There are moments in human history where prejudices and misunderstandings accumulate, digging into the substratum of human nature and bringing out monsters that were thought to have been dormant for some time. Moments in which the tension is as dense as molasses and you risk being swallowed up by this giant that we call “fear”, ending up unleashing consequences of immeasurable magnitude and the historical and ethical significance of the era.
The Occupation talks about all this, accompanying us in a long investigation that unfolds during our adventure in the United Kingdom. We had already had the chance to try the game at EGX in 2017, and it immediately struck us with its concept and originality, leaving us with the impression of a product that wanted to offer something different from the most common titles, proposing a result that was beyond question. It’s now up to us to find out, amidst subdued lies and silent truths, what’s really going on in London.
Let us take a step back. We are in England, 1987, the country is licking the wounds caused by a terrorist attack in which 23 people were killed, causing a heavy political reaction and public opinion. In a situation that is frighteningly similar to the current situation, the English Government is taking the opportunity to exploit the fear of ordinary people as fuel to be thrown on the flames of doubt, which burst forth untiringly burning everything around them.
The Union Act, in particular, materializes the caustic popular discontent. If formalized, this Act would immediately give the go-ahead for the removal of illegal migrants from the English Motherland, providing a temporary panacea to the problems and pain that the attack – which seems to have been caused by an immigrant – has caused to ordinary people. For most of the story we will play Harvey Miller, a world-renowned writer trying to tell clearly what really happened on the day of the explosion in the famous Bowman Company, rebuilding piece by piece a complex puzzle that will involve many stakeholders.
No indicators on the screen, no life bar for our character: the main role of the adventure will be constituted, heard, by the 4 hours of time that you have available, hanging dangerously above our head like a sword of Damocles: our investigations will be marked by the flow of minutes – corresponding to those of real time – with the possibility of moving through the large and labyrinthine structures in search of clues that will provide us with additional information. The main evidence we will need will be inside the numerous rooms present, reachable through magnetic keys available in some rooms, or through claustrophobic but well-connected ventilation ducts, which, with a pinch of patience, can take us – almost everywhere.
The collection of information will be essential to get prepared for all three appointments with Bowman Company employees that will take place throughout history, meetings that will close the three macro sections that make up The Occupation. The collection of elements scattered around the scenario (audio tapes, written sheets, floppy disks and so on) will allow us to ask more questions during the appointments to better clarify the situation and the events that have taken place, unraveling – or accentuating – the fog of mystery that afflicts the company. The three appointments will be fixed at a specific time, giving us a precise margin of time for the investigation, which can be developed from the various tracks and clues marked by the diligent Miller on his notebook, which can be consulted by the player at any time.
Turning and snooping around everywhere, however, will not be a choice well seen by security, especially by the young guardian Steve, who will warn us several times, warning us to stay away from the areas reserved for staff of the building. The entrance to these forbidden areas will often be necessary to gather clues, rummaging through the sensitive materials contained in the most hidden meanders of the building. In our opinion, however, guard Steve deserves a promotion for the diligence of his work and, why not, for his abilities that seem to touch the supernatural. It doesn’t matter where you are, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got there as quietly as possible. Rest assured that, while you’re intent on rummaging through the various drawers and numerous PCs that populate the disorderly desks of Bowman, a sound crescendo will warn you of the imminent arrival of truffle dog Steve, alerted by what will sometimes seem an incredible premonition.
Just in these situations you will hear the Stealth component of the game, with paths that will have to be carefully examined so as not to run into the ubiquitous Steve: the guard will give us the benefit of the doubt discovering us once, while leading us to his superior Dan in case of repeated explorations in areas containing sensitive information. In this case we will be deprived of valuable time, but we can still continue to investigate. In case Steve finds us again intent on rummaging through the stacks of top secret documents, he will be forced to accompany us out of the building, depriving us of the vital possibility of acquiring information and making it more difficult to reconstruct the facts.
On the technical side, the title limps conspicuously: along with textures not really finished, there will be many moments when the frame rate will suffer sharp drops, but not going to affect the experience of the game in a total way.
They will add instead a bitter aftertaste some annoying bugs (heavy and not): during our first run we stumbled twice in situations that have left us in a stalemate, forcing us to go out and start again the section just turned. A shame, even considering the system of automatic saving of the game very framed, which will record the progress of the player only at the end of each section, which will sometimes go on for an hour of time.
Another negative note is represented by the loading times – in some cases exaggeratedly long, but fortunately quite sporadic – and above all by the Italian translation. Leaving aside some localization errors, The Occupation is full of untranslated sentences, which will make it difficult to understand events – already not simple in itself – for those who are unfamiliar with the Anglo-Saxon language, in situations that will see a curious alternation of English and Italian sentences.
Mention of merit instead for the dubbing, exclusively in English, able to render perfectly and become sharp as a knife in the most dramatic situations, thanks to a valuable vocal test of the leading actors.
The music itself fulfils its task, building an atmosphere that remains firmly standing until the end – different depending on the actions performed during our playthrough – helping to accentuate the tension in the various stealth phases.