Sawbuck Gamer

Gods Will Be Watching

Least Worst Options

Gods Will Be Watching is a beautiful struggle to cope.

By John Teti • May 15, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Triage seems like such a straightforward concept. In a survival situation, you make the best of painfully limited resources and time. But “the best” is the rub. (Not the limitations, as those take care of themselves.) Triage weighs your decisions down with import at a moment when you hardly need the stress. And so the rather simple choices in Gods Will Be Watching become tense to the point that it’s almost too much to take.

You’re the leader of an outer space research group gathering data on the “Medusea virus.” After an ambush by terrorists, you’re stranded on a desolate planet (which is rendered in pixel art that’s quite pretty). Your radio is broken, and your rations are limited. There’s also the matter of that pernicious virus. As the guy in charge, you have to delegate—have the doctor make vaccine, for instance, or tell the engineer to work on repairing the radio. The sticking point: You can only take five actions each day, and sometimes fewer. Your plight, which seems manageable at first, undergoes a maddening deterioration. There are shades of The Oregon Trail here, but the restrictions in The Gods Will Be Watching are more vicious. (One tip: The Medusea plague can be your friend if you manage it correctly.) With every choice you make, the game instills the feeling that somebody out there—perhaps the proverbial gods of the title—knew exactly the right thing to do. Meanwhile, people suffer and die, on account of your inescapable imperfection.

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15 Responses to “Least Worst Options”

  1. Fluka says:

    For being a minimalist pixel browser game, this game manages to eke quite a bit of atmosphere and general feeling of hopelessness from its simple trappings.  I’ve still yet to make it through to the end.  The furthest I got was around 20 days, where I actually managed to fix the radio, but in my hubris forgot to relight the fire one day, so that everyone died of hypothermia.  I’d like to go back one more time to solve it, but…man, this is a dark little scenario.

    As far as I can tell, the first priority should be fixing the radio, followed by tons and tons of group therapy afterwards so everyone stays sane.  You don’t have to eat every day, and ammo is scarce, so the dog should always hunt.  And for gods’ sake cure people when they get sick.  (John!  I am curious how you got the Medusa virus to be your friend!  Unless you mean it, uh, helps out with the food supply…*shiver*…)

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Speculation here – if the virus paralyzes for three days before death, maybe that person doesn’t consume food in that time?  You just have to remember to cure them before they die?

      • Fluka says:

        Well, if they’re paralyzed, they can’t right well go running off into the dark woods, screaming mad, now can they?

        Dark game. :(

    • boardgameguy says:

      I made it to the 11th day on my first try, overvaluing Medicine. I was 94% of the way done with the radio. Then people ran away. Guess I undervalued talking and group therapy.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      I died after four days from hypothermia.

      I will not try again.  Screw those incompetent asshats!  When four other people, a robot and a dog can’t remember to start a new fire to keep everyone from freezing while I’m trying to keep the camp stocked, we all deserve to die.

    • Toasted Pie says:

       It took me an hour and I don’t even know how many restarts to beat it with the whole crew still present (yay!).  The key seemed to be keeping everyone’s morale up, talking to them and doing lots and lots and lots of group therapy, and having the engineer repair the radio or have the dog hunt multiple times per turn when you can.  Whenever the first person in the group died or ran off everyone else followed pretty quickly.

      On the other hand, I suppose if you wanted to try to beat it in a completely immoral way, you could spend the first few turns building up a stock of food and vaccines, then kill the engineer, psychiatrist and doctor.  Spend the rest of the turns talking to the soldier to keep his morale up, hunt with the dog, and repair the radio with the robot.  I have no idea how the soldier would respond to you killing everyone else, but when you talk to him the only other character he mentions caring about is the dog, and he straight up says that you can’t survive with the number of people you have so maybe he wouldn’t care too much.

      • Fluka says:

        Nice job!

        Yeah, I wonder how much flexibility in solution this game allows.  (Also…if you kill the squishy support staff, I wonder if…uh…more tasty-looking rations suddenly appear over in the corner?)

      • Bureaupath says:

        I just recently completed it with only the doctor, the dog, and the robot surviving. I repaired the radio, and was waiting stuff out pretty well, until a camp raid sunk everyone’s morale. I couldn’t do group therapy because I had to relight the fire (sometimes it’s good to relight before the thing goes out), and lost both the engineer and pyschiatrist. I then lost the soldier and had to survive over 20 days. Luckily, the radio was okay so we just had to hunt and cheer the doctor up.

        if you’re trying to beat it by killing everyone on the 1st day, don’t you at least need the doc to survive to make antidotes?

  2. Xtracurlyfries says:

    YOU HAVE DIED OF SPACE DYSENTERY

  3. DrFlimFlam says:

    What a fun and relaxing game after a day at the office.

    Right?

    Sounds interesting but sad. So I’ll probably play it.

  4. CNightwing says:

    Reached 30 days following a routine that worked quite well – but I undervalued the dog, who is an excellent hunter if used repeatedly, and had no bullets left for defence.

  5. duwease says:

    Man this is difficult.  I quickly fell into a spiral where maintaining sanity and food made it impossible to do any radio repair, ever.

    Insane coworkers making productivity impossible?  I feel like there’s a licensed Dilbert game in here somewhere..

  6. caspiancomic says:

    Best attempt so far: 30 days in, attacked by wild animals and killed due to insufficient ammo. It’s a shame, I had my radio repaired and was keeping morale relatively high. Food was scarce, though, and our doggie, bless his heart, just wasn’t as adept a hunter as we needed him to be. I think I can actually beat this thing though…

    • caspiancomic says:

       And I’ve done it! Everybody made it out alive! It’s mostly a matter of keeping your priorities in order, and knowing what can wait and what needs to be dealt with immediately. For example, if your fire ever goes out, you need to light it right away or it’s basically curtains. After that I found morale to be the most important factor- if one of your crew dips below 5, chat them up to keep them in high spirits. After that, keep Engineer working on the radio, you’ve got plenty of time to finish it. If you find yourself at a loose end you can even have him “repair” it multiple times in one day. Hunting for food should be done with your dog unless it’s an absolute emergency, since you’re better off saving bullets for raids. preparing and distributing medicine is, funnily enough, probably your last priority, since people get sick pretty infrequently, and as long as you’re keeping track of who gets sick, you’ll have a couple of days to whip up a batch of antidote and dose them. Once the radio is repaired and morale is relatively stable you’ll probably be spending the last several days hunting with your doggie multiple times a day, occasionally having a chit chat with whoever’s feeling down. And keep that fire lit!

    • caspiancomic says:

       And, for curiosity’s sake, I tried a round where I immediately killed everybody. Disturbingly, killing someone adds to your food supply, but it causes morale to plummet among remaining characters (understandably). I think there’s some kind of hidden morale for the main character, because after killing the Soldier, Doctor, Psychiatrist, and Engineer, my main dood topped himself overnight. I still had my robot and doggie, but I think maybe you need at least one more human character in order to “win”? Might experiment further.