As I’ve said before, I like stories about cults. I find them fascinating and frightening. I don’t recall ever playing a game that featured one in quite the way that The Church in the Darkness does.
Developed and designed by Richard Rouse III under the name Paranoid Productions, and published by Fellow Traveller, in The Church in the Darkness, you play as Vic, who has gone to South America to infiltrate Freedom Town and find your nephew Alex, who has become a part of the Collective Justice Mission. The group is run by Rebecca and Issac Walker, who preach socialism and community, but there’s more than a tinge of religious fervour as well when their voices echo throughout the camp via loudspeakers. As Vic, you’ll have to make your way through Freedom Town without being detected (hopefully), discovering clues about the cult while interacting to certain members on your way to finding Alex.
On my first sit down to play The Church in the Darkness, I was pretty frustrated. You’re meant to avoid the various members of the church, but I just couldn’t get my sneaking down properly. That meant a lot of dying and starting over again. Luckily, that level of annoyance didn’t diminish the aspect of the game that I did find appealing, specifically the Apocalypse Now vibe of the soundtrack and the general creepiness of the Walkers’ voices as your traverse Freedom Town.
My next attempt at playing was far more successful. I became more patient and took my time in evading community members. Finally, after multiple tries, I finally reached Alex and had him follow me to leave the community. Unfortunately, I also managed to get him killed while we attempted to make it out of the jungle. That wasn’t the end of the game, though.
The Church in the Darkness features multiple endings, and the Walkers’ motivations and personalities shift from game to game. You can also decide how you want to play Vic – in a few cases I was more stealthy; in others, I went full-on Willard entering Col. Kurtz’s base. All of this, plus changing maps, makes for some solid replay value.
While you’re not taking on the Manson Family or David Koresh, The Church in the Darkness feels very grounded in the reality of cults and those that can be swayed into their grasps. You can play it now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC and MacOS.