A game with a narrative that surrounds a cult and how people are taken in by them, Sagebrush is a compelling game. If cults and the horrible events that have occurred at some of the more infamous ones fascinate you then you’ll really enjoy the story of this first-person exploration/puzzle game.
You play an unknown female who has gone to the Black Sage Ranch where the Perfect Heaven Millennial community lived. Many years after its members all took their own lives in a mass suicide. The land is abandoned and the buildings derelict but it’s up to you to try and work out just what happened at this supposedly peaceful retreat.
This is done by finding audio tapes, reading diaries and following clues left by some of the less-indoctrinated members. The former mostly surrounds a young girl who found herself taken in by the cult. Young, alone and lost, she believes she has found her place in the world under the watchful eye of its leader.
As she experiences life in the community her faith begins to waver especially when it comes to the increasing demands and practices of those at the top. It’s harrowing to hear, uncomfortable to read but incredibly interesting.
There isn’t a big reveal or shocking twist here. That’s not what Sagebrush is about. Instead the story plays out exactly as you might expect but it doesn’t stop it being incredibly effective.
Don’t let the low-fi, low-res and low-poly visuals put you off. Some might decree the lack of detail in visuals. However, it surprisingly fits the tone of the game perfectly. Everything is a little hazy but the intricate stuff is detailed enough. So that you won’t struggle to find what you’re looking for.
The feeling of exploring an abandoned ranch community is captured well. The feeling of emptiness heightened by an excellently haunting soundtrack and good ambient noise.
Ultimately what makes Sagebrush a recommendation though is its narrative. It’s based in reality and that really comes across. Not everyone who joins a cult is brainwashed. Sometimes people are just trying to escape something or hoping for a better life or meaning to their existence. It adds weight to these characters who we really don’t know anything about. It feels real and that’s something worth praising.
It’s short and hardly taxing (puzzle-wise) but for its low price you’ll get an enthralling story that will stick with you long afterwards.
The Final Score - 7/10