You can count of one thing in the vast majority of video games: you’ll be playing the protagonist. For most game’s its a given, and it makes sense from a story telling standpoint.
What if you weren’t? What if instead of the main character of the story, you were a supporting side character? Still playing a role in the story and events unfolding around the main character, but a secondary one.
STAY presents you with this exact situation, and takes it even a step further, putting the safety of the protagonist not only in your decisions, but in how promptly you’re able to help the character.
What would you do if a stranger’s fate rested in your fingertips? And how would you cope if every second could be the difference between life and death? When Quinn wakes up alone in a locked room with nothing of note save for a computer hooked up to an internet chat room in which you’re present, you become his single ray of hope. Your choices – and your timeliness – will single-handedly shape his escape efforts… or lead him down the path to an untimely end.
STAY opens with a quick scene of an abduction. Quinn, the game’s main character is snatched from his room for no apparent reason and transported to a dank, dark room, with only the electric blue glow of a computer as a source of light. Shambling over to the screen, Quinn find an internet chat room…and you.
This screen makes up the majority of the game. You’ll be able to chat with Quinn, give him advice, try to keep him calm and composed in the face of this terrible situation, and suggest courses of action. However, Quinn is not exactly the most logical, nor patient chat -room companion at this time. You aren’t forced to reply quickly, or at all, and will have multiple opportunities to leave the chat room for some time. However, the longer you stay away from the keyboard, the harsher and more desperate Quinn will be once you’re finally back.
This is an incredibly compelling mechanic, and by raising the stakes so high, the developers very effectively create an emotional bond between you and Quinn VERY quickly. Even in the first few moments i played the demo of the game on the convention floor at PAX East (far from the ideal atmosphere for this kind of game), I was on board and intrigued.
During that same demo I also saw the first threads of the games many choices and options. The demo didn’t, of course, really give you time to see any of the far reaching implications of your choices, but very quickly I felt the weight of my decisions, my interactions with Quinn, and my responsibility as a character in this story.
My only real critique of the game in it’s current state is in the typed dialogue between Quinn and you, the player. First, some of Quinn’s dialogue felt unnatural and robotic. Granted, this was only a small slice of the game, so perhaps this is only an isolated incident, but it stuck out. Secondly, when selecting your responses to Quinn, you pick a response and then watch it be quickly typed out. I felt like this was a massive missed opportunity to implement a system similar to the one found in Emily is Away Too, where you physically type to produce the response you’ve chosen. In that game, it invested me in the setting in an incredibly effective way, and I feel like that would be the same case in STAY.
STAY is set to release on Steam and XBox One in Early 2018, and will feature a 24-chapter story with multiple twists, unlockable rooms, items to collect, multiple ways for Quinn todie and secret puzzles.