E3 2014: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is a Beautiful Exercise in First-Person Storytelling

The world's end.


Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is a wordy title, but an apt one. Like The Chinese Room's earlier effort on Dear Esther, this is a game that is very much about storytelling. The world has ended, but you remain--a lone survivor left exploring an idyllic little town in the English countryside picking up on the remnants of lives once lived. But unlike Dear Esther's rigid, linear approach to first-person narrative, Rapture is an open world that you can explore at your own pace. And boy is it a beautiful one.

It's that contrast between the gorgeous and the cataclysmic that makes Rapture such an intriguing game. This is a postcard vision of England circa 1984, a little swath of farmland and forests complete with quaint ponds and stone bridges. The music that accompanies you is a lush collection of strings and piano, a moody score that feels almost hymnal in its etherealness.

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But something has clearly gone wrong. There's no life to be found, except for strange little echoes of the town's former occupants that you encounter as you explore the world. It might be a pair of voices having a strained conversation about a child's birthday out by the garden, or it might be whispers you hear from a locked room as you explore a disheveled farmhouse. Rapture plays around with the continuity of time by giving you fleeting glimpses into the past, little audio clues tied to the environment around them.

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According to creative director Dan Pinchbeck, the overarching story is about the quiet relationships between people leading up to some great calamity. It's that marriage between the personal and the epic that Pinchbeck wants to explore with the game's story.

The whole thing does feel a little bit like what The Fullbright Company has already done with Gone Home, at least in the sense that you're exploring this lived-in world reading into the details of people who once occupied a particular space. But whereas Gone Home told its story within a single home densely packed with little details, Rapture is broader in scope: it's about walking through fields and forests, passing through buildings on occasion but generally soaking up the natural splendor of this setting as you travel from one large area to the next.

With the support of Sony Santa Monica behind The Chinese Room's relatively small team of 13 people, Rapture looks poised to deliver on its intriguing premise. Stay tuned for more on this gorgeous PlayStation 4 exclusive.

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