Review by Richard Winstone
The Church in the Darkness, just like the cults it based upon starts out with a promising future only to fall short and leaves people out of pocket.
With Cult based stories cropping up regularly in real life and with games like Farcry 5 and Bioshock, Paranoid Production is entering the ring with their take on the genre in this indie stealth-based game.
So you set off looking for your nephew Alex, who as enlisted into a cult now and the Collective Justice Mission run by Isaac and Rebecca Walker, after feeling persecuted by the US government, the Collective Justice Mission relocate themselves to South America due to there socialist ideology the local government who are also socialist allow the Collective Justice Mission to create “Freedom Town” a socialist utopia for there 500 followers.
Pretty quickly you understand something is not quite right, a socialist town with so many armed guards? Cages and alters where people have been killed or maybe sacrificed, propaganda galore.
The Church in the Darkness has a rouge-like, stealth feel to it with the ever-changing personalities of the two leaders each time you play, in all honesty there are 3 modes both good, both bad, one good one bad, you can be caught sneaking in and be killed just for being there, of put down multiple guards and be allowed to live, the game does cover many topics of a political nature based on the 1970s in America with homophobia, racism and sexism being at the forefront linking the game to many well-known cults of the time such as the Jonestown cult.
You begin a playthrough with a randomly generated map, a selection of items of your choosing at the start and some basic information about the cult in the form of postcards from Alex and a letter from his mum (your sister) asking you to make sure he is ok. You use stealth to sneak past, kill or knock out guards and cult members as you try and find the few friendly NPC in the game with there treat level measured by the clothing and colour of there visibility cones.
Your only interaction is with the handful of NPCs that will assist you, Alex and the Walkers. Although very well written they become stale after a few playthroughs as the dialogue doesn’t really change even when you are dealing with good or bad Walkers. The story is driven by the PA system that appears to be completely unchanging and repetitive. I will reiterate that the story is good the first time at least, with the cult’s ideology being supported by genuine grievances people have with society.
As for the gameplay itself its feel pretty clumsy, the combat mechanics are terrible, this may be deliberate as stealth and the use of disguises are key to success, but even the general movement feels lacklustre, increase the difficulty and you’re left with no vision cones and forced to guess and usually end up being shot by a guard. I do like the lack of direction. you’re left to explore and discover the truth of freedom town with no notification on your success your left to decide for yourself when it’s the right time to get out of dodge.
An interesting game with 2 years of delays for release kinda falls short, the gameplay is ok at best, the story is compelling once and the lack of diversity in an apparent endlessly changing game leaves felling let down despite the promises from the developers.
I feel Church in the Darkness could have been a much better game as a story novel based game, the stealth rogue elements don’t really work as intended. wait for it to come on sale unless you really like the idea behind the story.
a good story once…