About This Game"I met Anne first, waiting for the bus. I asked her what she was selling and she laughed and said nothing, nothing at all, that what she had to offer was free for anyone who wanted it bad enough. I asked her what had helped her. She just said ‘James.’"
Sagebrush is a short-form first-person narrative adventure about exploring the compound of an apocalyptic Millenialist cult in remote New Mexico years after they collectively took their lives in a mass suicide event.
In Sagebrush, you’ll investigate the long-abandoned Black Sage Ranch, the former home of Perfect Heaven, an apocalyptic cult formed in the early 1990s under the guiding hand of the prophet Father James.
Inspired by Real-World Apocalyptic CultsBased on extensive research into cult groups both famous and obscure, large and small, Sagebrush avoids simplistic motivations and easy answers. The members of the Flock are diverse and complex people with varied needs, hopes, and fears.
An Immersive, Lo-Fi 3D WorldSagebrush features an evocative low-poly, low-resolution, less-is-more art style that combines retro aesthetics with modern technology, along with a fully-realized soundscape and an original ambient musical score that immerses you in the remote New Mexico desert.
A Whole Compound to ExploreBlack Sage Ranch is yours to wander, from the trailers that housed the cultists, to the halls where they gathered for food and prayer, to the old mines that stretch out below the compound, untouched for nearly a century.
Uncover the Real StoryFind notes, recordings, and belongings that give insight into the people who lived at Black Sage Ranch. What did they believe? Why did they join? Were they happy? And why did they choose to end it all?
Estimated Playtime: 60-120 minutes
- OS: Windows 7 or Later
- Processor: 2.4GHZ Dual Core Processor Or Higher
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Graphics card with DX10 (shader model 4.0) capabilities
- DirectX: Version 10
- Storage: 300 MB available space
As for the actual gameplay, we have a series of key-fetching quests. I really think there are too many keys, honestly. The fetch-quest needs to be better hidden. And while there is a gamma slider option, the default is far too dark. After sun begins to set, I could see very little. I very much like the artwork filter/rendering, but after an hour or so, I was ready to be done with it. The voice acting was decent, albeit amateur (I cannot fault them at all here because I can totally understand a shoe-string budget). There is no cursor, and the controls could be optimized better (I did not play with a controller, though).
+The idea is interesting.
+The artwork is great for a while. Thankfully the story doesn’t overstay its welcome.
+The voice acting is good for a crunchie indie game.
-From someone that is interested in cults – I found the story here to be muddied with too many stereotypes; I think it could have used some original ideas.
-After you open a door (and you open a lot of doors), they auto shut, which one one hand creates a creepy atmosphere, but it just becomes overused.
-The key fetch-quest needs to be better hidden.
-The whole trailer park portion felt like a maze and was not fun.
-Now, please take this with a grain of salt (picky stuff here), but here are some notes on things I think could really be value-added. Right off the bat when I entered the world, it smacked me in the face when the clouds didn’t move/scroll. For some reason I just think that would add a ton to the immersion factor. Next, there are many painting assets reused. That’s fine, except for the original of the cult leader. There should only be one. The map you find has your car on it; I get why it’s there, but I just found it immersion-breaking (it’s an indie game, so don’t worry about letting people just ‘figure it out’). Finally, it may be helpful to add a very small grayed-out cursor (or at least the option to have one).
If it weren’t for an interesting topic and appropriate price-point, I probably would down vote. All-in-all, I just wish the story was more compelling.
It can be a little barebones, and I got stuck trying to find something more than once, but if you care at all about the theme or if you like the visual style from the trailer you won’t be sorry you got this.
You play as a young woman who travels back to the Black Sage Ranch which is where a compound for Perfect Heaven – an apocalyptic cult was located, but abandoned. As you explore the compound you uncover dark secrets the cult hid from it’s members and everything that led to the abandonment by the cultists.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you are even slight bit aware of what cults are most notorious for, you can pretty much expect it to appear in this game. A lot of it is twisted stuff and quite dark and certain moments quite terrifying. I won’t spoil exactly happens in the storyline, but trust me it’s a good one.
The game is a low poly pixel game sort of like a playstation 1 title and I think the art style fits perfectly. I always find the low poly art style appealing in artistic sense and not to mention I think they really fit the horror theme and make the game a lot more terrifying. A lot of the environments you will be exploring are quite terrifying like for example a cornfield, school, kitchens and a trailer park. I think it’s part of the charm and Sagebrush delivers.
Another thing is the beautiful way the game progress with the day, cause during certain moments the game progresses the day and it illuminates the environment in a new way and I loved it immensely.
The sound design is great and helps create a really unsettling atmosphere that makes you always look behind you cause it feels like someone is always following you. The voice acting for the main character is also really good, I expected way worse, but I was really surprised.
The music is decent and in certain moments it really creeped me out to the point where I had chills running down my spine which is impressive considering most indie horror games throw a bunch of jumpscares at you, but this creates a chilling atmosphere just by the notes you read and unsettling music and audio design.
At heart Sagebrush is a walking simulator, but in reality there is a bit more than in usual walking simulators. There are puzzles to solve to progress further, for example one puzzle requires to read two notes and find out a combination between both of them so you can open a lock to progress into the house of the cult leader. While I wish the puzzles were a bit complex, it’s still nice to have them.
