Left Behind: Eternal Forces
Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a real-time strategy computer game based upon the bestselling Left Behind novels. It was created by Left Behind Games and released on November 14, 2006. The game has been the focus of much controversy, criticism and rumormongering, most of which has been based upon erroneous information about the game that Left Behind Games has vehemently denied and corrected.
Following the same plot elements as the Left Behind novels, Left Behind: Eternal Forces follows the exploits of members of the post-Rapture Tribulation Force as they struggle against the schemings of the Antichrist. The game is based in New York City, which was painstakingly reproduced in 3D to be as accurate and detailed as possible. The player controls various characters throughout the game, ranging from average citizens and members of the Antichrist's forces converted to Christianity to unique characters specially created for the game to characters from the novels.
Plot and goals
Left Behind: Eternal Forces takes place shortly after the Rapture. The player controls members of the Tribulation Force as they attempt to set up a base in New York City from which they can spread the Gospel. At first, their efforts are opposed only by local gangs, but soon Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia's forces start to take notice.
The goal of the game, as stated in the game manual, is to "[s]ave as many people from the clutches of the Antichrist as possible. Your purpose is absolutely NOT to wipe out the enemy forces!" Additionally, the description for the soldier units for the Tribulation Force states that their "#1 goal is still to save as many people from the Antichrist as possible" and that the player's "duty and moral obligation is to use soldiers as little as humanly possible."
The main game screen is viewed from an in-game vantage point above the streets. This vantage point can be adjusted from low and close to the streets to very high above them. The main screen is accompanied by a small interactive map to help the player navigate the play area. This map can be clicked on to move the in-game view to a different area and can also zoom in and out.
The game is controlled via the mouse and keyboard hotkeys and can be played in either single-player or multiplayer mode. In single player mode, the player controls the members of the Tribulation Force and leads them through 40 missions with varied goals. In multiplayer mode, a player can invite up to 7 players to compete via the internet or local area network (LAN). The players choose to control either the Tribulation Force or the Antichrist's forces with up to 4 players controlling each side.
Left Behind Games sent photographers to New York City for six weeks to photograph the streets and buildings of hundreds of city blocks. These were reproduced in detail in the game down to fire escapes and rooftops.
The score for Left Behind: Eternal Forces was created by Chance Thomas, an award-winning composer who has previously created the scores for games like The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Ring, X-Men: The Official Game, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.
Chris Fabry, best known as the announcer for late Baptist pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers' "Love Worth Finding" radio program and co-author of the Left Behind: the Kids novels, was cast as the gameplay narrator. Also, many of the game's creators lent their voices to characters in the game.
Left Behind: Eternal Forces received a variety of positive and negative reviews. Among the better-known video game reviewers:
- GameSpy and G4's X-Play both gave it 2 stars out of 5
- GameSpot gave it a 3.4 out of 10
- IGN gave it a 5.9 out of 10
- GameShark gave it a C+
- Game Vortex gave it an 80%
- UnderGroundOnline gave it a B+
Some of the reviews were more about the reviewers' hatred against religion in general or evangelical Christianity specifically. For example, in the review that appeared on Game Revolution, the author wrote, "I am sick and tired of being told that I have to respect everyone’s beliefs," and, "So let me be clear - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Whatevers – you’re all nuts." Unsurprisingly, the reviewer gave the game an undeserved "F." Reviews such as these may have seriously damaged the game's sales.
Some of the complaints about Left Behind: Eternal Forces were based on various issues with its performance and design, citing appearance, interface, bugs, lags and crashes. For example, Game Revolution's review stated, "[W]hen the glowy balls get thick (anytime a lot of people are on the screen), the game starts to seriously lag, and sometimes even crash," "All your units look and dress alike once they’re converted," and "[Y]ou’ll find yourself playing the same maps over and over, preaching on the same corners, buying the exact same buildings and turning them into banks and churches and hospitals all over again." GameSpy stated, "While the developers went to the trouble of using actual images and logos from New York City on the game's buildings..., the buildings themselves are blocky, unconvincing and, worst of all, get in the way of the camera.", and summarised the bad points of the game as, 'Lousy controls; too much micromanagement; bad AI; poor graphics and art design; lack of skirmish mode; slow multiplayer.' These were comments made in initial reviews and Left Behind Games subsequently issued several patches to address dozens of issues.
