Originally released for PC and Mac in 2018, and now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, Sagebrush caught the attention of many players from the uneasy feeling that the game’s trailer provided. From the get-go, it’s clear - both from the trailer and the game’s actual description - that players are tasked with uncovering the mystery behind a 1993 mass suicide that took place at the compound of an apocalyptic Millenialist cult in deserts of New Mexico, named Perfect Heaven. The Lo-Fi 3D nature of Sagebrush’s small, yet open exploration area only adds to the uneasiness of the game’s narrative, as players uncover clues and solve puzzles to understand what happened to the inhabitants of the Black Sage Ranch.
Upon beginning a new game, Sagebrush’s overall vibe feels very similar to Outlast, albeit graphically different. Players start out on the perimeter of a spread out compound containing buildings, trailers, and fields, and are tasked with finding their way into the area. It’s immediately clear that this is no innocent summer camp, though, with many of the doors to the structures being locked (some seeping with bloodstains). Players can find keys to these doors, but finding them usually requires searching for clues to lead them in the right direction. Truth be told, you’ll be reading. A lot.
Clues can be read on notes that are scattered throughout the area, either directly pinned to the wall or found in notebooks, providing key locations. Cassette and VCR recordings can also provide insights, such as lock combinations. Unfortunately, Sagebrush’s voice acting leaves a little to be desired. Emotion seems to lack from all of the characters overheard, including the leader of the cult who is surprisingly soft-spoken and not as boisterous or charismatic as one might associate with such an individual. Of course, this may be intentional and does not take away from the overall immersiveness that the game provides.
Things That Go Bump In The Cult
Besides the tape recordings, there really isn’t much in the way of in-game audio, other than player actions such as opening doors and turning on lamps and light switches. There is no background music to provide atmosphere, but the game does just fine without it. In fact, the lack of music adds to the tension and overall fear that comes with exploring the compound. Is something going to jump out from behind the door you’re about to open? Whereas other titles may provide that hint with an escalation in music, Sagebrush lets hold your breath you figure it out for yourself.
The puzzles in Sagebrush are well-executed, although some may take players longer to figure out than others. Sagebrush plays like a classic point-and-click game, but from a first-person, 3D perspective. A good strategy to keep in mind while moving about the compound is to investigate everything you come across. Even mounds of dirt may be something that you’ll need to investigate later.
Cult Of Personality
There was an incredible sense of dread that I felt through the entirety of my playthrough, like someone was watching my every move as I roamed the compound. It only added to my anxiousness and apprehension that I kept thinking about the folk horror film, Midsommar, while I played as well. Developer Redact Games boasts, “extensive research into cult groups both famous and obscure, large and small,” for Sagebrush. This statement shines through in Perfect Heaven’s depiction, and how it was able to manipulate and guide its members towards their untimely end.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
A Nintendo Switch copy of Sagebrush was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Sagebrush is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
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