Gods Will Be Watching - Brutal Backlog

March 23, 2020
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The thing I miss most about the mid-2010s are cheap indie games that weren’t created with the sole intention of selling millions of copies. Before Steam’s front page became filled with action-RPG-looter-shooter-strategy-simulation games, it was filled with £10 games that were made because a small developer wanted to tell a story. It’s a genre that’s created some of the most interesting games I’ve ever played, and the genre that spawned 2014’s Gods Will Be Watching.

Gods Will Be Watching, published by Devolver Digital (because of course it is), is a point-and-click adventure game set in the distant future. Promising tough decisions and a depressing tone, I originally bought the game because I was looking for something similar to Spec Ops: The Line. I only played the game for five minutes when I became annoyed that there wasn’t anything to shoot at, but after five years of shooting things, I was once again on the hunt for a game to make me feel terrible about myself. This time, however, I wanted to do it without firing a shot.

Five Minutes In

My hopes of not shooting anything have lasted less than five minutes. Although I’m not exactly sure what is going on, the plot of Gods Will Be Watching doesn’t seem like rocket science. I’m a bad guy that’s helping overthrow a government full of even worse guys, and in order to do that I’ll need to become a terrible excuse of a human being. Right now, everything seems simple if a bit chaotic, but I’m not complaining. The less time I spend thinking about the game, the more time I can spend getting depressed about how I’m going to inevitably end up shooting an innocent person for the greater good.

Are we the baddies?

Thirty Minutes In

I’ve already become an even worse person than I thought I was going to become. In the first mission, I was forced to execute hostages for the greater good, and now I need to decide if I want to sell out part of my organisation or lose my fingernails to the space-CIA. I’m not sure what to make of all this yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far. After playing so many games that have been sanitised of gore, it’s weirdly refreshing to see someone’s arm get chopped off because they didn’t tell the government where his friends are hiding.

I’m also surprised at how well the pixelated graphics and 8-bit style soundtrack convey violence. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone’s arm get chopped off to a soundtrack that would fit in Shovel Knight, but I like it. I recoiled more watching a civilian get executed in Gods Will Be Watching than I did in any of the Call of Duty games, which was undoubtedly the intention of that scene. 

Hammer time

So far, my only complaint is that the game relies too heavily on the mouse. Although it is a point-and-click game, the first two missions of the game were more frantic than they should have been. Commanding four people in a large room with only a mouse was annoying, but hopefully I’m sure I’ll get used to it as the game progresses.

Two Hours In

I’m starting to like Gods Will Be Watching more and more with each passing chapter. Like in some of my favorite survival games, the gameplay puzzles you need to figure out in each chapter are no-win scenarios. I’ve forced members of my crew to starve in the wilderness so that more valuable people could live, I’ve tested an experimental drug on a dog because he was the least valuable thing around and I’ve shot an old person who was slowing me down. I feel terrible for doing these things, but the gameplay justified my amoral decisions. That’s why I love a lot of my favourite games, so if Gods Will Be Watching continues like this, it may end up on that list.

On a different note, I’ve also started to enjoy what I initially thought was a frustrating feature. Every mission I’ve played so far has had a random instakill somewhere in it and there are no checkpoints in the mission. It’s been frustrating to have to restart an entire level from scratch because the dice didn’t roll in my favour, but it’s also really helped my immersion. I physically turned away from my screen when I was playing Russian Roulette, which is a first for my gaming career.

Three Hours In

I’m about to enter the final boss arena, and I’m honestly glad that the game is coming to an end. Not because I don’t like the game, but because Gods Will Be Watching has said everything it’s needed to say. I’ve got the life lessons that the game wanted me to get, I’m not sick of the music and the point-and-click gameplay hasn’t gotten frustrating yet. The game is letting me leave with a positive impression instead of an annoyed one, which like almost everything else in the game, is refreshing.

I’m also glad that it’s ending because this will give me the opportunity to replay a few of my favourite levels while I’m still “on the clock”. After searching around on Reddit, it looks like the game randomises some of of the minor plot points. It’s not totally random, but it is something to keep the levels feeling fresh for a few playthroughs. Unless the final boss fight has me typing a 10,000 word paper on a single room of The White House, it’s going straight into my list of games I seriously regret not playing until recently.

You wouldn't download a car, would you?

Final Verdict

Gods Will Be Watching reminds a lot of This War of Mine. Although Gods Will Be Watching isn’t a survival game, it often feels like one. I was forced to make decisions that I’ll be thinking about for the next few weeks, I played as carefully as I could and I’ll remember every person who I shot throughout my playthrough. The violence and seemingly unfair difficulty may not be for everybody, but I love it. It’s a game that perfectly encapsulates everything good about those £10 Devolver Digital games that used to line the front page of Steam not so long ago.

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Worth playing? YES - it's still enjoyable today.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.