Gods Will Be Watching is best described as a point and click game with the difficult decisions of a Telltale Games title and the management skills (and luck) needed to successfully complete a game of FTL: Faster Than Light. Before I started I was warned that I was going to fail a lot, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience.
The beginning of Gods Will Be Watching takes place around 2257 AD and introduces you to a crew of pixel sprite characters from the Everdusk Company huddled for warmth around a campfire; Sgt Burden, Sarah, Jack, Donald and Dr Zenesz. Abandoned on this frozen planet by the bioterrorist group, Xenolifer, each of these characters has their own story of difficult decisions to tell and it is the task of the player to work through each of these scenarios that will affect the overall narrative outcome of the game.
Chapter One takes place on a space station one year before the crew are left on their frozen wasteland and follows Jack’s story as he and a group of Xenolifer freedom fighters attempt to hack a computer system to secure research data about the Medusea Virus. It’s not quite as simple as that though as the player will have to manage the four hostages the crew have secured, fend off the ever-creeping squad of Constellar Federation soliders and ensure that the ships security system doesn’t shut down their hacking attempt.
Gods Will Be Watching is at its core a management sim game. Rather than taking the traditional point and click approach of searching an area, finding items and combining them to pass obstacles, the player has to interact with various characters and items in the environment to complete their goal. These come in the form of two types of actions; green actions which are “free”, and red actions which consume game time and resources. It’s essentially best to think of each red action as a “turn” when the environment will then begin to react. Hostages will freak out, the squad will move forward, and your hacking progress increases.
As I mentioned at the start, this game is incredibly goddamn hard and I struggled to even get past Chapter One – the closest until I finally cracked it being getting to 92% on my hacking progress which took me a good few hours. I found this mostly due to my inability to truly gauge at what level of panic my hostages were at and deciding a suitable way to react to them. For the hostages in particular, you have to rely a lot on reading body language and this is incredibly difficult when you’re dealing with pixel sprites as animation is fairly limited. The art style does work well for the game, but it’s sections like this where it really shows to be a hindrance.
It’s situations like this that show that there is a hell of a lot of trial and error when it comes to successfully completing Gods Will Be Watching. I only managed to get to my 92% playthrough on my fourth attempt after I had tried to work out the body language of all the hostages, what affect each action has on them, and the best way to balance pushing back the attacking unit and speeding up my hacking. Even with only three things to focus on, there’s a hell of a lot to think about and even with a set plan of actions, a random event can throw things out of sync very quickly.
At the end of each chapter, the game will display a summary screen as you receive your judgement from the “Gods” with some data about your playthrough, showing how many challenges you completed and the “attitude” of your playstyle – hard or soft. Much like Telltale Games The Walking Dead series of titles, it also shows you the global statistics for players around the world for you to compare your playstyle with – a nice touch to see how much more or less of a total balls up you made of that particular scenario.
Chapter One is merely a taste of what’s to come though. Throughout the game players will have to deal with other difficult scenarios such as biological weapon prevention, torture (what’s a good moral dilemma game without a torture scenario?) and wilderness survival – a subject that was touched upon in a browser-based demo version of the game made as part of a 72 hour game jam before it became this new fully fledged title.
Overall, Gods Will Be Watching is a fantastic brain-buster that masks mentally challenging puzzle scenarios with simple point and click mechanics. I must admit that I am growing a little weary of this particular pixel art style, especially when it causes complications with the gameplay, but it does work well with the theme and tone of the game. It’s due for full release on PC on July 24th and if you’re a fan of games like FTL and The Walking Dead, I highly recommend picking it up.
Gods Will Be Watching is scheduled for release on July 24th for PC.