If you haven’t played Papers, Please($7.99) yet, I am going to save you some time. Go buy this game. I don’t care if you buy it for your iPad, your computer, your tivo, or your pocket watch, just get it and start playing. A little over a year ago, developer Lucas Pope struck gold with a game that ostensibly is about being a clerk for the fictitious, yet highly Russian influenced, country of Arstotzka. Now that it’s out for iOS we wanted to give you a little assistance with getting through the game and into those 20 different endings.
Lets do a full stop right here. If you haven’t played the game yet, you need to put everything down and go play. When it debuted, Eli hit us with a review that I couldn’t agree more with. More than most games released in 2014 that I have played, Papers, Please deserves to be played and played without the spoilers that you are going to find in this gameplay guide.
Papers, Please is a game that hands the reigns over to you to figure out how you want to play. It does it in a way unique to other games in that you don’t get nice, easy, or safe decisions. Almost every time you are tempted, it involved an internal struggle. Order vs Chaos. Empathy vs Justice. Family vs Strangers. While this guide can’t tell you the path that’s right for you, it can very well get you in the position to make those decisions a little more comfortably.
Still with me? Ok lets dive in. If you are reading this guide, I can only surmise that you, like myself and many others, are completely hooked on Papers, Please. Navigating your way through the twists and turns of Arstotzkan customs policy can be a monumental task if you aren’t paying very close attention. We’re going to be looking into the endings and the different victory conditions that exist in the game. First things first, there are actually 24 endings. The 4 omitted from the 20 count have little embellishment, just an abrupt death. I’m going to start with a quick overview of each type of ending you can get and then we will jump into what it will take to achieve glorious victory in a few different ways.
The 4 unlisted endings all involve a direct trip to the after life. Failing to disarm a bomb, touching poisonous powder, getting a grenade lobbed at you, and allowing your hut to be blown up will all get you killed. Days you can be ended are 15, 20, 21, and 31.
The easiest way to lose the game is to fail to process fast enough or accurately enough and go into debt. This is a pretty bad ending. Other reasons you can go to jail include failure to bend the rules for your supervisor, being a little too honest with a government agent investigating your ties to the rebel group EZIC, and tranquilizing civilians or rebels. You can be sent to prison at absolutely any time.
You will be immediately fired from your job if at any point your family all dies. Most of the time this is due to not being able to afford your bills at the end of each day. The game will punish you for not being very efficient and quick with your processing skills. Coming home after multiple days of being unable to afford heat, food, or medicine will result in the health of your family failing. If you cannot prove that you proliferate and care for your family, you’ll be shown the door. Arstotzka is a land of prosperity after all.
Hit me with your Best Shot
Once you get weaponry available to you, You’ll be expected to defend your booth from insurgents, terrorists and malcontents. Using your weaponry on others is a quick way to end the game. Depending on who you shoot, and with which gun, you will be either imprisoned or scheduled for execution. Your family usually gets questioned about their involvement. Is it too soon to make a water boarding joke?
Getting out of Dodge
If you can manage to get yourself and maybe your family members out of the country, you get one of these endings. You will have to illegally confiscate an ID and $25 for each family member you can manage to bring along. Hope you weren’t emotionally attached to too many of them. Doing or not doing EZIC tasks has no impact on this win condition.
Being a Rebel
As the game progresses, you have the opportunity to complete tasks for the rebel group EZIC. If you can complete 4 or more of them, you will be able to trigger a coup d’etat. Be careful to not shoot your new brothers or you’ll be left in the dust. You can actually stop the coup after orchestrating it by shooting the bomber squad as they approach the barricade. Just don’t expect your current government to let you walk. It’ll be jail for you if you end up foiling the plot you helped enact. Successful completion of the coup gives you one of the game’s few good endings, a new Arstotzka!
Playing it Straight
If you ignore the rebels, put your head down and do your job, shoot the terrorists, and refuse to run to Obristan, you can unlock another of the few good endings with the unlock to the endless mode.
Each one of these endings plays into the overall theme of the game. 3 out of 24 possible endings that don’t end in death, imprisonment or the loss of loved ones? That’s grim. That’s the old 80’s communism propaganda I grew up with. With the propaganda and pixel graphic style, it’s kind of a nostalgia overload. Now that we have established what endings are available, lets talk a little bit about how to get from point A to point B.
Watch for the Pitfalls
Poison powder, an failed bomb disarm, shooting someone you shouldn’t shoot and incriminating yourself are all surefire ways to end your game prematurely. When in doubt, don’t touch, don’t talk and aim true. With the completely and utterly amazing save system, these one time obstacles can be pretty easily navigated just by loading up the day’s save file again. Be aware that you won’t be able to completely avoidable most of the time, but you’ll at least be able to take it again from the start of the day.
Know the Rules
If you are serious about getting to one of the later endings, I suggest you either memorize a large amount of the rule book or print/write out bits of it. You won’t have the time to casually leaf through multiple books of procedure and still make the money you need to keep your family alive and healthy. This is probably my only problem with the game and I realize that its not an easy fix to get the game to look just right, play just right and still have room for a bunch of words on screen all at the same time. If you are serious about beating the game and getting a good ending, memorize or use a peripheral. Probably the best thing to memorize is the nations and their issuing cities. It is always going to be relevant and if you dont have it memorized it means at least 2 or 3 page turns to get to the proper page in the rule book.
Leave Room for a Mulligan
I get it. You don’t want to be a slave to the rules. It has been said that this is an Empathy game. I like to think of it more of as a psych evaluation. Maybe you will have empathy and maybe you won’t, but the behavior you exhibit in game will tell you more about yourself than pretty much any other game out there. Did you bend the rules? Who did you bend them for and why? You almost feel like the game plants you into a psychiatrist chair and demands you answer for your failure to navigate the murky moral and ethical soup of Papers, Please. Be sure to give yourself enough leeway to throw the occasional mulligan and get cited without penalty. After you get dinged twice in one day, having a big heart will mean pain for your family. You monster.
Use this guide to save your family, use it to fight for freedom, and use it to defend your fictitious national pride. Realize, however, that you will always be made to choose. The message of Papers, Please is that you don’t always win and there isn’t always a “right" choice. Although there are many tough decisions to be made, the decision to invest time in Papers, Please is anything but. Glory to Arstotzka, new and old!