The name Richard Rouse III will ring familiar with some as the director of one of the most compelling horror/adventure games two generations ago, The Suffering. Well he’s back now with a new indie studio and a new game that’s quite different from what he’s done and very rarely seen before. The Church in the Darkness has a compelling idea where you play as Vic (a personalised character of the player’s choosing), uncle to a young man named Sam whose run off and joined a cult. This religious cult has a base of operations in South America and now Vic needs to infiltrate and rescue his nephew, or not. An interesting concept and one which would make a terrific game if executed correctly. So has the legendary Richard Rouse III delivered on his compelling concept?

The Church in the Darkness tells the tale of Vic, the relative of a young man who’s joined a religious that could be very dangerous. Vic has been asked to infiltrate the hideout and bring back their nephew Sam from the cult’s clutches. Vic has to do this by any means necessary whether it by sneaking in or using brute force to ensure they survive and Sam leaves.

The best way I can describe The Church in the Darkness is an infiltration simulator. Players will start with basically nothing and have to explore the area where the cult’s hideout is located in order to find Sam. From the very beginning, it’s all up to the player on how they want to proceed. You main goal is to find Sam and rescue him (even then you don’t have to go through with the rescue) by any way you can.

Players can sneak around the hideout and observe the behaviours and patterns of guards, avoiding them for nearly the whole encounter. They can go in guns blazing, they can disguise themselves for an easier time to infiltrate or do something much, much worse. Mechanically speaking the game is very simple, yet allowing players absolute freedom and plenty of tools to carry out their mission. Players can use improvised devices that disrupt alarms, hide in various storage containers or simply sneak pass with good timing and patience.

The Church in the Darkness has multiple endings and outcomes for each of your actions throughout the story. You can avoid any enemies completely or be captured over and over, or even join the cult itself. There are plenty of possibilities and each time you die or complete a scenario, there’s a new elements in place for next time. It’s truly dynamic that it keeps on changing the formula just a little bit each time to keep things compelling and from feeling repetitive.

This is quite an enthralling and dynamic journey through darkness that has plenty of dark themes and a compelling gameplay mechanics. The main issue with The Church in the Darkness is quite frankly, it’s under polished and very rough around the edges. Graphically speaking it’s not an attractive game but one that manages to be serviceable. There are some graphical glitches in various actions carried out and the presentation for the UI and menus is underwhelming and just plain ugly.

The difficulty can also be pretty intense, with plenty of patrolling enemies’ near points of interest (sometimes just overwhelming to the point it’s broken) and little space for error. There’s a sharp learning curve which could be off putting to certain gamers but once you get the hang of things (playing the easiest mode is highly recommended) then the journey is pretty interesting! I will admit this will be for a certain crowd, those who enjoy slow paced, intelligent and thoughtful gameplay that relies heavily on patience and quick thinking. But you’ll have to put up with plenty of jaggered edges so to speak and a lack of direction on where to go.

The Church in the darkness is an unnerving and intelligent venture which sucks you in. There is a compelling story and interesting mechanics at its core but there are plenty of things that can push players away. This definitely needs more polish, refinements that fix any bugs and maybe not such a steep learning curve. But the slow burner style adventure, the multiple endings and dynamic changes is rewarding to those who stay. The Church in the Darkness is worth checking out but in need with plenty of fixes to make the journey smoother.

+ Interesting dynamics and gameplay
+ Compelling story
- Steep learning curve
-- Rough presentation and buggy

A PS4 copy of The Church in the Darkness was provided for the purpose of this review.