Reviewed By: Tyler Higgs
Developed By: Redact Games
Published By: Ratalika Games
Category: Adventure, Horror, Puzzle
Release Date: August 9, 2019
Sagebrush is a game that decides to take on one of everyone’s favorite topics, cults! In all seriousness cults are something that have become a big attraction in the media. Many video games have used plots and gameplay centered around infiltrating or fighting against cults. Sagebrush tackles it’s approach to the topic in a different more meaninful way, however.
Sagebrush sees you travel to the Black Sage Ranch where a cult had laid its roots. The entire area is abandoned and there’s a pretty strong sense of that as soon as you enter the compound. You’r goal is to find out why the members of the Perfect Heaven Millennial cult committed a mass suicide years ago.
Sagebrush is a 3D low poly horror game that once again goes against traditional horror game norms. There’s no jumpscares or enemies to be afraid of here, only a very creepy abandoned compound. Sagebrush attempts to make players feel unsettled by it’s subject matter and atmosphere instead outright throwing something at them. Although, I will mention opening doors makes them creak and they also shut on their own which can create a loud noise. This was the only aspect I really considered to be a jump scare.
Playing Sagebrush is akin to many walking simulators we’ve seen on the Nintendo Switch. You walk around exploring the compound and all of it’s different buildings. This isn’t a huge area so it most likely will only take you an hour or two to explore its entirety.
As you walk around the compound you’ll uncover clues to what happen to its residence and a bit about what daily life looked like. Your investigatiom will bring you to the community hall, and the trailers that once housed people. Of course everything you see has been abandoned thus the buildings are filled with containers of rotten meat, and an overwhelming feeling of decay. It makes you wonder if anyone ever came to see what happened here. Was this event even made public, or was it a tragedy swept under the rug only to dissappear and never be known to the public.
Many of the buildings you enter will be locked and require a key to access. One of the main and only aspects of gameplay in Sagebrush is finding these keys. They’re always hidden some where inside a building or sometimes it’s where you’d least expect them to be. There’s a few other items to use and interact with as well such as generators that turn the power on in certain buildings. Some areas may require a code to unlock a padlock which can be found on some of the papers lying around from the former residents.
All over the compound are pieces of paper usually containing a written note or a bible scripture. These papers are sometimes important, but also are sometimes there to further add to the cult setting.
What really tells Sagebrush’s story are the audiotapes found scattered about the compound. The audiotapes are recordings from different residents such as a young girl and the cult leader Father James. These audiotapes show us how the characters were thinking and show the variety in their reasoning for being where they are. The voice work was pretty good and left me satisfied overall. Father James does not sound overly menacing or leaderlike, but there’s a tinge of evil in his voice that’s hard to ignore.
One aspect of Sagebrush that I think will be a bit controversial is the visual design. The low-poly grainy visual style that reminds me of an adventure game from the 90’s was a very intriguing choice. On one hand it adds to the game’s eerie ambience and works well with the game’s 90’s setting. On the other hand the visuals don’t look the best and can make the environments very hard to see. I understand where the developers were coming from, but unfortunately the visual design hurts the game more then it benefits it. I think players will find it difficult to look at the visuals for extended periods of time. There’s no background music once you begin Sagebrush, but that’s to the game’s benefit as it’s much more ominous without it.
Sagebrush is one of those games that doesn’t beat around the bush with its dark tone. This is an unfortunate story about people that out of a hope for change or out of gullible belief tried to become part of something that was “bigger then them”. Sadly, the results were horrifying and it leaves us to wonder how something like this could happen. While more detail could have been added, Sagebrush does a good job at showing us that something like this could and does happen to people all around the world. While the visual designs can be hard to look at and a walking simulator like this isn’t for everyone Sagebrush is brutally honest and doesn’t hold back on what it’s trying to accomplish. This is truly one of the most unique and meaninful ways a game has taken to examining the story’s behind the cults we hear about so often.
Be sure to follow Redact Games
Also, be sure to follow Ratalika Games