Gods Will Be Patching: The Mercy Update

By Graham Smith on August 11th, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Mercy mercy, mercy me, this game is a cage but with this patch you're free.

Gods Will Be Watching seemed to promise a beautiful, pixel art science fiction story, with a heavily branching narrative that pivoted around life-and-death decisions for its ensemble cast. The reality was disappointing: a resource management game, where your resources were opaque, success was ill-defined, and failure meant restarting scenes over and over.

I don’t know if Gods were watching, but the developers certainly were. They’ve now released a patch for the game that adjusts the game’s difficulty by adding two new game modes.

Termed the Mercy Update, the changes sound welcome. The first addition is a Puzzle mode, which “removes all elements of chance” from the outcomes of your actions. Which sounds like a very good, very important thing; I didn’t know there was an element of chance, what the hell. The second addition is a Narrative mode, which is designed for players who don’t want any challenge at all and simply want to experience the story.

For those who wear their ability to struggle through arbitrary systems like badges of pride, the original version of the game is intact via the Original mode.

I only care for difficulty if the challenge is something I can discern, learn from and re-apply later in the game. If each challenge is bespoke and the system’s arbitrary conditions only discovered through trial-and-error, that seems like a waste of time. But I do love Gods Will Be Watching’s atmosphere, art and music, so the addition of a Narrative mode does make it sound suddenly more appealing.

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20 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge lowprices says:

    Thank crikey. GWBW was one of the few games this year I was looking forward to, but the opening section felt so abritrary in it’s difficulty that I gave up. Puzzle mode sounds much better.

    • qtquazar says:

      It took me exactly two tries to get through it, and many players are similar. While I wouldn’t speculate on your personal experience, out of the six levels, the first is VERY clearly defined and the interrelating factors very evident. The most common problem factor is players not realizing that multiple factors can influence a prisoner at once–including the other prisoners. Once you understand this, the scenario becomes predictive/proactive rather than reactive. The prisoners do not act randomly as John’s review accused–they are entirely predictable.

      • Danley says:

        But the devs literally said there’s randomness added to the results of your choices. That’s the point of ‘puzzle mode.’

        • qtquazar says:

          The ‘randomness’ throughout the game is the type of randomness with a very limited variance range–typically, the difference between you go hunting and bring back 0, 3, 4,5 or 6 food. With the hostages, it means they react in the same vector direction (towards panic or towards overconfidence) but slightly more or less strongly each time.

          What’s really more important, and what people fail to grasp, are the vectors themselves in the first scenario–you need to be examining which way the hostages are heading and change the equation in advance, so that you can deal with the randomness. If you’re reacting to them in an advanced state, you’re already in trouble. A very curious indicator of this failure is, looking on Steam, the high percentage of people who have the ‘Stick Together’ achievement because they didn’t use the break room in the scenario. That room is a key asset for controlling the entire situation. If you know how to use it, when you’re down to two hostages the scenario is beyond easy to manage.

          Part of the beauty of this game is in reducing chaos to a more controlled balance. The ‘twist’ of the game is that doing so carries a perceived ‘moral’ cost for what may be the most rational action.

          The exception is the famed Russian Roulette scene, which is the only direct-to-fail randomness in the game. Whether including this scene or not was a good idea is an interesting debate–it’ been very polarizing. Personally I think it fits with how Chapter 2 messes with your expectations in just about every way which I won’t spoil here, but I can understand players being frustrated with that one instance more than anything else in the game, as you’re up against pure chance (even here, you can minimize the odds a lot by prepping a lie, confessing a few times, and begging, but then you will absolutely suffer other consequences at the end of the scenario as you’ll have given away too much info too early).

  2. Premium User Badge Luringen says:

    Really enjoyed the first level, but the second level (the torture one) was way too luck based if you tried to lie, so I turned down the difficulty, which kinda helped. Apart from that I’ve really enjoyed the game so far.

  3. Gog Magog says:

    Well, I disagree with everything in that and I also disagree with accessability when the entire point of your game is to be hateful and unfair and that when your number’s up well better luck in the next one fucker.
    Is it a strong message? Yep.
    Is it a wasted one? Yep. And it fucking well should be.
    Then again, fuck expression when money is involved. Discomfort and anger are invalid and must be eliminated.
    All hail the omnissiah. The voices said empty hollow and thud. All hail the omnissiah that will bring us contentment eternal. Yes.

    • YogSo says:

      The first addition is a Puzzle mode, which “removes all elements of chance” from the outcomes of your actions. Which sounds like a very good, very important thing; I didn’t know there was an element of chance, what the hell.

