Review – The Church in the Darkness
The Church in the Darkness is a stealth-action game that sees you, as an ex-law enforcement officer named Vic, sneak into Freedom Town to see if your nephew Alex needs help. You see Alex joined a cult, the Collective Justice Mission, and cut off contact with his parents – and they sent you to check up on him.
From a three-quarters overhead view, you’ll explore Freedom Town, avoiding or eliminating guards and cultists while completing a variety of missions on your way to finding Alex. Everything you accomplish weighs toward what ending you’ll get, and with 19 endings there’s quite a bit of variety here, even if the basic gameplay can start to feel repetitive. Completing tasks will also reward you on subsequent playthroughs, unlocking new gear to take into the camp, making it available to find, or adding in things like more difficult guards when the alarm is raised.
This is a game made to be played over and over, whether you’re trying to find the ultimate stealth route through the camp or out to murder every cultist in your way. Even the cult leaders’ personalities and motivations can be changed (you get to decide) every time you play – meaning you’ll need to investigate carefully before you act to make sure you’re doing the right thing and not making things worse with your actions. Can you save Alex isn’t always the question to ask – sometimes you need to discover if you even need to save him.
These seemingly minor interactions hold massive differences in the endings you’ll get. In one run, I was able to get Alex out of the camp easily. He wanted to leave as the leaders were both ‘bad’ so it was as simple as finding him and then getting to the exit and the cult went on as normal. On another playthrough, however, getting Alex out prompted the cult to commit mass suicide. Yet another, with two ‘good’ leaders, gave me the option to stay with the cult.
There are some issues that hold the game back, mostly on the stealth side of things. The guard’s detection cone is well-defined but doesn’t always hold true. I’ve been seen by guards that shouldn’t have been able to and ignored by guards that should have seen me easily. In addition, the game includes a mechanic where you can be captured and caged – only to escape – twice before permanent death, but in one playthrough after my first capture and imprisonment I was summarily shot by a patrolling guard before the prompt to escape the cage even appeared. Throw in some surprising performance hiccups (playing on Xbox One X) and it’s a game that appears to have needed a little more time to polish things up.