Gods Will Be Watching Is The Saddest Survival Sim

By Nathan Grayson on May 1st, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

The only sound I ever heard during my playthrough of Gods Will Be Watching was the crackling of a fire. Slowly but surely, its embers would die, because when you’re stranded in the freezing cold and slowly succumbing to disease, there’s no easy fix-all. Just increasingly high prices that buy you a few more moldy scraps of time. So I’d heap more wood onto the wheezing ash, and my group’s flame would spring back to life, but it never quite returned to the lively, hopeful blaze of day one. Neither did my people. One by one, the little squad of survivors I was managing fell apart. Distrust, discord, and madness flooded delirious minds while empty stomachs’ pleas fell on deaf ears. I wanted to hold it all together, I did, but one man can only do so much.

On my grave, I pray they write, “At least he didn’t let the dog die. All things considered, he was really good about that.” Also, I hope they omit the part where I strongly considered killing my engineer with my own two hands because he wasn’t worth his own weight in food. That was maybe one of my less glamorous moments.

And all of it was completely brilliant.

Gods Will Be Watching is a Ludum Dare 26 entry whose premise goes like this: it’s the bio-terrorist-ridden cyberfuture, and your research group has been ambushed and stranded in the paralytic Medusa virus’ desolate breeding ground. A radio’s your one means of getting in touch with civilization (you’d figure the cyberfuture would’ve come up with something better, but oh well), but it’s very, very busted. So the goal is to repair it in 40 days – before everyone starves or loses their minds or succumbs to the virus – but you can only take so many actions per day.

Perhaps, then, you want to keep morale up by talking to everyone yourself. Or maybe you’ll just let relations fray under the strain of survival and hope the psychiatrist – whose “group therapy” ability uses up all of one day’s actions – can get the collective brain train back on track before it goes right off the deep end. Because when you’ve only got 3-5 actions to split between repairing the radio, hunting, requesting that the doctor keep the medicine supply, er, existent, and petting an adorable puppy, you don’t really have time to be happy.

To me, Gods Will Be Watching felt like a single-location, incredibly bleak take on Oregon Trail. Smart planning is an absolute requirement, but even that will only hold out for so long in the face of natural, viral, and human unpredictability. Me, I thought I had everything handled. My fire was going strong, I gave everyone my undivided attention, and progress on the radio was steady – if not exactly lightning quick. I’d even figured out an efficient, ammo-conserving approach to hunting that leveraged both my soldier and his dog, so I was actually pretty fond of our odds.

But, day after day, the situation unraveled just a teensy tiny bit more. Bandits struck. My too-quiet doctor finally decided he couldn’t take anymore and went screaming off into the wastes. My soldier nearly died of disease. By day 10, things were maybe starting to take a bit of a downturn. By day 20, they were downright hopeless.

That, however, is the vaguely sick joy of Gods Will Be Watching. It’s a game that thrives when everything is finding new and novel ways to fall apart, leaving you weeping, violently ill, and alone. Also cold. Very, very cold. Really, my only complaint against it stems from its admittedly well-hidden origins as a 48-hour jam game. Each character only has a few lines of dialogue, and they don’t necessarily reflect rapidly deteriorating mental states. So that’s a bit incongruous, but then again, just look at these people. They make shivering and rocking back-and-forth in the fetal position into an Olympic sport.

So yes, it’s an excellent little game, and probably my favorite to emerge from LD26 thus far. Then again, there are still thousands more to go through, so I probably shouldn’t make any sweeping declarations just yet. Honestly, though, Gods Will Be Watching is strong by just about any standard. I implore you to try it out.

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25 Comments »

  1. Mr. Mister says:

    The one on our right, with the suit… looks like a merge of Robocop and a man-sized Slenderman.

    • markelven08 says:

      up to I looked at the bank draft that said $5552, I be certain that my mom in-law truley making money parttime at there labtop.. there brothers friend has been doing this 4 only about 17 months and just now paid for the morgage on there mini mansion and got a great Volkswagen Golf GTI. read more at wow65.com
      (Go to site and open “Home” for details)

    • JohnFrost says:

      For those who interested in beating the game:

      1. Repair your radio right away (do 3-4 repairing per day). It’s better to do it as early as possible – to get it out of your head
      2. After it, your main goal is survival, and it means STAYING HAPPY. Basically, EVERYTHING you do after radio repair is preparing for and attending group therapy. Everything else (talking, hunting, curing, prepping medicine, keeping fire) is just an auxiliary activity for therapy.
      3. Nothing will happen if you go hungry (without any rations) for a couple of days – you won’t die. So, use Marvin to hunt – use laser rifle in dire situations – laser ammo is precious for self-defence.
      4. Always keep an eye for the number of your action points – less then 5 means someone is infected. Cure ASAP – tomorrow you’ll need that person for group therapy.