      If a message falls around in a forest and no one is around to hear it, is it still a message?

      By which I mean, if the player wasn’t even aware that there was a RNG system underlying every decision, the designer has done a very poor job of communicating the point of their game (which, according to you, is “to be hateful and unfair and that when your number’s up well better luck in the next one fucker”). I mean, you won’t see people seriously complaining that “I Want To Be The Guy” is hateful and unfair, do you?

      • qtquazar says:

        And yet, the original Ludum dare entry had direct number rolls in it (Marvin hunting for food: 60%). If you came into the game not expecting that–that luck would force changes in your approach to the scenario–you neither did your research nor understand one of the core concepts to the game (I think the narrative mode is a nice touch, but I abhor the ‘puzzle mode’ idea, as it destroys the roguelike element and emergent gameplay). No mater how well prepared you are in a crisis situation, you’re going to be dealing with what gets thrown at you–to have a ‘perfect path’–to have no ‘randomness’–defeats the point of making difficult (and sometimes unfair) choices.

        • YogSo says:

          the original Ludum dare entry

          you neither did your research

          Ah, so you are indeed agreeing with me that the developer did a poor job communicating what THIS game is about, since to understand it the player had to play A DIFFERENT GAME first.

          Man, you used so many words just to say, “your point was right”.

          • qtquazar says:

            Seriously? Are you trolling? Chapter 4 IS the Ludum Dare entry (albeit with a few more bells and whistles).

            The Ludum Dare became the effective demo for the game, and was linked to directly in a previous RPS article (not to mention the KS, Steam, every gaming news site, etc.)–which is how I found out about it in the first place.

    • kuddles says:

      If to be “hateful and unfair” is the point of the game, they have all the power to have it. But they shouldn’t be surprised that most people won’t play the majority of the content if that is the case. They are already extremely blunt about the message of futility as it is, so the only value in forcing me to play out the same 20 minutes of a scenario for the fourth time just to hopefully not lose to a random event out of my control at the end is ensuring I won’t be bothered to continue playing.

    • Viroso says:

      Well, does the game communicate the premise that you describe and is it unreasonable that someone buys a game thinking it’ll be fun? It’s all about expectations and whether or not the game set them up, since video games are mostly fun (even the most frustrating one), it isn’t unreasonable to expect that.

      Lastly “life’s unfair” is an okay thing for a game to say I guess but it is also an obvious thing to say, specially if it is so blatant about saying it.

  4. Metalfish says:

    “I only care for difficulty if the challenge is something I can discern, learn from and re-apply later in the game. If each challenge is bespoke and the system’s arbitrary conditions only discovered through trial-and-error, that seems like a waste of time”
    Can we staple a copy of this to every games designer? Randomness is good, but it isn’t a solid foundation and choice is a waste of time when it’s uninformed.

  5. Mr. Bottomhat says:

    I like this game a lot and I liked the original. Why? This game is about exploring the outlines of the puzzle, not just solving it. Chance has a place in it, forcing you to change up your strategy if you have bad luck. Also, true tension. Having the russian roulette part of the torture towards the end of the level was its only valid place.

    • qtquazar says:

      “Chance has a place in it, forcing you to change up your strategy if you have bad luck. Also, true tension.”

      This. Dealing with a scenario on the verge of tipping into a fail state and being able to wrest control back is also a thrilling experience.

  6. Philopoemen says:

    GWBW is that game that I bought to support the developer, to support this type of game being made – but then I played it, and and tortured myself over and over again by failing repeatedly. And not Dark Souls good failing repeatedly, where each failure taught me what not to do, but complete random failure where even when I was sure I’d done the right thing, I’d still fail, until after randomly trying things, I’d succeed.

    I might have to pick it up again and try the original puzzle difficulty – I don’t mind it being hard and unforgiving, but it was the complete randomness of success that saw me put it down.

  7. reavenk says:

    If you didn’t know there was chance involved, you obviously never died from the first chamber of the Russian roulette torture scene.

  8. snowgim says:

    Can I get that as a physical badge of pride?

    I definitely wont be playing either of these new modes.
    Really this game isn’t that difficult if you just pay attention to what’s happening. I’m up to chapter 5 now (on Original difficulty), and apart from the torture chapter I’ve finished all of them on the first or second try.

    The random elements add to the tension. This isn’t a game that should be subjected to a review playthrough, of course it’s frustrating if you’re rushing to finish it as fast as possible and not paying attention to the subtle hints at what you need to be doing.

    I still love it.

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