Conversely, the positive aspects of the game reviews ranged from GameSpy citing the "[i]nteresting premise [and] unusual 'nonviolent' strategic design" to Game Revolution noting the "[a]uthentic New York streets [and g]reat soundtrack." UGO found that "[t]he gameplay is actually quite smooth, and there are very few video bugs for a new release." X-Play liked the tutorial's helpfulness and that there were "[l]ots of unique units." GameVortex called the game "one of the better Biblical faith-based games to ever hit the market."
Controversy and criticism
Even before Left Behind: Eternal Forces or its demo were released, many left-wing individuals and groups were already criticizing the game on its supposed content. The anti-Christian Right website Talk To Action sparked much of the criticism starting in May 2006, several months before the game's release. Talk To Action contributor Jonathan Hutson wrote articles with titles like "the Purpose Driven Life Takers" condemning the game for allegedly having the goal "to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians." Hutson also falsely asserted several times in other articles that "characters kill New Yorkers while shouting 'Praise the Lord.'" Strangely, in an apology in response to claims of copyright violation by Left Behind Games, Talk To Action admitted adding of red coloring to screenshots of the game to give the false impression that it depicts blood. Others reported Talk To Action's claims, including several left-wing bloggers, the BBC, the New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Nation's Max Blumenthal also heavily criticised the game in an article about sending it in care packages to soldiers serving in Iraq. Blumenthal's article subsequently led to the removal of the game from the packages. The controversy and criticisms also led to left-wing groups calling for Wal-Mart to censor the game by removing it from store shelves. To its credit, Wal-Mart did not comply. Conservative Attorney Jack Thompson , who is a prominent critic of violent video games, was very critical of the game. Thompson claimed "The game is about killing people for their lack of faith in Jesus," which he claimed made it incompatible with basic Christian doctrine.
Left Behind Games vehemently denied all of these allegations and posted a response on their website which cited the comments of various sources. Among them, the Anti-Defamation League - while criticizing the theology behind the game - stated, "Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded in the game." Game reviewers like IGN.com and ArsTechnica.com also were cited as noting the false allegations of critics and the game's focus on promoting non-violent solutions to the missions. In addition to these sources cited by Left Behind Games, other sources noted the game's promotion of non-violence. GameSpy described the game as having an "[i]nteresting premise" and an "unusual 'nonviolent' strategic design," and stated, "[A]nyone looking for explicit 'Kill the unbelievers!'-style content to justify their fear of the game won't find it here." GameSpot called the game an "[i]nteresting concept that strays from the kill-'em-all RTS norm." And G4's X-Play stated, "[A]ny deaths will severely negatively impact the spirit of your flock."
"Million Games Giveaway"
In February 2008, Left Behind Games announced the giveaway of one million copies of Left Behind: Eternal Forces. The game could be obtained either as a physical copy through the mail or as a digital download (with both requiring a minimal handling and processing fee).
In December 2007, Left Behind Games released the sequel to "Left Behind: Eternal Forces:" "Left Behind: Tribulation Forces." The sequel was available for free for a limited time to "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" players who had faithfully kept up with the various updates (i.e. V1.03/EP3 through V1.10/EP10) and is now available either as an upgrade CD for those who already own "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" or as the full retail version (which includes all the missions from "Eternal Forces").
In April 2010, the company announced that the second sequel, "Left Behind 3: Rise of the Antichrist," was in production for a Christmas 2010 release.
- Left Behind: Eternal Forces Game Manual