      All in all, I’d call this game “Group Therapy Outdoors” :-) And yes, it’s completely unrealistic :-)

  2. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Sounds wizard, I’m in.

  3. phelix says:

    Reminds me of that part from Restaurant at the End of the Universe where the protagonists crash on prehistoric Earth, but without the splendid British humor.

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    Big Murray says:

    Brilliant … but was it really too hard to run a spell-check over this thing?

  5. Hedenius says:

    I love the concept but I’m not really sure what I’m doing. I had food and fire. I talked to the crew and made steady progress on the radio. Then one day three of them ran away. Only the robot and the soldier and his dog stayed. Apparently I decided to kill myself. Not sure why, but I did.

    What the what?

    • Shakes999 says:

      True that. Great game but really needs more polish. Their body language doesn’t match their mental state half the time which considering theres nothing else to tell you how their doing, is a pretty important feature that needs to be ironed out.

      I wouldn’t mind them dying due to random events or running away if there was a specific reason for it but 3 of the fuckers running away after I just wasted a whole day on group therapy and they run off regardless? GO ON YOU BUMS!!!! WHO NEEDS YA!!!!!!

      Still enjoyable and great concept but kinda broken. Hope they keep working on it.

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        Big Murray says:

        There is a way to find out how they’re doing. Talk to BR4ND-ON and request information. The numbers in his psych analysis relate to how close your team is to going insane and running away.

    • Geen says:

      I was doing well up until the bit where I died of hypothermia.

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    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    So this is basically Flight of the Phoenix: The Game? (which is a game I’ve wanted ever since I first read it)

  7. Bhazor says:

    Remind me never to take these people camping. These fuckers will kill themselves if the they so much as drop their smores. I mean you’d think an engineer and a psychiatrist would have the mental fortitude to last a week in the woods without going completely insane.

  8. Shiloh says:

    …Gods Will Be Watching felt like a single-location, incredibly bleak take on Oregon Trail…

    More like what the Jamestown colonists went through in 1609-10:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22362831

    Grim stuff.

  9. roryok says:

    Anyone know what language any of these 2D games are coded in? If I wanted to make the next Organ Trail or Super Brothers or FTL or Cowboyana or whatever, where would be the best place to start?

    I realise these games are probably all written in different languages, but I’d like to know all the same, if anyone knows.

    • roryok says:

      After some research I have answered some of my own questions:

      Gods will be watching: Flash
      The Organ Trail: Flash
      Superbrothers: Swords & Sorcery: Objective C
      FTL: C++

    • Premium User Badge

      semibad says:

      No idea about the rest, but this one says at the bottom of the page that it’s made in Javascript with the impact.js framework. JS is a nice place to learn (low barrier to entry – runs in the browser with a couple of text files, and it’s relatively straightforward) but the other games you mentioned are likely to be written in something significantly more hardcore.

    • kyynis says:

      With no experience I found Game Maker sufficiently easy to pick up after doing the included tutorials. You can find solution to practically any problem you might have with it by googling. Be sure to grab the older 8.0 lite version hosted by Auntie Pixelante, it doesn’t put a horrid watermark in the finished executable.

  10. joelreyes says:

    Love my job, since I’ve been bringing in $82h… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I’m making it online… http://www.hdcash1.com

  11. Jae Armstrong says:

    Puts me in mind of the penultimate sequence in Against A Dark Background, where Everything Goes Horribly Wrong.

    Christ’s teeth but that was bleak. :(

    I’m not sure I would survive playing this game.

  12. Feferuco says:

    Farthest I got was by killing everyone for their flesh but then the rescue never came even though the radio was repaired.

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    colossalstrikepackage says:

    Don’t starve is currently kicking my ass hard enough.

  14. bluenine says:

    Man, I got all the way to the end, but without enough progress on the fuc**ng radio:O

    The game reminds me of R.F. Scott’s antarctic expedition and his diary :(

  15. bluenine says:

    I understand the Soldier running away on his own, since he has the only gun, but what about the bloody Doctor? I mean, what can he possibly hope for all alone out there?

    Maybe he wants to join the bandits or something… I knew I should have killed him after he prepared a few of those cures:(

  16. junsumoney says:

    This game is conceptually brilliant, but gameplay-wise tedious. You want crew members so you can have more actions to do during each day, such as get food, maintain fire, make medicine, and repair radio. Just balancing these things is hard enough, but then the retarded sanity loss made all of this frustrating since no matter what you did to keep their sanity up, they can still leave you for no fucking reason. And to be efficient, you use group therapy to raise sanity of everyone but everyone is a whiny bitch and they are still unhappy the next day. And shit, the food’s running low, but you want to conserve ammo, so you send the dog to get food but no luck. So you send the soldier, he spends 3 bullets and no food. And shit, I need to keep the fire up. And the fucking Engineer is frozen. And the Psychiatrist is about to go mad.

    TL; DR: I hated the game.