The Church in the Darkness brought about an interesting discussion in my household around the phrase “Drinking the Kool-Aid”. Which my kids had heard of, but where unaware of its origins. Obviously it stems from the Jim Jones cult and the follower-ships mass suicide in 1978.
Hearts of Darkness
This game finds its inspirations from these very 1970s type cults. The setting being that of the ‘Collective Justice Mission’ cult and its fanatical leaders Issac and Rebecca Walker. They have moved their flock to South America to avoid the constant gaze of the FBI back in the USA. I played as Vic, an ex-cop tasked to go down to South America and bring home a brainwashed youngster, Alex.
Story of the Church in the Darkness
Mechanically the game is simple. It’s a top down stealth action title, with a set map, but with some rogue-like elements and random objective placements that change on each playthrough. What makes The Church in the Darkness unusual though is the narrative.
Delivered through static cut-scenes, sermons from the Walkers over the camps P.A. system and documents collected from around the map. The background narrative of Freedom Town changes depending on how I went about the objective of saving Alex. Be sneaky and leave the cult members unharmed and the Walkers may remain calm and reasonable. Start killing and the Walkers might talk of becoming a group of ‘Action’.
The setting of a 1970s cult in the jungles of South America is seriously unique and the voice acting is on par with a AAA title. The way the cult leaders changed depending on the playthrough and my actions in the world, gave the game a depth that surprised me.
The actual gameplay of navigating the map and enemies ‘vision cones’ is simple and intuitive (think MGS1). However it soon became repetitive and I couldn’t help but ‘game’ the systems to make rushing through a location ridiculously simple.
The narrative and characters were surprisingly deep in this wee game, unfortunately the same cannot be said for repeated playthroughs. As interesting as the world is, the The Church in the Darkness eventually turns into an ‘errand boy’ simulator. Where the stealth action just gets in the way of progress.
A unique idea for a game and considering my well documented dislike of all things ‘rogue-like’, I enjoyed my time in Freedom Town. But thinking back, its wasn’t the stealth action, or the hunting for incriminating memos or searching for better gear, which made me jump straight back into a ‘New Game’ after a cheap death. I just wanted to see what crazy ass Jim Jones version of ‘The Walkers’ I was going to get this time round.