Explore the eerie remains of an abandoned cult headquarters in Redact Games’ Sagebrush, re-published by Ratalaika Games for your console of choice in August 2019. This first-person narrative adventure may not have the highest quality graphics, the longest run time, or complicated gameplay, but Sagebrush more than makes up for this with its riveting story.
Sagebrush is essentially the culmination of research on real-life cults throughout the nation. While it’s not based on any particular group, the game feels incredibly and frighteningly real. Right out of the gate, a short message flashes on-screen with the dark history of Black Sage Ranch in the New Mexico desert: “Site of the 1993 Perfect Heaven mass suicide.”
Led by Father James, the Perfect Heaven cult resided on the compound until they took their lives in a suicide ritual, leaving an eerily apocalyptic scene in their wake. You begin your journey at the entrance of the ranch years after the tragedy. You have acres upon acres of history to explore in Sagebrush, but you might as well jump right into the story, because almost every building — including a school, a social hall, a chapel, trailers, a farm and more — is under lock and key.
Sagebrush is not a ghost story. There’s no sinister killer chasing you to keep the cult’s darkest secrets under wraps. You are completely and utterly alone at Black Sage Ranch. And yet, this makes your adventure all the more terrifying. Suspense builds as the night grows near. Doors mysteriously shut behind you, leaving you in complete darkness. Turn on the lights, and it suddenly feels like no one has ever left the ranch — everything is exactly how the “flock” left it.
Of course, like any good suspense game, Sagebrush‘s moody soundtrack does wonders to keep you at the edge of your seat. The further you descend into the cult’s secrets, the creepier the music gets, making you fear what’s to come.
Uncover the truth about Perfect Heaven by listening to tape recordings left behind by one particularly skeptical flock member. Enter the minds of the cult’s key players by reading their personal diary entries and letters. You may know how Perfect Heaven’s story ends, but Sagebrush‘s plot is still incredibly fascinating and filled with twists. I wouldn’t dare spoil too much for you.
I found myself drawing comparisons between Sagebrush and LKA’s Town of Light, another first-person narrative adventure that explores an abandoned asylum, using diary entries to reveal what player one’s next move will be. Despite the similarities, I found myself to be much more invested in Sagebrush than I was in Town of Light. Quite frankly, I think it boiled down to my attention span. While the pages-long diaries in Town of Light are narrated (eliminating your ability to speed read), Sagebrush‘s readings and tapes are short and sweet.
Your next move in Sagebrush is always pretty much spelled out for you. You don’t have to do much deciphering, which would mess with the flow of the thing. Of course, the trade-off is a game that lasts at most an hour if you’re playing continuously. I don’t mind this much myself, but like I said before… attention span. Short.
Finally, we have the graphics. They’re about as lo-fi as it gets. You’d have no idea this game wasn’t made in 2001 without some prior research. I certainly think they could have been better, as the poor quality made Sagebrush increasingly hard to see as the virtual night went on. It’s clear Redact Games put as much of their focus and resources as possible on Sagebrush‘s plot, but it worked out beautifully in their favor.