White Paper Games are back with a politically charged mystery game; The Occupation.
If the developer sounds familiar, then it’s probably because you know it as the studio behind Ether One. We’ve been following The Occupation throughout its development, including its fair share of delays, for a while now, and it sure did possess a lot of potential. Because of this, I charged up The Occupation with very high expectations, backed up by the fact that its subject matter is a topic seldom breached.
The story takes place in 1987 England, amidst very familiar political circumstances, undoubtedly pertaining to real-world events. The tone set is very mysterious, as you propel through an investigative journey starring a Journalist known as Harvey Miller. This is all spurred by an explosion that led to the death of over 23 people, and the activation of the “Union Act”. It all implies that you’re on an expedition to find out what really happened behind the scenes. This what I love about this game, the freedom of it and the array of texts and stuff you can interact with. There’s a twist though, everything you do is measured according to real world timing, and that means you’ll often find yourself using your watch and pager.
The Occupation boldly breaches a sensitive topic, and that is one concerning immigrants. Apparently, “The Union Act” is ensued to keep immigrants out of the country, and is therefore met by the disapproval of many citizens. This is depicted by the protests you can clearly hear at the beginning of the game. However, It’s all up to you to discover the conspiracy beneath this facade, and the person who’s behind the bombing, that is, excluding the obvious suspect. Uniquely planned, the game takes up four takes, where you have to collect all of the clues in a span of an hour. Everything you find is stashed in your dossier, as you prepare to conduct an interview at the end of each take. The interviews often depend on the number of clues you’ve taken up, and I found them to be quite solid.
Underneath its fascinating and rather spurring political narrative, The Occupation stumbles in its gameplay. I found myself often annoyed and quite frustrated with all the bugs and mechanics, but if you can ignore these, this is a miraculous stealth game here. Throughout your investigation in the governmental building, you will encounter plenty of puzzles and doors that require ID cards you will have to look for. However, you have the total freedom to do whatever you want, that is, hide the lies you’ve uncovered, expose the people behind it, or even skip meetings.
The stealth aspect of The Occupation gets quite silly with all the bugs it houses. You can avoid security guards by using vents, or hiding behind doors. This is all kind of ramped up to remind me of two games I absolutely love, Bioshock and La Noire. Throughout this four-hour investigative journey, you don’t get to equip any sort of weapon, and all you’ve got to rely on is your investigative skills and ethics.
At the Heart of this game lies flawless voice acting and a vintage-ish atmosphere. The environment is very well placed, and I was quite engrossed during the course of the narrative. The characters of the game horse a special arc- a complicated one- especially employee Scarlet. Scarlet is consumed with guilt and often clashes with the choices she’s made.
The Occupation certainly steps in to reflect reality, but leaves it up to us to make our own choices. You either get to be an ethical journalist or play with the story that you eventually unfold. I have to admit, this is a game I found myself struggling to get through because of the various bugs and issues it presents. However, this is by no doubts a bold entry from White Paper Games worthy of checking out if you are able to ignore the technical issues.
The Occupation is a compelling political story that engages with some complex political themes in an attempt to break new ground. Everyone who’s interested in the current state of political unrest should certainly give it a go. However, I’m not sure if the admittedly excellent voice acting and visual aesthetic can make up for the technical problems. Your mileage may vary.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*