Ever wanted to know what it’s like to land the exciting job of immigration officer? Well, now you can! Luckily, Papers Please isn’t just another day at the office, but rather a deep, challenging and bleak look into Arstotzka border control.
While the storyline may be simple, it’s deeply woven throughout each of the daily shifts you’ll complete as part of the main game in Papers Please. A six year war between the communist Arstotzka and Kolechia has drawn to a close, and it’s your job to control the flow of citizens entering through Arstotzka’s border.
While at first you can only let in citizens of Arstotzka, by day two you’ll be have the opportunity to allow foreigners in providing they meet certain criteria. The game beings simple enough, playing out like a spot the difference puzzle as you identify possible fraudulent documentation, but as you progress the challenges intensify, giving you new things to look out for as well as different methods of getting the truth out of suspect entrants. It all sounds very simple but you’ll be surprised at how many mistakes you end up making, and it’s easy to slip up if you don’t carefully cover all aspects of the current entrance requirements.
Through news articles and your daily briefing you’ll get a feel as to how the day is going to pan out. Often you’ll be tasked with being on the lookout for terrorists or smugglers, and by midgame you’ll have so much going on it’s often easy to get confused. Before you can even being to think about stomping those approved or denied stamps you’ll be dragging endless documents to the desk, interrogating suspected terrorists, scanning for counterfeit goods and concealed weapons and a whole heap of other tasks that can make the difference between success and failure. The intensity of it all coupled with your very limited workspace makes for a stressful experience; especially when you’re very aware of how much ground you have to cover.
At the end of each day you’ll have the chance to dish out your wages to keep you and your family fed, warm and living comfortably. Making mistakes incurs a penalty on your money, so making sure you do a good job every day is a must if you want to keep your family happy and alive. This proves particularly challenging early on when you simply don’t earn enough to do all the things you need to do to keep everyone happy and you have to decide to cut corners to do what you think is best. It’s unsettling to be made to pick between feeding your family and forking out for medical bills for a sick relative, but making you uncomfortable is what Papers, Please does best.
It’s when you step away from the shifting of paperwork that Papers Please really digs under your skin, as other moral choices, especially in the later part of the game, can vary how your endgame pans out. Choosing to let through someone with incorrect paperwork because you feel sorry for the story they’ve told you during an interrogation might seem backwards, but breaking the rules can sometimes yield rewards from strangers. On the other hand, if you choose to help a character and it doesn’t pay off, you could receive a fine or lose your job, putting your livelihood and your family in danger. It’s these constant hard choices to either play by the rules or do what you think is right that make Papers Please such a standout, as most of the games AAA peers struggle to invoke such genuine feelings from the player for their characters.
The game couples its dark tones with an equally unsettling art style, with the grey on grey pallet really adding to the overall experience. The sombre travellers with their motionless faces work perfectly to truly make you feel just that more uncomfortable. It’s the icing on the cake for what’s one of my favourite settings for a game in many years.
Papers Please is an incredibly dark but rewarding and unique experience that compels you to play on from the off. With multiple endings and an endless mode to get through, there’s plenty to keep you occupied once you’re finished with the main game. If you want to feel challenged and have you’re your moral integrity tested, Papers Please is the way to go. Glory to Arstotzka!
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