The Occupation is the new project from White Paper Games, creators of Ether One. It's another first-person, narrative-driven game, this time with a politically tinged story about the oppressive Union Act. It was formed in response to a terrorist attack in the 1980s England setting, and threatens to rob the British public of their freedom. The game takes place over four hours, and as an investigative journalist, the outcome of the story depends on your actions.
When we say four hours, we mean four hours in real-time and within the game world. The main hook of The Occupation is what you decide to do within this timeframe, which is entirely down to you. For example, within the early build we sampled, our character had some meetings to attend in a government building; you can attend the meetings, or completely ignore them, and they'll go on without you. The other aspect of the game that the devs were keen to emphasise is that the NPCs react to you and your actions in a realistic way, so by missing the meetings, those characters will view you differently from that point on.
At the very start of the demo, we approached the front desk, and the receptionist was playing cards away from his post. We rang the bell for his assistance, which made him jump and drop his cards, and he explained that he wasn't expecting us for another 20 minutes. We initially thought this may be a set interaction, but speaking to other players afterwards, it seems that even this small encounter can result in several different permutations.
A little further into the building, another character explained to us where to go for our first meeting, and it was our full intention to head straight there. However, after fiddling about with our briefcase – an inventory of sorts where you can store away items and documents – we completely forgot where to go, and so we instead decided to explore the building as much as we could.
At the front desk we were given a key card which granted us access into certain rooms, but many of them were off limits. The Occupation seems to take some inspiration from sandbox sims such as Deus Ex as much as anything else. The interior setting was detailed and intricate, and it felt as though there were plenty of possibilities we failed to see. That the game world reacts to you, and that you only have a set amount of time in which to figure out what's going on, makes this surprisingly compelling, and we wish we'd had time to play it again.
Still, while we were in the world of The Occupation, we couldn't help but be taken by the idea of a game that moves on with or without you. If you wanted to, you could spend the four hours standing in one spot, and the game would conclude despite your lack of contribution. It's a fascinating concept, and although details on the story are thin on the ground, we are definitely intrigued to learn more. No platforms other than PC are confirmed at this point, but considering Ether One eventually made it across to consoles, and that the game runs in Unreal Engine 4, we're fairly sure we can expect to see it occupying PS4 at some point.
The Occupation is still quite far away, but does the idea of a persistent narrative experience appeal to you? Faff about with your briefcase in the comments section below.