Skyrim Meets Scripture in I Am Jesus Christ

I Am Jesus Christ Preview

When you think of video games, you don’t often think about religion. Fantasy and role-playing games sometimes include fictional religions, often as a pointed commentary on real-world thing. Since the earliest days of personal computing, there have been hundreds of games with religious subject matter, nearly always Christian, and unknown to, or ignored by mainstream gamers. The purpose of these games is often about giving young people an approved alternative to secular games and their sometimes “offensive” subject matter. Game mechanics and entertainment aren’t high on the list. Is that true of SimulaM’s I Am Jesus Christ?

Another thing that the vast majority of religious games have in common is, unfortunately, low quality and sub-par production values. Quite often, they’re knockoffs of popular secular games. Scriptural content aside, they can feel like pale imitations of actual games. But then, quality gameplay and impressive graphics aren’t the focus. If you’re not a religious person, some of the games can feel a bit ridiculous, similar to the kind of parodies that TV shows like South Park and The Simpsons have often used to satirize both religion and games. That said, no one doubts the faith of the developers or their good intentions.

Broad — and maybe even unfair — generalizations aside, there have been big-budget, mainstream games that dealt with religion in a thoughtful way. The Assassin’s Creed games come to mind. Valhalla’s narrative is partly about the rise of Christianity and its clash with pagan religions in Celtic Britain.

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Praise the Lord

I Am Jesus Christ is a first-person action RPG. The player character is — you guessed it — Jesus. The game begins with some trippy star-field visuals, quotes some key passages from Genesis about the creation, then fast-forwards to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. After that, we get a “30 years later” title card and we’re into the game as adult Jesus. Thanks to a quest-giving vision, he’s off to find John the Baptist and get the whole spiritual journey thing underway. The game conveniently sidesteps Jesus’ parent-defying adolescent years, like when he blew his folks off to hang with the elders in the temple. Jesus meets the Baptist and heads into the desert. There, Jesus fasts for 40 days (the game’s narrator intones “after 37 days, Jesus was hungry.” Ya think?), gets tempted by visions, and fights in a boss battle of sorts, throwing balls of holy energy in Satan’s general direction. Satan is imagined as a swirling light, pelting Jesus with fireballs.

Sticking to the Script

Unsurprisingly, I Am Jesus Christ strives for a note-for-note, literal translation of the New Testament into bite-size missions and NPC encounters, complete with pop-up scriptural quotes. Loading screens come with bits of “history” about the region. One of the game’s disappointments is its slavish — if entirely unsurprising — commitment to scripture. An actual, interesting game about Jesus’ early years is not out of the question, but I Am Jesus Christ doesn’t try to create a real character. The game assumes familiarity with well-known stories from the Bible. You read about Jesus changing water into wine, now you can do it yourself!

Where I Am Jesus Christ doesn’t follow scripture, it just gets weird. Jesus learns to throw energy spells from angels, or destroy Satan-placed evil crystals.

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The Elder Scriptures

The obvious inspiration for I Am Jesus Christ is Skyrim. Or maybe the original Morrowind, since that is where the game’s graphics land. Mechanically, I Am Jesus Christ is similar to a Bethesda title. Jesus walks around the environment, picks up berries for food, talks to NPCs, and accepts quests like “Meet the merchant who knows a guy who knows where John the Baptist was last seen.” (That’s a literal quest, by the way). Most of the conversations with NPCs have bland, two or three-sentence possible responses. They make zero difference to the narrative.

At least in the preview, at no time was there any opportunity for the player to make a creative choice. Or any choice, really. The game just shuttles Jesus from Bible bullet point A to B. Theologically maybe, Jesus’ fate is predestined. But it doesn’t make for a very compelling game.

Granted, I Am Jesus Christ is in a very early state, but it’s easy to break. Do a sequence out of order and suddenly the voiceover from the opening scene starts playing in the background. Quest markers refuse to disappear. There are lots of missing textures and body parts. Animations and “lip-syncing” are pretty bad. Translations are awful. It’s probably no surprise that the graphics are primitive by modern standards. That said, there are no technical issues that can’t be fixed.

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It Would Take A Miracle

I Am Jesus Christ is nowhere near full release, so I can only go by its opening hours. As a game, it doesn’t get a pass because of its subject matter. It should be held to the same standard, and given the same considerations, as any other game in a pre-release state. By those metrics, I Am Jesus Christ still needs a huge amount of time in the oven.

Is I Am Jesus Christ actually a game? Games involve skill, choice, creativity, rules to follow or push against, and some sort of fail state with consequences. RPGs like Skyrim also provide for players to create unique characters and experiences. Maybe some or all of those things will appear later in I Am Jesus Christ. From what I’ve seen so far, I Am Jesus Christ is really just a marginally interactive “Life of Jesus.” If you want to decide for yourself, the Prologue arrives on Steam on December 1, 2022.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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