Richard Rouse, best known for his work on The Suffering horror games, is bringing a new psychological romp to PS4 with The Church in the Darkness.
Church is a top-down action game set in an alternate 1970s, where religious cult The Collective Justice Mission has broken away from the U.S. to build its own socialist utopia: Freedom Town, a shanty town in South America.
This may sound familiar. In the 1970s, a real religious cult, The Peoples Temple, fled the U.S. under the leadership of Jim Jones. The cult settled in South America in Guyana, where they established the colloquially known village of Jonestown, named after the cult's notoriously unstable leader.
After several years of independence and mounting internal strife, The Peoples Temple ended abruptly in mass suicide. Over 900 people, a third of them children, died of cyanide poisoning in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. The disaster remains the second largest loss of American civilian life, behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and is a clear inspiration for Rouse’s Church.
In Church, you play Vic, a former law enforcement officer who infiltrates Freedom Town at the behest of his sister, whose son, Alex, was caught up in the cult’s exodus. As you investigate the cult's agenda, piecing motives together from PA announcements and villager testimony, you’ll choose between action and stealth tactics.
“You get to play the way you want,” Rouse wrote on the PlayStation Blog, “you can play precisely and avoid detection completely, you can get the guards out of your path using non-lethal methods, or you can kill anyone who gets in your way.”
Some of The Suffering’s crew returned to support Church, including voice actor John Patrick Lowrie, best known for his performance as Team Fortress 2’s Sniper. Lowrie voices cult leader Isaac, who, along with his wife Rebecca, will inform the darkness and dogma of the game.
Interestingly, Lowrie’s wife Ellen McClain, best known as the voice of GlaDOS, plays Rebecca.
“Having a real-life married couple play this fictitious married couple has brought extra depth to their performance," Rouse said of the two, "and is one of the best collaborations I’ve ever heard.”
Narrative is the core of The Church in the Darkness; Rouse is targeting an emotionally tense environment where "your moment-to-moment decisions mean life or death." The game was designed to be highly replayable, with Isaac and Rebecca's motivations changing every playthrough.
"Though The Church in the Darkness has no supernatural elements, it does look at some of the more extreme sides of humanity," Rouse said. "And like The Suffering, in Church I want the player to have to think hard about what they want to do when confronted with darkness."