I really liked exploring the cult compound and trying to find every note so I can learn more on what went on in the lives of the members and what happened with the members. I really liked that at certain moments of the storyline it progress the day and you start uncovering more twisted stuff as the story progresses. I was creeped out by this game without a doubt and moments I was certain if I turned around I would uncover someone chasing me or stalking me, that’s how good the atmosphere is.
Sagebrush is a simple game, but the simplest games are usually the best ones. It’s creepy, with a great storyline, great low poly art style and amazing sound design. I really recommend getting this game if you want to immerse yourself in the Black Sage Ranch and learn the twisted story of Perfect Heaven cult.
+ Great Story
+ Creepy as hell
+ Amazing low poly art style
– Puzzles are too simple
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There’s not a ton of content but the studio states that outright so it’s to be expected and for $7 I feel like the hour to an hour and a half of playtime I got was really worth it. Replayability wise I don’t think I would go through the story again but I would definitely like to just kind of go in and walk around the environment because I think it’s really interesting and like I said I enjoy the art style.
All in all, if you’re into weird things like apocalyptic cults and slightly pixelated Graphics this is the game for you. If you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in a story for about an hour or so again this is a great shot. It’s definitely a niche game but I think it hit its niche pretty well.
Review copy provided by developer
Imagine driving out into the wilds of New Mexico, miles and miles from civilization, to an abandoned compound. Imagine arriving at dusk, picking your way through the crumbling fences, and poking around the dusty, moldering buildings. Imagine finding notes and keepsakes from the people who lived there, people who lost their lives there, and recalling their traumas as you stand alone in the still darkness of the desert. This is what Sagebrush challenges you to do, to walk these grim paths and face these terrible truths in abject solitude, accompanied only by the sprawling landscape and gentle creaks of the boards beneath your feet. And it does this so effectively that I can honestly say it was a more thought-provoking and horrific experience than most horror titles that try twice as hard.
In 1993, at the Black Sage Ranch in rural New Mexico, a mass suicide marked the end of the Perfect Heaven cult. Years later you have arrived alone, in an effort to make sense of this senseless act. The ranch remains untouched, allowing you to plumb the depths of the faith, the lives, and the doubts of the faithful. You’ll learn of their daily routines, their clandestine meetings, their shocking rituals, and the true nature of their leader. Only by following the trails of clues can you come to understand how they met their end, and how their final fate reaches far beyond that fateful day so many years ago.
To set you about your task, Sagebrush drops you by you car on the outskirts of the compound. With a few basic first-person adventure controls, you’ll find your way past the fence and into the abandoned homes and halls of the lost cultists. Here you’ll need to comb shelves and desks for all kinds of clues, from obvious ones like keys and tape recordings to more subtle ones like pamphlets and scriptures. The game does an excellent job of laying out a breadcrumb trail for you, because you’ll always know exactly where you’re heading next and what you find there will absolutely point you to the next stop on your grim tour.
And a grim tour it is, thanks to all its myriad parts working in perfect harmony. The lo-fi aesthetic really sets the tone in a big way, featuring warm, chunky pixels that evoke the rustic mystery of abandoned places while leaving plenty of room for your imagination to fill in the gap. There’s really no soundtrack, either, just plenty of unsettling ambient sounds like planks creaking and wind whistling that only grows more ominous the later it gets. The story makes the most of this atmosphere, too, dropping more and more indications of terrible misdeeds as the sun sets and the darkened buildings give up their secrets only in the glow of your little flashlight. That solitude I mentioned before becomes a powerful force as you progress, psyching you out when there’s really no reason to even suspect something afoot.
I really want to stress this point, because it’s what makes Sagebrush stand so far out from its peers. Late in the game there was a sequence in a claustrophobic area that had my hair standing on end. It was the kind of place where other indie horror games would hit you with a stinger or jumpscare, but without spoiling anything that actually happens here I will say that Sagebrush took no such cheap shots. And the end result was a persistent sense of dread, a feeling that this place I found myself in itself was the enemy, was the oppressive presence I feared, not some nebulous shadow man or loud noise. The end of the game only builds on this notion, with a sequence that took one of my most reviled tropes in modern horror gaming and turned it into something genuinely special and extremely effective.
By the end of Sagebrush, I was so impressed that I struggled to find fault with it. There were points where I didn’t follow the path quite so clearly and did some unnecessary wandering, and I did notice a bug or two with subtitles or texture clipping. But I struggle to recall those moments in light of the terrible revelations and dreadful places I visited, especially since so much of it happened in my own head. Sagebrush doesn’t jump out and scare you, it shows you something with horrific implications and lets you imagination paint the world with it. It creates a place where, by all accounts, you are safe, yet you spend your time studying the fears and traumas of people who died terrible, mysterious deaths. For my part that’s the best kind of horror, the kind that shows you something and lets you horrify yourself, and that’s what makes me put Sagebrush near the top of just about any indie horror list.
Did you enjoy this review? I certainly hope so, and I certainly hope you’ll check out more of them at https://goldplatedgames.com/ or on my curation page!
As always you can judge for yourself I play about the first 15 mins, with some speed reading, and I had fun