If you ask me, this is the biggest disappointment when it comes to Walking Simulators. It is not terrible, but expectations were high. Dear Esther played with the building blocks of walking simulators: journey, exploration, mystery, blank spaces, dream-like slow motion, confused philosophy. As a result Dear Esther was a lovely, inexpensive, curious and only occasionally unsettling stroll in a place you couldn't visit yourself which left the player with the inevitable amount of frustration ingrained in a certain kind of dissolved storytelling. Picnic at Hanging Rock, House of Leaves, and many more.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture introduces itself with less vagueness but with plenty of mystery, and tries all the tricks possible to entice a particular brand of relaxed, slow-moving inquisitive nerds (myself included) with number stations, aliens, religion, the 80s, and that major nod to the legendary BBC show from the 70s, The Survivors. Unfortunately, things didn't work as planned. For a walking simulator the visuals are as beautiful as you would expect and even if only for that the game-world deserves to be walked into. But then the story turns out to be way less interesting than its premises, the development of it is uneven as we are presented with a number of characters that are more or less charming and whose endeavours are sometimes hard to give a fuck about. The exploration itself is hurt by a confusion between the freedom to roam around we are led to believe we have, and the glowing suggestions of what we should or could do in order to either advance the plot or simply get more glimpses about what happened to this beautiful and now abandoned English village.
I am not gonna criticise the "gameplay", but more than in Edith Finch I felt the frustration of not being able to interact with the many objects and items laying around. While in Gone Home and Tacoma picking up everything and looking at it from every angle is part of the fun, tickling the antiques-seeker or the creepy neighbor in all of us, in Edith Finch and Rapture (and Esther) you can't touch anything at all. You just wander and look, and while that worked in Esther because there wasn't much to pick up in the first place, or in Edith Finch because the pace of the story and the creativeness of the different chapters distract you from that, in Rapture you will find yourself more annoyed than anything at the absolute inconsistence of your own self, to the point that you'll often feel like you are just demoing a game world where you are nothing but a floating dev-camera.
[POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOLLOW]
I still enjoyed my 4 hours, but more than in many other games in the same genre I felt boredom growing while trying to get to the next "memory video-clip" hoping it will finally shed a bit more light over what happened. Eventually, what happened is pretty much what you would have imagined from the get go. There is no big revelation in the end, on the opposite it all concludes in what could have been some sort of a poetic ending but that didn't make me feel accomplished in playing the game at all.
As I said, this is not a bad walking simulator. The walking part can be a slog because you will need to back track sometimes and that's no fun at 1 mph, but the environment is absolutely stunning. The problem is that the plot does not deliver, the characters don't deliver, and the expectations created by the title itself (Wow, the fucking Rapture!) and the first 3 minutes in the game (those wonderful radio robotic voices!) are simply let down more and more with every slow step deeper into the heart of Yaughton village.
But is it fun? Not really.