When it comes to casual video game discussion, the titles that most often get namedropped are high-end fantasies of this or that type. In this context, even The Division is a fantasy, as it allows its players to go out and gun down baddies, hoard loot, and generally be a badass in the safety of one’s home. This is perfectly fine, of course. After all, video games are here to play into and feed upon our own preferences, but where does this leave us with the more realistic and less flashy titles?
Tech Support: Error Unknown is one such game - one that doesn’t concern itself much with pulp and flashiness, insisting instead on delivering a more grounded and specific sort of experience. This sort of approach to video game development brings with it an assortment of issues, not least of which is the matter of niche, or deciding if there’s even a market for the game you’re trying to make. Down below, you’re going to read our thoughts on Tech Support: Error Unknown, and find out how this weird little thing performs in practice.
At its very core, Tech Support: Error Unknown is a game that handles the same highly-specific niche as, say, Papers, Please, did back in the day. It tasks the player with a borderline menial job that slowly albeit certainly keeps ramping up in complexity and nuance, up until the players are at risk of mucking things up permanently. Because, like in Papers, Please, it’s the mucking-up that makes the experience here, too. If you play Error Unknown perfectly and stick with what your in-game bosses tell you, you’ll end up stuck in a virtual cubicle, ticking off meaningless promotions every once in a while.
That’s not how things have to go, mind. In fact, we’d argue that it would be much preferable for you to purposefully keep pushing against the narrative and the virtual authority that Tech Support: Error Unknown gives you, because - in the end - this is what the game is all about. It provides you with all the tools you need to peel back the truth behind that which the authority supplies to you, and all you really need to do is use them.
The subject of ‘using tools’ also makes up the essence of Tech Support: Error Unknown, as that’s really all you ever do in this game. Indeed, Error Unknown plays out entirely from behind two layers of screen, the action removed from the player by several orders of magnitude. The game’s single loading screen is presented as an OS booting up, and its interface is actually a virtualised desktop. Simplified, yes, but perhaps not as much as you’d expect from a video game.
It’s not that Error Unknown will hold your hand, either. It’s a game that puts you in the shoes of an upstart IT specialist working tech support for a dystopian mega-company, and you’ll spend the most of your time resolving support tickets of all sorts. The tutorials (tutoriowls?) are there if you really want to use them, but you’re way more likely to reference the game’s in-universe wiki page when it comes to error diagnostics and whatnot. Tech Support: Error Unknown can definitely pull you in for total immersion, but only if you let it.
Concentration is key while playing Tech Support, because a single missed email can cost a day’s worth of earnings if you’re not keeping track of things. Similarly, you can get overwhelmed with new options and unlocks pretty easily. It doesn’t take long before some employees of the aforementioned mega-company, Quasar, are contacted by a hacktivist group eager to bring them down. Of course, the player is one of the contactees, and it is at this point that the game’s complex interaction system really kicks into gear. It is at this point that the game’s duality system (whether the player leans more heavily toward their employers or the hacktivists) comes into play, too.
In Tech Support: Error Unknown, players themselves decide how they want to handle any given interaction. With dozens of different endings (some of which may pop up really early if you’re not careful), this game presents an impressive narrative experience where some might expect there to be none. To illustrate, at one point in the game, hacktivists may or may not offer the player root access to their workstation. If during the dialogue, the player seems receptive to the idea but does not move to activate the so-called Terminal and purge all chat logs from that day, they’ll get fired and arrested when they leave the building.
Indeed, there’s a staggering number of ways for things to go wrong in Tech Support, but that’s really the beauty of it. To see how your own decisions and behaviour affect the narrative is quite marvellous indeed. It is marred, however, by a few things that may be hard to ignore, depending on how pedantic you are.
For example, the vast majority of support tickets you get in Error Unknown are procedurally-generated, and this includes the types of interactions you’ll get from people who will require your solving of said support tickets. This works fine for the most part, but the game features a highly-contextual dialogue system which provides you with a selection of pre-made responses that change depending on when they are chosen.
It will definitely happen that, from time to time, both you and the AI will seem confused as to what is actually going on in the conversation, and this kind of kills the immersion that the rest of the game works so hard to establish. On a related note, it may also happen that the “person” you’re helping out has a change of personality mid-dialogue, though this happened only twice in all of my combined playthroughs of the game.
On a final note, solving customer support tickets does get repetitive after a while, even though the gameplay systems in place do make things a hoot most of the time. This is par the course, and shouldn’t be taken against Tech Support: Error Unknown. It does also depend on the amount of hacking and fiddling that you yourself do during your ingame work-days, so take that criticism with a grain of salt.
The game will also run on basically anything, which is a major boon for players with machines on the lower end of the hardware spectrum. Seriously, chances are that Tech Support will run on a cold Hot Pocket if need be, so don’t worry about it if you’ve got a PC with hardware made in the last millennia.
TECH SUPPORT: ERROR UNKNOWN VERDICT
A lovely experiment in its own right, Tech Support: Error Unknown is not for the faint of heart. Even at the lowest difficulty, it only comes into its own with an attentive player capable of reading between the lines. Though technical problems exist, they don’t get in the way too much. Recommended for those who’d like to try out something new and different, and don’t have a problem with sticking with the game until it really clicks.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Unlocking the game’s Terminal and, subsequently, seeing its functionality flourish.
Deep, varied gameplay
An impressive amount of functionality wherever you look
Solid implementation of an over-arching narrative into the core mechanics of the game
Great learning curve
AI tends to lose track of conversation sometimes
contextual dialogue does not work from time to time