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The Church in the Darkness review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch


Platform: PS4
Also on: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Fellow Traveler Games
Developer: Paranoid Productions
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

Hello, friend. Have you heard the Good News? There’s a phenomenal game that came out recently about life in a cult. It gives you chilling insight into an oppressive commune, where a charismatic leader has brainwashed his followers using chilling methods to get them to follow him unquestioningly. It’s a dark, depressing experience that’s unflinching in the horror it portrays, yet it’s still palatable enough that everyone should check it out, regardless of how much they have a tolerance for that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, that game is Sagebrush.

The Church in the Darkness wants to be that kind of experience, but it doesn’t come anywhere close. Instead, it’s more like a top-down version of Hitman (only nowhere near as interesting or fun), where you have to weave your way through a South American village based loosely on Jonestown, avoiding the notice of people who might capture or kill you while at the same time identifying and talking to various targets.

I can see what the developers were going for. As you wander through the village, you uncover all kinds of letters and documents that hint at the terrible things the Collective Justice Mission is doing and planning. You also have to reckon with the neverending announcements over the village’s PA system from cult leaders Isaac and Rebecca Walker, constantly proclaiming how the world is out to get their brand of hyper-religious communism, and how followers need to be ready to defend themselves at any moment. Coupled with the fact the game prioritizes stealth over all else, you can see how, in the right hands, it could’ve made for a thrilling, paranoid experience.

It doesn’t quite work out that way, though. Rather than trying to uncover the story — which, in theory, could change every time, since the village and your objectives are procedurally-generated with every new playthrough — you spend all your time simply trying to avoid the range of vision for every cult member. You don’t get a sense of what the cult members are like, beyond those few targets you’re required to speak to; you do, however, come to appreciate that it’s easier to sneak up behind people, knock them out, and stash them in one of the many closets and trunks that adorn every shack.

If the game were going for a Hitman-like vibe that would all make sense, but it’s not — The Church in the Darkness wants to be a stealth game that puts you in the midst of a doomsday cult. Consequently, rather than giving you insight into the world of a cult (a la Sagebrush, which I’ll once again point you to as a better game about the same topic), you get a dull game that’ll just make you appreciate how to avoid someone’s field of view. There are better options out there (*ahem* Sagebrush), and you’re better off getting that than wasting your time here.

Fellow Traveler Games provided us with a Church in the Darkness PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: C-