, and this meant I had to approach the scenario over the course of several days because the repetition became a bit much.

One section sees your torturer pull out a revolver and start playing a twisted version of Russian Roulette with the reward being an instant failstate. It’s the equivalent of the hated quick time event, except no amount of skill can bypass it, just a number generator.

 

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This scenario exposes many of the strengths and flaws of the game.

Negatives first: It feels like I got through on the back of a random number generator and not my decision making skills. This varied from scenario to scenario, with my personal favourite being the third, but by the time you get to the later chapters it’s just a random chance that starts to burn you out. Some of the narrative just doesn’t make any sense, a character that dies in one scenario appears again in the next, and this robs the game of any real sense of consequence. An explanation for this surfaces towards the end of the game but still grated.

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Because time only passes when you select an action, gameplay is a slow thoughtful affair; you’re quite literally clicking on a series of menus to make things happen. That’s not a problem at all, but it does make trying to talk about the actual gameplay at all to be a little tricky, it’s satisfying when you achieve something but when you’re not it’s deeply frustrating.

The story is decent, despite being solely a framing mechanic to put you in some intense resource management puzzles. There’s a choice at the end that I genuinely did have a solid think about. The pixel art is nice, with a distinctive style that suits the sci-fi aesthetic, and the characters are distinctive. Several of the scenarios center around identifying visual cues and the graphics hold up to the task.

The games soundtrack is an absolute gem, I’ve been listening to it since, but it massively compliments the whole experience by adding an extra level of emotion to each scenario. The rest of the sound design is subtle but fits in well. Technically the game is in a great place and the user interface and experience is top notch. I did find a few moments where a cancel button would have been fantastic, and in one circumstance I couldn’t make a certain choice because my player character was stood in the way of the interaction area for another character, but these were very minor annoyances.

I’m in two minds. When I was first starting out I was convinced that I loved it. There’s a problem though; there came the realisation at some point during the second and third scenarios that I realised this was actually just a game about balancing resources, and the characters were just a way of obfuscating a series of numbers. After this all of the game’s comments on morality go out of the window, and I found myself optimising and ignoring the actual cost of my actions.

Perhaps that is GWBW greatest trick, but it’s a trick that left me cold – without the human angle, there’s nothing here but pretty pixels and a bitter taste.

Review: Gods Will Be Watching
Well made, good UX, fantastic music. Not so great as an actual game though.
Pros
  • Great Music
  • Fantastic graphics
  • Good resource puzzler
Cons
  • Misleading marketing.
  • No moral choices
6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
8.3

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