When I heard about Sagebrush releasing for consoles, I just had to play it. I had seen people talking about it on Steam for a while and a ‘walking simulator’ with a compelling story involving murder and mystery is right up my street.
Sagebrush is a first-person narrative adventure game that sees players explore and investigate a compound of an Apocalyptic Milleniest Cult, known as ‘Perfect Heaven’, in remote New Mexico. The Black Sage Ranch holds many secrets and mysteries. The biggest mystery of them all is why they collectively took their lives many years ago. Players will be tasked with uncovering the secrets of Black Sage Ranch and of the Prophet, Father James.
Upon first starting Sagebrush I was greeted by an incredibly soothing female voice, telling the story of – I can only assume – how she was introduced to the cult later known as Perfect Heaven.
“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.'”
I don’t know what it was about these words but they just stuck with me throughout the game. Perhaps it was the meaning behind them? Or perhaps I saw something in this woman that reminded me of myself? I guess I’ll never really know.
Your first task is actually getting into Black Sage Ranch itself. The front gate seems to be jammed in some way and the only item you bought with you is a pair of wire cutters. But once you are in, the seemingly abandoned Black Sage Ranch is yours to explore! It’s not as exciting as I have made it seem… In fact, it’s incredibly spooky. It’s eerily silent and the lives of many were taken in this very place. Everything is exactly as they left it, their stories laid out on a table, so to speak. It’s haunting.
Sagebrush is laid out in a way that, although it seems as though you are free to go anywhere you please, each area will be locked until you find the key and you will only find the key in a place where you are supposed to be at that particular time. Meaning that you will uncover each part of the story in its desired way. You see, the story is told through various recordings, documents, items and finding these is pivotal to unearthing the story.
With no combat, Sagebrush relies heavily on its story and gameplay to keep players entertained enough to keep playing and it’s safe to say that the game does this well. I couldn’t wait to find the next recording to reveal more of this world that I had no experience in. Although the gameplay itself isn’t particularly challenging, it offers a bit of relief from annoyingly, difficult puzzles. With the most challenging area being remembering codes to unlock various items or areas.
Sagebrush features a low-poly, low-resolution 3D art style that does make you question if this game was actually released in 2019. I almost felt like I had gone back in time. This wasn’t a bad thing, there was something pleasing about it. Maybe it was the nostalgia. Still, there was plenty of detail to be seen in these pixels.
Apart from the recordings and voice-overs, you will spend most of your time in Sagebrush in silence, which often leaves you feeling quite uneasy. Almost as though something is going to jump out at you at any moment, but it never does. There are a few music tracks that appear every now and again to break the silence, these are relatively pleasing and set a scene quite well.
It’s worth noting that Sagebrush is not a lengthy game at all. It took me just under two hours to 100% complete it and that was with me looking around at absolutely everything. If you aren’t bothered about seeing everything there is to see, you can complete it in a lot less time. For those achievement/trophy hunters though, this is an easy 100%.
Overall, I enjoyed the short amount of time I spent with Sagebrush. It provided a gripping storyline and back-story into an area I don’t have a lot of experience in: Religion. Basing itself off real events, the game leaves the story up to interpretation. Making no character particularly ‘the bad guy’, leaving the player to make up their own mind from what they have witnessed/heard.