Papers, Please – Hands on Preview

steamworkshop_collection_138290904_collection_branding“Comerade!  Glorious republic of Arstotzka require that you preview new game from Lucas Pope, to be released on personal computer as simulation game.”

“Jah comerade! I will do this. For glory of SquareGo and Arstotzka!”

Preview below the cut or click here comerade for glorious link to original post on SquareGo.

Papers, Please

Lucas Pope

Due for release August 2013

In the days before the fall of the USSR and the Berlin Wall, there was a time when the simple crossing of borders in Europe was fraught with risk, peril and political unrest.

While things in this corner of the world have improved, around the globe such difficulties still exist, which is why it seems both unusual and fitting that the indie title, Papers, Please has popped up on the net.  Showing us that things in Europe weren’t so different back in the 80s.

As the creator of the game sets out on his website: “The communist state of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin.”  To wit, we are the government’s tool. On hand to ensure the glorious leaders plans are carried out. Unlike many other games which would cast the player in the guise of a spy or an operative in the field, in Papers, Please, we instead must carry the burden of a lowly Immigration-Control office worker.  A Civil Servant of the state, with all of the bureaucratic strife that comes with a desk job and endless reams of paperwork. Presumably it also includes many cups of tea and a bad pension.

A Dystopian Document Thriller? Da Comrade!

As a citizen, luckily selected for work duty, you have been posted near the border, in an overpriced house, with a grinding and thankless job of manning the only office in the newly re-opened border control. It’s up to you and you alone to call in the hapless and hopeful souls who are queuing for miles to try and return, or pass through Arstotzka.

At first passports must be checked, to ensure that they are current, legitimate and accompanied by any necessary paperwork. This starts out sounding simple enough, with a basic remit of Arstotzkian citizens only. In practice it’s a hectic juggling act, as you check the picture, gender, origin country, city of issue and passport number all against the clock. Each correct decision nets you a little more pay in your pocket, too many mistakes and you’ll be docked a few quid to teach you to pay more attention.  As a caring husband and father, the game is keen to motivate you to work hard, and hard work it is. If you don’t clear between 10 and 15 cases per day, you won’t be able to afford food AND heating for your home.  Let your family get cold or hungry too long, and they’ll fall sick. Medicine is a luxury in Arstotzka, and luxuries cost money as well.

A good day’s work means a well provided household

Of course, if it were all that simple the job, and the game would be too easy. The ease of checking a few passport details is soon complicated by work permits, travel passes, identity cards, interrogations, x-ray scans and detaining of suspicious characters.  All of which must be completed in the same time frame each day… assuming the whole day goes without a hitch.

That’s before even touching on the moralistic aspects of the job. Even in the beta, you’ll encounter criminals, political dissidents, captive sex workers, pimps and mysterious individuals with a sinister agenda trying to curry your favour. It’s occasionally shocking and at the same time sympathetic, making you really question what the best course of action could be.

A knife in your pocket doesn't mean you're happy to see me.