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The Church In The Darkness

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 4 - 2019

Get in and get out.

The Church in the Darkness from Paranoid Productions is a top-down action adventure with randomised features that will see the player infiltrate a cult in South America in order to hopefully rescue a family member. While names have been changed, there is obvious inspiration from the infamous Jonestown incident in the seventies which tragically resulted in a massive loss of life. Make of that what you will.


In the game, a religious cult, led by a pair of charismatic leaders, have made the move to a fictional South American state and created large settlement known as Freedom Town. In the time since the settlement was set up, the cult have pretty much cut ties with everyone, resulting in some very concerned parents and family members. Players take on the role of some heroic type, male or female, who has taken it upon themselves to infiltrate the cult and find their nephew Alex, hopefully with a view to bringing him home.

The gameplay is fairly straight forward. The player is presented with a top-down view and must guide their hero through the reasonably sized settlement, avoiding the view of the various guards, in order to reach their goal. The guards have vision cones, a la Metal Gear Solid, making it easier to avoid their gaze. The regular cult members will also raise the alarm should they see a stranger wandering the compound, so they should be avoided as well unless the player is disguised.


While for most the game will revolve around hiding and sneaking, there is a more straight forward approach. The player is able to sneak up behind guards and either knock them out or kill them, if they wish. At the beginning of each run through, the player is able to pick an item to take with them, and this could be a gun, which gives access to a more aggressive approach, although successfully going in guns blazing would be a mistake. As the player explores, they are able to search through various buildings in order to find more gear to help them, including additional bullets should they need them. They may find items that can disable alarms, healing items or food that is instantly eaten to recover any lost health, or various promotional materials that can fill in the background story about this cult. Cupboards and chests also provide a great place to hide from pursuing guards, who are perhaps not the sharpest knives in the drawer. When it comes to shooting, the player holds the right mouse button to aim and then fires with the left, which is easy enough. Interestingly, when it comes to throwing a rock to distract a guard, the rock is not thrown in the aiming cursor direction, but rather the direction that the player is facing, which can lead to a little confusion to start with.

As The Church in the Darkness can be completed in much less than sixty minutes, the focus here is all about repeated playthroughs. This is where the randomness comes in. The player is dropped at the infiltration point with the same objective each time. They need to find a friendly cult member who will then lead the player to Alex. If everything else is ignored and the player already has a few playthroughs under their belts, the game could be completed in a matter of minutes. To keep the player coming back for more, there is plenty that will change each time around.


There are a lot of different endings to the game, and these endings are dictated not only by the random nature of the game, but also by how the player approaches the situation. Each playthrough will give the player different items hidden in different places and a different contact to meet with. There are some side missions to explore along the way, keeping things interesting. However, the most important random aspect is the personalities and motives of the cult. The leaders could be genuinely benevolent or planning a mass suicide, and even finding Alex could reveal that he is quite happy and wants to stay. Even being caught can lead to different situations, from just being locked in a cage and given the chance to escape, to being executed immediately and forced to start another game.

Visually, the top-down view is certainly good enough, giving a certain style to the game that fits with both the time period and the subject. The colour palette is very muted, and detail when the game zooms in is lost which doesn’t look so great. Otherwise though, The Church in the Darkness is unremarkable in the way it looks.

The real problem with the game is that repetition sets in too quickly. Given the large number of different endings, not taking into account having to get to the ending in the first place, it is expected to play the game over and over again. The first few times, it is all very exciting. However, even with the random nature, the gameplay quickly becomes rote. There is a drive, an excitement, to reach that first ending, which will take a while as the player learns the mechanics, but that excitement wanes with each subsequent playthrough.


The Church in the Darkness is a nicely put together game that has some really great ideas. The setting is great and the various random aspects really do keep the player guessing. However, this will only keep the player interested for so long, after which the game becomes more about repetition. While it should be applauded for pulling players in for more than one playthrough, the fact that a single playthrough can be so short means that players could lose interest within a few hours. Fun for the first few times, but players looking for longevity may be better going elsewhere.




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