We Stay Behind, video game, box art, camping, cabin, wood, forest, trees, lake

We Stay Behind preview: there’s something in the water

You could say I found We Stay Behind through a series of Unforeseen Incidents.

My relationship with this game has been going on for over five years now. I first came across Unforeseen Incidents at the Rezzed expo in April 2018. The chance to play the demo was stolen from me when my stepson jumped into the seat at the booth, but seeing the demo convinced me to keep an eye on this point-and-click.

I played the full release a year later and really enjoyed the experience. It managed to be funny while telling a serious tale about an unknown disease spreading across the country (which sounds rather familiar now that I think about it). The characters were well-voiced and likeable, and the puzzles were clever enough to be challenging yet not frustrating.

A few months later in August 2019, Resort appeared in my Steam discovery queue. It promised a strange narrative about the inhabitants of a former health resort called Laburnum Creek who were refusing to leave despite a comet being on course to destroy their home. This, along with attractive visuals, made it stand out from the batch of horror releases presented and earned it a place on my wishlist.

In June 2022, I received an email from Application Systems Heidelberg with news about We Stay Behind. It turned out that Resort’s name had been changed to better reflect its story, and both this project and Unforeseen Incidents were the work of Backwoods Entertainment. I accepted the publisher’s kind offer of a key for a demo. Although it was hard to tell where it was going from this small snippet, there was something about it which hinted at dark secrets and left me intrigued.

It’s now August 2023 and I’m a backer for the recently launched Kickstarter campaign for We Stay Behind. An updated demo is available via Steam and includes a little more content than the one published last year. It begins with Laura Tanner, a renowned writer, arriving in Laburnum Creek after a car accident the night before. She’s here to interview the residents and uncover the truth: why are they so determined to stay when a comet is threatening to destroy everything in its path?

The artwork remains lovely and very different from Unforeseen Incidents. When Laura’s walk through the woods shows sunlight through leaves on the ground and water in the distance, it’s like a cross between Firewatch and Lake. The latter is actually cited as an inspiration by the developer on the Kickstarter page thanks to its rich story. Oxenfree, Twin Peaks and The X-Files are given as other influences so the vibe that Backwoods Entertainment is going for is clear.

Maggie is the first inhabitant Laura meets and it’s from her that we find out about the vibrations. She says that visitors to the resort often take a day or two to adjust and they’re the reason for Laura’s recent headaches, but she’ll feel so much better soon because Laburnum Creek does something to people. At first it seems like Maggie is simply someone who believes in mystical energy lines and auras, but the rest of the demo hints that there may be more to this situation.

I found my way to the tourist information office, abandoned town, Harris’ cabin and general store. Flyers posted in each of these locations reveal that tourist guide Vicky Bryce went missing several weeks ago, and through conversations with residents I discovered that she had disappeared in the forest after last being seen at the visitor centre. Things became even stranger when I located Laura’s van and headed out to visit Foster Lovell in the hope of bagging an interview.

As someone who always struggles with controlling them in video games, I’m pleased to report that this vehicle was very easy to steer. Brief instructions have been added since the original demo last year and the controls feel intuitive when using a controller. I managed to make it to Lovell’s cabin without crashing during the short journey and with the protagonist in one piece. It’s just unfortunate that Laura didn’t receive a very warm welcome and had to convince him to let her in.

We Stay Behind, video game, screenshot, cabin, balcony, lake, water, comet, sky, Lovell, Laura Tanner, interview

It’s obvious that something dark is troubling Lovell. During conversation, dialogue options are presented onscreen and you’re given a set amount of time to select one. The Kickstarter page advises that this is an interactive story so, even though the demo didn’t really show the impact of my choices, it seems that the decisions you make as Laura will affect the world around her. It’s clear that the way you handle Lovell is going to be key to the amount of information he’ll disclose.

When I played the original demo, I remember him telling me about his wife and two sons. This time however, he became defensive in a shorter space of time. 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 here than it first seems and, as per We Stay Behind’s description: there’s something rotten at the heart of this town.

Other than short soundtracks at several points, the new demo matches the original in terms of sound and consists of ambient bird chirps and tree creaks. It’s nice enough but still feels as though the game would benefit from some voice-acting to bring more life and curiosity to its world. Fortunately, the Steam page confirms that the title’s ‘compelling and quirky characters’ will be fully voiced by talented actors. I’m looking forward to seeing what this adds to the experience.

It’s still difficult to tell where We Stay Behind is going after this 55-minute slice. But I’m even more intrigued now after finding out about the vibrations and Vicky Bryce’s disappearance, and am glad I backed the Kickstarter campaign. At the time of writing, the project is well on its way to meeting its £21,362 target by 10 September 2023. I’m hopeful it’ll reach the €29,00 stretch goal so we’ll get the Hiking downloadable content (DLC) and will be able to explore the scenery on the trails around Laburnum Creek.

There’s still time to try the demo for yourself and make a pledge towards the campaign if you like what you see. And for any point-and-click fans reading this, I highly recommend checking out Unforeseen Incidents while we’re waiting for We Stay Behind to be released next year.

4 thoughts on “We Stay Behind preview: there’s something in the water

  1. Sounds like a very interesting story and you did a great job describing your experience! Might have to check this one out – just as long as I play it before the comet hits 😂

    • It’s definitely an intriguing one, more so as I couldn’t entirely figure out what was going on from the demo. The good news is that the Kickstarter campaign is now funded so I guess we’ll find out soon!

  2. Weird! I had Resort/We Stay Behind on my GOG wishlist for a while, I had no idea it was by the same folks as Unforeseen Incidents – which I loved (even though I first played it just as the pandemic hit, which was a bit weird). I’ll check out the demo – thanks for the heads up!

    • I know what you mean about not being aware that it was by the same developer. I had no idea until I received the email, because We Stay Behind looks and plays quite differently to Unforeseen Incidents. Hope you enjoy the demo! 🙂

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