Floor 13: Deep State Review
Floor 13: Deep State by Oversight Productions is a work-simulation game that thematically feel very similar to the indie hit, Papers, Please. A revival of a 1991 classic, Floor 13 attempts to tackle what it’s like running a spy agency. That’s right, you aren’t the spy, you are the director of the operations.
Giving an in-depth and eagle-eye view of what goes down in the lives of people whose job it is to protect its government at any cost, Floor 13 will push your moral boundaries. The game also doesn’t embellish on the details either, as your job all take place in the safety of your building, as you riffle through notes and sign papers, adding a layer of separation from you and the action.
However, where Papers, Please succeeded in playing with the supposedly boring concept of paper-pushing, Floor 13 falters a little bit with its clunky gameplay that makes the bureaucracy a bit more frustrating than it needs to be.
Privacy is an Illusion
One of the things I think Floor 13 excels in is its ability to lure you into a state of apathy when it comes to dealing with the supposed “threats” to the nation. I’m the type of gamer who tries to go for the more humanistic approaches to my role-playing in games, but I found it surprisingly easy to find myself violating human rights without a second thought.
The biggest one was how little I came to care about people’s privacy. If anyone is showing even a possibility of being a threat, just have them tailed, surveilled, and their house broken in to, just to check out what they are hiding. Your trained agents will carry these missions out without a trace, so there is no real cost to them, other than your constant moral boundaries being pushed. Who knows, maybe they are a terrorist, it’s better safe than sorry, right?
The fact that all you deal with are data on papers, building blueprints, and fuzzy photos of your subjects really make it easy for you to carry these orders out. You don’t ever see them die, you don’t ever see them being tortured, all you see are the important information cherry-picked to help you make your decisions. You only realize these fine details if you think about it, and the game does a good job of helping you forget.
In this element, Floor 13 is masterful. It truly shows you how people in these agencies may carry out these atrocities without a blink of an eye. How the boring paper-pushing bureaucracy lulls you into a state of apathy, where the only importance is fulfilling your job. It’s only when you finally have time to take a step back, you see all the things that you’ve done.
Bureaucracy is Frustrating, But Not Like This
As I said in the intro, this game falters in what we loved about Papers, Please. In this game, the paper-pushing is frustrating because of the limited UI that doesn’t let you do things that would be realistic. I’m not saying we need quality of life hacks like auto-generated lists and menus, but for the love of god, let me move the papers around.
In Papers, Please, your tiny desk space was part of the game design, and the coolest thing for me was watching all these different players organize their desk differently. It really showed how it was like to get used to your desk job and how you became better at it.
In Floor 13, you can never move papers around. They are always in your folder, always in the order that the game organized them in at the start. Like how the hell does it make any sense for me to organize all these cases by my orders given, rather than organizing them per subject? Yes, I get that maybe this is how I’d be sent the information, but then why can’t I pick them up and reorder them?
Ugh, and all the little folder-opening, paper-flipping animations whenever you do anything just get on your nerves. Especially combined with what I just talked about. Sure, all these animations are half-second each, but if I need to backtrack over my stack of 20 sheets just to remember what the subject’s name was, and then have to go 20 sheets forward, taking like a minute total… that’s isn’t realistic, that’s just bad game design.
I really wanted to like this game, and it really has its charms, but as I got deeper into the story and as the cases get more and more complex, all these UI issues just ground my enjoyment down to nothing. If the game can fix these issues, and let me just organize my papers the way I please and let me skip animations, I would wholeheartedly recommend this game. As it stands right now, I think it’s great for the espionage lovers out there are able to overlook the gameplay flaws for the simulation elements of the design.
***PC review code provided by the publisher.***
- Clunky UI
- Why can’t I organize my papers
- Long unneeded animations