The Church in the Darkness takes its inspiration from the infamous Jonestown settlement, with its religious cult , South American setting and larger than life leadership. All of this makes for a surprisingly deep infiltration game.
You play as Vic, an ex-cop, who infiltrates Freedom Town built by the Collective Justice Mission down in the depths of South America.Vic hopes to rescue his nephew Alex, who has joined the reclusive camp.
The cult is ran by two individuals, Rebecca and Isaac Walker. Both of which boom their voices of the camp’s loud PA system, messages may change depending on how your story plays out but both were very softly spoken in my main play through. Spreading messages of hope, with a slight hint of not knowing what will really happen. Although meant to be working together it seemed that Rebecca was getting too big for her boots, which Isaac wasn’t keen on. I won’t spoil how any of that plays out, but with it’s procedural narrative you may never see that side of the cult leaders, which is very interesting.
The games openness gives you the freedom to approach your infiltration as you see fit, with non-lethal and lethal options when it comes to dealing with residents of the camp. If you are feeling courageous, you can outright ghost everyone by throwing rocks to distract them. Each option is doable and offer challenging gameplay, although I wouldn’t suggest going in guns blazing as ammo is very limited.
With an isometric view, your surroundings are visible to a degree. You’ll easily pick out people and buildings , allowing you to plan your route accordingly. You are not hand held when it comes to finding your nephew, your map may give a vague idea but the rest is up to you. By talking to certain NPCs you can reduce the search area but it’s still vague enough that your effort is needed to complete the task at hand.
If you do kill or knock out someone, hiding the bodies in trunks or even cages will make sure they don’t cause anymore trouble. I choose to go through the game non lethally the first time. I wasn’t sure whether or not the cult was inherently bad, so didn’t want to have blood on my hands unless obsoletely necessary.
You can reveal a resident’s vision cone with a button press, this also triggers a sneaking mode where movement will be slower. Fortuanlty it seems most peoples vision is near sighted, so as long as you don’t step foot into someones line of sight you should be able to walk/run or sneak past them.
Search chests, desks and cupboards for useful items, buildings are plentiful for a little respite if someone doesn’t wander in. You may be lucky enough to find a disguise to wear, doing this will decrease vision cones, allowing Vic to have a bit more leeway when it comes to traversing. All equipment is useful, from metal shards to disable alarms to first aid kits to fill the bullet holes you may receive running past angry guards. Be mindful that you don’t have room to hold every item, do you need that gun if you won’t use it? It made me think about my loot grabbing a bit more then other games, it felt extremely fair. Scattered about are letters, maps and other documents all useful to helping you. Some will offer clues to camp life, I found a letter that Alex was attempting to send only to be intercepted. Upon it was a note claiming it was a cry for help and someone will have a ‘word’ with him, something fishy is up with that I think.
Not everyone is willingly to talk to a clear outsider, stay in sight of a guard long enough and they’ll open fire. Residents of the camp may cause a commotion to alert others to you location. Some NPCs are open to conversation, in which you can ask them questions about the leaders and why they are here, some have tasks you can optionally complete. It’s all up to you, while you have an end goal which is to find Alex you may want to investigate the cult a little bit more, or even kill the leaders if you see fit. This opens up quite a lot of potential outcomes, in the main menu you’ll find a page dedicated to how many endings are available. I didn’t have time to complete all the endings, there’s a good chunk but I got two endings, in between a lot of deaths resulting in a complete game over. That means no checkpoints or saves you can resort to, you’ll start over from the very beginning. Very rouge lite in its design.
Fear not, if this happens you won’t have to worry about repetitiveness too much. You should notice a few changes in each play though, one time I saw what looked like a stoning happening where previously it was just people praying. The spoken dialogue changed to be a bit less friendly then before, coming from the mouths of the cults – church – leaders.
As a whole as I was very impressed with The Church in the Darkness, Cults may appear in other games yet it doesn’t appear anything this grounded in reality has hit the market. It all makes for a distinct title that doesn’t need shiny graphics, the games tight story and clever mechanics make it stand out from the crowd.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*