I found We Stay Behind through a series of Unforeseen Incidents.
That was the title of a game I came across at the Rezzed expo in April 2018 (I had to get the pun in there). The chance to play the demo at the event may have been stolen away from me when my stepson jumped into the seat before I could sit down, but what I saw that day was enough to convince me to keep an eye on Backwoods Entertainment’s point-and-click.
I managed to complete the full release around a year later (without the kid getting in the way this time) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It managed to be funny while telling the serious tale about an unknown disease spreading across the country through a set of likeable and well-voiced characters, with puzzles which were clever enough to be challenging yet not frustrating.
Let’s skip forward to August 2019 when Resort made an appearance in my Steam discovery queue. Its strange narrative about the inhabitants of former health resort Laburnum Creek, who were refusing to leave despite a comet being on course to destroy their home, stood out from the other FPS and horror titles included in the batch. I’m a sucker for stylised low-poly visuals too so this upcoming project had all the elements needed to earn itself a place on my wishlist.
It’s now June 2022 and an email from Application Systems Heidelberg arrived in my inbox last week with news of We Stay Behind. I smiled at the coincidence when I read that it was in development by Backwoods Entertainment and had been renamed from ‘Resort’ to better reflect its story. The publisher had kindly included the offer of a key for a demo, so I started up my laptop last weekend for a small taste of what’s coming next from the creators of Unforeseen Incidents.
There’s something about We Stay Behind which is intriguing, and it makes me want to uncover the dark secrets that are clearly hiding beneath its surface.
Players start by guiding writer Laura Tanner on a short walk through the woods towards her van in a segment which takes less than 20 minutes to complete. The views of sunlight through leaves on the ground and water in the distance are absolutely lovely, and instantly reminded me of a kind of across between Firewatch and Lake. I did notice some minor stuttering and the demo burned through my charged laptop battery, but We Stay Behind is still in development and these are kinks which can be ironed out.
Laura has been invited to see Mr Lovell for an interview so her next task is to drive to his house. As someone who always struggles with controlling vehicles in video games (as anyone who watched me stream Lake will be able to confirm), I’m pleased to say the van didn’t flip over once and the protagonist made it there alive. There was no tutorial within my version of the demo and so it took a couple of minutes to figure out which buttons to press, but it felt more intuitive once I’d switched from keyboard-and-mouse to controller.
It’s easy to tell that something is troubling Mr Lovell. During a conversation with him, dialogue options are presented on screen and you’re given a set amount of time to make a selection. The Steam page advises that this is interactive story so, even though the demo didn’t really show the impact of my choices, it seems like the decisions you make as Laura will affect the world around her. It certainly felt as though the way I handled My Lovell was going to be key to the amount of information he’d disclose.
After sharing background about his wife and two sons, my interviewee gradually became more defensive. I eventually managed to get him to admit to bad dreams and seeing things at night but he didn’t want to go into detail about any of it. Why does he think there’s something in the water? And why is he sure he has seen Laura in Laburnum Creek before? There’s more going on in here than it first seems and, as per the game’s description: there’s something rotten at the heart of this picturesque town.
Other than short soundtracks at the beginning and end, the demo mostly consists of ambient sounds such as birds chirping and wood creaking. It’s nice enough but feels as though the game would really benefit from some voice-acting to bring more life and curiosity to its world and characters, as it gives the impression of being a little empty right now. The Steam page confirms that the title’s compelling and quirky characters will be ‘fully voiced by talented actors’ so this is something we’ve got to look forward to.
It’s hard to tell exactly where We Stay Behind is going from the small snippet I’ve experienced so far though. But there’s something about it which is intriguing, and it makes me want to uncover the dark secrets which are clearly hiding beneath its surface. Application Systems Heidelberg’s email last week advised that it’s heavily inspired by Twin Peaks and David Lynch, along with mystery television shows like Stranger Things and narrative releases such as Firewatch – so please sign me up already.
There doesn’t appear to be an official release date yet but hopefully we won’t have to wait too long. You can follow Backwoods Entertainment on Twitter for the latest news and check out the demo for yourself during this week’s Steam Next Fest.