This is going to be one of those reviews that is going to be very hard to make opinionated and spoiler free, so I’m going to give you one of those TLDRs now so you can have the full experience yourself.
In short, get this game tomorrow when it is released and play it for yourself. There will be some spoilers in this article; I would strongly suggest not reading this, and just buy it instead (But then come back and read this anyway).
Developed by White Paper Games and published by the one and only Humble Bundle, The Occupation had a rocky start. A press release announced that the game was a thing on the 22nd of March 2017 – That same day, a terrorist attack happened on Westminster Bridge killing 23 people and injuring more than fifty other people… But just because the original advertisement didn’t work, it didn’t mean that they should stop working on the game. Instead, it just made it more important that it had to be released.
The year is 1987. A terrorist attack has killed 23 people and pushed the government to create a new law called “The Union Act”. There is a problem though; this Act is what some might call, controversial. The issue is that the act could “threaten the civil liberties of the British population”. You are a journalist within a government building, your task is to gather information on the Act and do one of a variety of things, but I’ll get to that later on.
The gameplay is very unique; everything you do, or don’t do will have an effect. Over four IRL hours, you are free to explore and gather information to your heart’s content, or not. You’ve got to be careful though. If you’re caught somewhere you’re not supposed to be, you will be punished, not through a health bar or energy, but time. If caught, you will be taken to a security office and will lose 15 minutes of valuable time.
Now for the things you can do – Option one is to sit on a bench and do nothing for four hours and the game will end; you made your choice to do nothing and that has consequences… But this is a game after all; you’re likely to do things. If you so desired, you could cause a government shutdown and completely kill the Act yourself… Or you have the opportunity to become a Whistle Blower. Collect the facts get them straight and get the story to print.
Considering the setting, you may have realised that the game is deeply political; you have the ability to collect information allowing you to develop opinions about the Act in question. You can talk to people who will give you’re their views. These conversations can help shape, develop or completely change your own personal views about what’s happening in the game. In an interview with EuroGamer, the lead designer, Pete Bottomley, said:
“We’re not trying to push an agenda with this game, we don’t impose political beliefs and we definitely don’t tell people what is right and wrong – the game is about the grey and moral lines”.
See how deep this is getting?
It gets deeper though. Every character has their own routines and plans and schedules, they also have needs like taking time for a cigarette break when they get stressed – You can manipulate their needs by performing actions that have an in direct effect on the character; you can make them stressed by making them cold, cutting power to computers, but if you do something and are spotted, people will become suspicious of you and will remember you for the duration of the playthrough. Every action that you make, or don’t make, has an effect on the story.
This game has changed the way that I look at replayability – Since you’re locked down to four hours of play time, you can do something different every time and have a different overall story, even if you’re collecting information again but collect it in a different way to the time you did before, the actions that become available after will be completely different.
If you ignored what I said at the beginning and read through, I hope I’ve persuaded you to pick up this game. It’s something that can be very thought-provoking looking at a subjects that are often bypassed because people feel like they need to be politically correct. This game is all about your views. You’re in control, you have the ability to change the world.
This game scores a solid 8.5. It deserves this rating; no game is ever going to be perfect. Someone somewhere will always find a problem with any game, but this is something that can be played over and over and has a solid impact, while also being really open to allow you to do whatever you want.
You can get The Occupation on Xbox One, PS4 and PC from March 5th.