Walking simulators are incredibly diversive, but one thing most will agree on is they sure sound interesting. Just listen to the setting for the upcoming The Occupation. The game takes place in 1980’s England. It is an alternate history timeline that will make the player think of Orwell, Brexit, and our current society. Plus, the game is over after four hours. But is it fun?
The four hour window is the best part of the game. This is not an artificial four hours that stops during cutscenes or major moments in the game’s story. This is a legit four hour video game. Whether you decide to uncover the far reaching conspiracy or to run in circles in one spot, there is literally four hours to do it.
This heightens the tension of every single interaction in The Occupation. Much stealth is required and there are many inviting places to explore, but there is only so much you may want to do since every second is counting against you. The conversations you have with other characters take on an entirely new meaning. Sure, what they say is important (at least it better be), but it is even more important they get to the point quickly. The Occupation uses gamers’ tendency to check how long they have been playing to its advantage.
Graphically, The Occupation is a decent looking game that will not impress. Backgrounds look very good. Each set piece is distinctive and puts you in the moment. The game manages to exude the 80’s without throwing it in your face. The character designs are not bad, but almost like they are from the previous console generation. Still, it will not ruin the experience.
There is also so much to interact with. In the opening alone, you can close windows, swipe keycards, log in to a computer and peek around corners. This is not the type of interaction where you simply press a button or move a thumbstick. The character is required to grab the window by holding down a button, then the player pushes the thumbstick direction they want the window to go. Is it a little much? Maybe, but it also adds to the immersion.
This is a great idea from developers White Paper Games. The biggest complaint about walking simulators is they do not give the player much to do. Move from Point A to Point B, read a document, move on to next area, listen to a tape, and so on until the game ends. The Occupation partially solves the problem by letting the player do pretty much everything. From manually inputting numbers on keypads to taking records out of their sleeves, there is little the game does on its own. It is a nice touch that gives the player more to do while playing in to the game’s central real time narrative.
This does not mean the game does not come without problems. As with most offerings of this genre, The Occupation has little in the way of instruction. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a short game with multiple endings. Still, the game makes finding simple things like a passcard more difficult than necessary. In a time locked games, walking around to find a little piece of paper in the shadows can be very frustrating.
The Occupation is a tense game that takes players on an exciting ride. Even those who do not like walking simulators may enjoy the tight schedule they are put on. The story is engaging and has almost limitless possibilities. Even those who dislike the genre, will find The Occupation is at worst a fun diversion.
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