PSX 2016: The Church in the Darkness Hands On

We’ve all heard of cults like The People’s Temple (Jonestown) or The Manson Family and that is because those groups ended in horrific incidents, but what separates a group of outsiders from being classified as a cult? Does a group need to end in tragedy to be considered a cult or can they just exist on the fringe of society without be labeled a cult?

The Church in the Darkness is a new game from Paranoid Productions that dives into the murky waters of cultism.

The year is 1970 and a religious organization called the Collective Justice Mission feel prosecuted by the U.S. government and relocate their entire organization to the jungles of South America. The CJM form the city of Freedom Town and have isolated themselves from the outside world. Now cut off from the world, the families of the potential cult are concerned and want to know what is happening to their loved ones.

One of the members of the cult is your nephew, Alex and it is up to you to go to South America to find and hopefully bring him home.

At PSX 2016 I had the opportunity to play an early portion of the game and learn the mechanics of the gameplay. The Church in the Darkness is a top down action game that can be played in whichever manner players want. You can treat the game like a stealth game, quietly avoiding all till you find Alex. You can go a stealth action route by taking down enemies non lethally or you try going in guns blazing. Each route will dramatically impact the story and how the game will treat you so choose wisely.

The A.I. and story will react to your actions and change based on how you are playing. If you are killing people left and right the world around you will know and the people of Freedom Town will be hostile to anyone they do not recognize. If you are taking down people non lethally that might make the people more paranoid than outright violent.

I played my demo attempting to be non violent and relied on stealth. I did not want to hurt anyone nor really interact with anyone. I just wanted to accomplish my task and harm no one. To assist me in my stealth attempt there is an ability to see the vision cones of NPCs and I relied heavily on it to plan my routes around the compound. Along the way I would rummage through desks and cabinets and find documents that would shed light on the ongoings of the compound as well as find tools to use to help me out like chloroform and ammo.

I had a pistol with me, but guns are loud and would attract unwanted attention. Plus the ammo was relatively limited and I did not have confidence that I had enough to take on a whole cult. So I stuck to throwing rocks to distract NPCs and continued on my way to my object of meeting an informant.

The stealth was pretty easy with the use of the cone vision and I only ran into trouble once or twice which I was easily able to escape by running away and having the NPCs lose interest in me. I did get myself captured at one point, mostly to see how that would play out. What happened was I was captured by the cult and brought to the leader and he just locked me in a cage and told his followers that I was an example. I then was able to escape and continue on my mission. I was told by the developer that if I played in a more aggressive manner (killing) that I would have just been put up for execution and that would have been a potential game over. And that was just one example of the ways the game will react to how I am playing.

Throughout the game you will hear the cult leaders talk over a PA system and do their daily motivational cult leader stuff, but as I progress their tone and mannerism will change based on my play. For example if I began to kill then the leaders would become more aggressive and filled with anger as they rally their members to to take action. This can also change based on if I am non lethally taking people out which could lead to a more paranoid cult leader and members.

Another example given to me was how NPCs I interact with like my informant can change. Because I went in stealth and didn’t hurt anyone I got my information and went on with my business. Now if I hurt or killed people that informant might be less willing to help me and I might have needed to do other things to get what I wanted. And the same goes for Alex apparently because without spoiling too much the developer told me that even Alex would treat me different based on how I played.

It is this sort of dynamic that can be really interesting to see play out. I asked if there would be dialogue options and I was told that they did not want to go down that path and wanted to stick to the core mechanics dictating how the story will go.

The Church in the Darkness sounds fascinating and from what I played it could end up being something special. A lot of the interesting aspects like the dynamic of the cult leaders changing on how I played was not very present in my short demo, but if it is delivered on the game could be something special.

It was expressed to me that the game will keep the intentions of Collective Justice Mission in a grey area. It will be up to the player to decide if this group is evil or just misunderstood. This is a cool idea to toy with and the narrative will have to walk a fine line throughout the experience to achieve this. If the gameplay really does dictate how the cult reacts then they should be able to walk this line and muddy the waters enough to make it unclear who is in the wrong in this world.

I only spent a brief amount of time with The Church in the Darkness, but I spent enough time to be intrigued and I look forward to seeing the game release in early 2017 for the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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