I could not help but feel sorry for the members of Perfect Heaven, it’s clear each member had a different reason for joining the cult yet circumstances seemed to put them all down the same path which would eventually lead to the mass suicide of them all.
As cult stories go it follows the typical formula, a leader who believes they are some sort of religious prophet, brainwashing and some other sinister motives. Sagebrush has these but the Perfect Heaven Cult have already been and gone, this is a game about you investigating their home Black Sage Ranch years after they all died.
Sagebrush is a short narrative walking-sim styled game, in order to fully investigate the task is to solve basic puzzles which will expand the compound and the secrets it hides a little more. There are no cutscenes or character interaction, you are completely alone in this ghost town of a compound. Instead, the story is told via tapes scattered about the compound. Within these tapes, a few followers recount their daily lives of being a member of the Flock, you are made to listen due the scene changing to black and white with a spotlighted area taking focus, which is a extremely clever way to make sure the player is paying attention to what occurred. Also scattered around the compound are diaries and letters, all of which will paint a very human picture of the members of the cult. Items like keys and shovels can also be found, which can be used to further explore the ranch.
As with most cult stories ending in a mass suicide, life on the ranch wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As you delve deeper into the background of Father James (the leader) you’ll find he’s not as innocent as he makes himself seem to his followers. Changing prophecies and scriptures and becoming more and more paranoid, meaning weapons training is given out just in case they need to fight for their freedom. It all ends up quite harrowing, how these normal citizens who all joined for some reason or another can then give up their lives for something one man is preaching. Even if some members had doubt or were worried about their presence in the ranch, ultimately it still ended in sadness which made me feel for them more if they had fallen for all those lies and went with whatever was planned.
Visually, Sagebrush is presented in a low poly, low fi feel. Quite similar to PS1 era graphics, yet with better lighting and other visual design to give it that modern touch. I thought at first it would distract me or hinder the experience, but it never seemed to interrupt the flow of the game or the story which is the focus. In fact it felt very connected to the 90’s time period the game is set in. The sound design of the game kept me on edge for all of my playthrough, the sound of the doors closing behind me and creaky floorboards when I was stood still gave off an eerie vibe, in an otherwise not so scary video game.
A short game but an unsettling story really makes for a nice little experience, for less than £5 it’s well worth the membership joining fee to visit this cult. Hopefully Redact’s next game will be able to expand on what they have done well in Sagebrush, as I can see a lot of potential especially in the storytelling department.
*This Review Code was so generously provided by the publisher for review*