Released in 2017, Everything is not your traditional game. It has no objectives, apart from the mysterious and vague ‘be everything’. There are no characters or plot to speak of, and even the most basic of animations, walking is frequently absent from many of the playable characters. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a failed game; an alpha build that never went any further. And yet this absurdity is what gives Everything its charm. The lack of respect for traditional gaming models makes this feel unique, somehow different. The bizarre sight of a herd of llamas rolling head over heels across the arid desert quickly starts to feel normal. The lack of objectives leaves you free to explore the vast procedurally generated world in ways you probably wouldn’t in any other open world game. And nestled all among it are the random thoughts all the other objects (or entities as I shall now call them) have that you can collect as you wander through the vast expanse, along with the philosophical musings of the late great Alan Watts.
I started as a polar bear. I found myself exploring an icy tundra, with helpful hints popping up from the creatures surrounding me. These serve as a brief tutorial to the mechanics of the game, wherein you are able to become Everything. You can go up or down size levels, so from a polar bear I became an arctic hare, down to a small mouse, down again to a medium rock and down again all the way to a carbon atom and further down to a dimensionless void. Conversely, you can go up, to say an elephant, then a tree, then a continent, then a planet, all the way up to a galaxy. At this point the world cycles round and you once again enter the dimensionless void, and if you go up again, you find yourself once more as an atom, and the strange cyclical (and endless) nature of the game begins to become apparent.
Another aspect that is strangely appealing is the random thoughts of all the entities that you pass by. These range from the mundane; ‘I wish I was larger’ sighed a pebble as I rolled past it, to the existential ‘why are we here’ I caught a fir tree musing upon. You can collect these thoughts in your ‘mind’; simply a log of all the thoughts you have encountered so far, and one central point in the game involves ‘clearing your mind’. Yes, there are a lot of free thinking hippie sequences in this, and nothing makes this clearer than recordings of speeches by Alan Watts, who if you are not already familiar with, you will become exquisitely so after this lovely game.
On this line of thinking, a particularly memorable moment for me came from reading the instructions. Although very bare boned, the manual offers this helpful insight: ‘if you get frustrated, let go of the controller’. Although I dismissed this initially as some pretentious insight into how ‘games are meant to be fun’, it soon became clear that this was much more than that. In total contrast to literally every other game ever, this ‘game’, if we can still call it that, will actually play itself if left to its own devices. It will explore the world, it will create new and interesting combinations, and it will even complete objectives (although the only objectives to be found are in the tutorial). Indeed, there is a point where this is quite possibly necessary in order to proceed, and to be quite frank, experiencing this was nothing short of phenomenal.
Now, despite my gushing, it has to be said that this is far from a perfect game. Although seemingly intentional, the animations on the majority of four legged animals is very jarring. There is no walk animation, instead they simply roll head over heels. Although this fits with the low quality graphics (another minor gripe), neither is a point to be celebrated. Obviously this is not a AAA game and should not be held to the same standard, but all the same some decent graphics and animations would have really sealed the deal for this one.
The controls also feel clunky at times, with switching up and down levels being tied to the right and left mouse click, and where I played this on a MacBook, it wasn’t quite sure how to do this, meaning I had to hold two fingers down and look around at the same time to switch up. Obviously if you have a standard mouse this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but enough people play games on their laptops (and even Macs these days) for it to warrant a mention.
Additionally, I found my computer was unable to run the game properly at the galactic level. Despite running the rest of the game perfectly fine at the highest setting, I found myself having to slash the resolution in half in order to explore this realm. A minor inconvenience perhaps, but the galactic level is one of the prettiest areas in the game and it is an immense shame to not be able to play it in HD. The game however seems to be designed with this possibility in mind, and when the frame rate drops below a specified level, the screen warps itself around, or flashes up random images or scenes, in order to force you to slow down a tad and let it sort itself out.
Eventually one gets used to the low quality graphics, and as mentioned previously even the jarring rolling animation eventually fades into the background, and you are simply left to explore. There are a whole host of things that you can do as you progress through the game, including joining other creatures whereby you can control a herd of creatures rather than an individual. While in control of multiple things, you can make them dance with a variety of motions and patterns to choose from. You can multiply things, creating more of them, you can increase or decrease the size of objects, and eventually you can simply transform into anything you have previously been. Want to see a herd of Red Pandas the size of a house scrambling across the grassy countryside, sure. Want to shrink a planet to the size of an ant, go swimming and descend onto the surface of the planet only to discover a weird messed up world with previously unseen objects, go for it. Heck, if you want to become a bowl of petunias falling through space, all you have to do is discover them.
I do not wish to spoil any part of this game, as despite the lack of plot, characters, or any story whatsoever, the emotional aspect of this game can not be overlooked. The emotions I felt while playing this game were unusual, to say the least. There were points I felt betrayed, but in a good way. There were times I felt satisfied, but somehow incomplete. There were things that should have been funny or sad, but were strangely not so.
Throughout it all though, there was a sense of calm. Of peace. This is not a game you come to for thrills and excitement, more one in which to relax and explore. Think minecraft, but with a universe. The ultimate aim is not to win, there is no endgame to win. The aim is simply to have explored, and to have been Everything.
- Unique concept
- Alan Watts
- Controls take some getting used to
- Graphics could be better
- The different scales aren’t optimised properly