The Occupation is a game simply described as ‘flawed but interesting’, which I do agree with, however then you definately wouldn’t admire it if a buddy mentioned the identical factor about your do-it-yourself lasagne, would you?
I didn’t technically end taking part in The Occupation, as a result of within the remaining cutscene I didn’t get the pivotal dialogue choice. The characters, who I used to be imagined to be selecting sides between, simply stared at me, unblinkingly, like two ideologically opposed owls. I wasn’t even narked that it bugged out. Do I choose the suitable wing anti-immigration capitalist pigdog with dangerous glasses, or the left wing bleeding coronary heart who can also be a terrorist? Classic. Who will be bothered?
Flaws, sure, flaws a-plenty. But up till I used to be pressured into a mix of commercial and common espionage, I used to be having a few of the greatest enjoyable I’ve had in a game for ages.
The Occupation is an investigate-‘em-up set in a mid sized town in the north of England. It is the 80s. The country is tearing itself apart over mass poverty, cuts to government services, and immigration levels. What’s previous is new once more. It’s very enjoyable, by the best way, seeing a game set within the U.Ok. that truly appears to be like just like the U.Ok. and has correct regional (even Northern!) accents as well, fairly than somebody giving it their greatest “U WOT M8? ‘AVE A BANANA!”
Anyway. One semi-privatised wing of the federal government referred to as Bowman Carson proposed a draconian legislation that may each ‘ship ‘em again’ and ‘stop ‘em comin’ within the first place’, with a wholesome facet of monitoring all residents’ exercise on the whole. When an explosion destroys a part of the workplaces, Alex Dubois, a BC worker and an immigrant, is asserted the wrongdoer. Weeks later, enter you, investigative journalist Harvey Miller, to seek out out what truly occurred.
You’ve been granted interviews with workers at Bowman Carson, however you flip up early to get additional sneaking round time, looking for proof to help your hunches. Most of The Occupation is spent stealing pc passwords, eavesdropping, and faxing paperwork to your associates, while avoiding the peering eyes and bouffant hair of the staff. Here is The Occupation’s pretty brilliance: the game is in actual time. So you’ve got precisely an hour. Time has hardly ever felt so treasured in a game, and The Occupation does it with out supplying you with a dwindling oxygen provide or a daughter about to show right into a zombie or different nonsense. It simply offers you a watch.
You can overhear workers speaking about their routines. You can half-inch memos or notes that inform you so-and-such might be within the printing room at 3:30. You’re solely allowed in sure components of the constructing, and when you’re caught too usually by safety they’ll take you again to the entrance desk (and also you’ll lose 15 minutes within the course of). The controls let you transfer slowly or rapidly, so you possibly can peek by way of a door or dramatically tear open folded notes. And the game does a superb job of constructing some seconds really feel like hours, whereas workers go out and in of their workplaces and Steve the guard does his rounds.
You can set a timer and alarms in your watch when you slip out and in of rooms. A protected wants two total minutes to cycle by way of its unlock protocol, and the chunky, creaking computer systems of the 80s take an age to test in case your login try was right. Drawers in submitting cupboards open at a glacial velocity, and with a horrible drawn out screech that you’re sure will be heard in each room within the constructing. I’ve by no means felt extra like a journalist than once I was rifling by way of a field of recordsdata while retaining on eye on the workplace door. Then you get to slap down proof in entrance of a mendacity witness, proof that you just stole from her workplace not 20 minutes in the past! Take that.
The first hour of that is superb, with threads doubling again on themselves and winding all over the place. The answerphone tape I would like isn’t in the suitable workplace, it’s being repaired. No, wait, it’s been repaired already and is within the worker protected close to misplaced and located. I would like the suitable keycard to open the protected. Where to seek out it… Lovely stuff. But over the next 4 hours the game step by step switches from stealth investigation to stealth puzzles, which isn’t fairly the identical factor. The BC workplaces are filled with safety gates of various colors, which require corresponding ID playing cards. They additionally corrupt any floppy discs you carry by way of them. More and extra of those are added, so The Occupation turns into much less about following breadcrumbs to seek out clues, and extra about transporting clues round like an unpaid and really particular sort of Deliveroo courier.
At the identical time, the plot more and more includes you, personally, within the political intrigue, culminating within the aforementioned remaining scene. Really I’d fairly have simply written up my story about it like little journalist, and moved. It’s not even actually a thriller, as a result of, Columbo fashion you’ve already seen what truly occurred. In the later ranges, operating about attempting to reboot and/or wipe computer systems, I used to be extraordinarily shit at being a hack and solely noticed pivotal items of proof fairly than getting copies of them (and it might be good if the game accounted for this by, for instance, my having the ability to deliver up that I’d seen the treacherous threat assessments, and my interviewee difficult me to show it, scumbag).
At instances I wasn’t certain if it was totally my fault I used to be a shit journalist, although. For some purpose I wasn’t capable of entry my stock in any respect, and generally I wouldn’t get the choice to place an object down as soon as I’d picked it up. I may solely stuff it in my briefcase. I used to be strolling round with my pockets filled with notes that I couldn’t even have a look at. Once I obtained caught in between some scaffolding, and one other time one of many safety guards disappeared totally, apart from his voice plaintively complaining each 45 seconds that one of many alarms was sounding. The Occupation solely saves in the beginning and finish of every hour lengthy section, which might be a pleasant contact in an actual time game that didn’t even have bugs backing you into an unattainable nook.
The greatest little bit of The Occupation is creeping round and scrabbling by way of paperwork, and that bit is bloody sensible. Can somebody make a game that’s simply that performed in several shady company workplaces, and with out the bugs or a drained political story? The nicest layer of the flawed lasagne: being a sneakfuck and listening to voicemails that don’t belong to you. And then, presumably, getting a chat present in America and a job on morning TV.