Glory to Arstotzka, and welcome to the first indie games column of the technoblog 2022. As you may have seen from the title, this week we are going to talk about Papers, Please and show that being an immigration inspector is no joke. Grab your passport and entry visa, and come with me to see this excellent “bureaucracy and political affairs simulator” that can be quite cruel.
Arstotzka’s fate depends on you
Papers, Please depicts a dystopia in which you, the player, are chosen to work at an immigration post on the border of the fictional country of Arstotzka, in Eastern Europe. Its duty is to allow or deny the entry of foreigners, always analyzing whether the documents presented — passports, visas, identities, among others — are true and in accordance with the country’s rules.
You have no name, face or personality, because the protagonist is just another worker like any other who clocks in in the morning, stays until the end of the day and leaves for home without looking back. His only concern is earning money to keep his family well fed, warm and healthy.
As much as the protagonist only wants to work in peace, the troubled diplomatic relationship between Arstotzka and neighboring countries does not allow that to happen. In the time that passes Papers, Please, the communist nation of Arstotzka is recovering from a six-year war against neighboring Kolechia.
As in any conflict, citizens are fragile looking for a new home or seeking revenge, in the case of the most nationalistic. As a border officer, you must do your best work to keep Arstotzka safe and let only the right people into the country.
At the beginning of the campaign, everything is very simple. People who want to enter Arstotzka will present their passports and visas, and you will need to analyze whether there are any discrepancies in the information on the documents. As the days go by, the routine becomes more complicated, especially when moral choices begin to emerge.
Papers, Please It’s a simulation and strategy game, so you have to think a lot before you act. There is not a lot of free time available for this, as a working day is limited and the pay at the end of the workday depends on how many people were served at the immigration post. This pressure makes the game much more dynamic and fun, after all.
At the end of each day, the money received is used to pay the rent on the apartment, as well as food, medicine and heating for the family. Sometimes you will have to give up certain luxuries to take care of your relatives, so don’t get attached to money and take advantage of opportunities to make some money on the side.
the coolest part of Papers, Please is the possibility to end the campaign in one of 20 different endings. On certain working days, the game presents situations where your morals are put to the test. Early on, for example, you receive an immigrant couple. The man is up to date with the documents, but the woman is not. Therefore, it is up to you to leave the family together or to strictly follow the bureaucracy of the role.
Choose between obeying the government or betraying the nation
As a good civil servant, the Arstotzka authorities expect you to obey all government directives. This includes keeping out terrorists, prioritizing diplomats, searching suspicious individuals and even protecting your nation from a secret organization seeking to carry out a coup d’état. However, you have complete freedom to make your own choices, and that’s what makes this game so great.
In all, there are 31 working days in a single campaign. The idea is to make the final 20, but this task requires a lot of time and dedication. So I recommend following your heart and making choices based on what you feel is right. If you don’t like the conclusion, just start all over again. Workdays are roughly 15 minutes long, so it takes about nine hours of gameplay to finish a campaign.
I can already tell you that the first few hours are a little monotonous, but the game shifts into fifth gear from the moment the first terrorist attack takes place. Yeah, civil servants don’t always have that easy life that some people say out there.
Papers, Please worth every penny in your wallet
Created by just one person — Lucas Pope — and released in 2013, Papers, Please It has a simple and objective proposal, but delivers a deep and complex narrative. With pixelated graphics, the game has a unique and beautiful art style, but it can get in the way in some parts of the campaign. Finally, don’t expect much from the soundtrack, because the game only has the menu music and nothing else.
Papers, Please It’s worth your money, especially if you like to face moral decisions on a day-to-day basis. If you want, you can also watch the short film based on the game with real actors. The Russian film is available on YouTube with subtitles in Portuguese and below too:
The game is available to buy on PC (Steam, Humble and GOG), iPad and PlayStation Vita. It is worth mentioning that the game has excellent localization in Brazilian Portuguese, in which the texts are not only translated, but adapted to our language.
Glory to Arstotzka! NEXT!