Due to the rise of the indie video game scene we are seeing games being made on wide variety of topics. I have to say that I never expected to see a video game based on being a tech support specialist. How would you even make a video game where all you do is help customers with their tech issues? Well today’s game Tech Support: Error Unknown does exactly that. As I am always interested in trying out unique ideas, I was intrigued by Tech Support: Error Unknown. What really intrigued me was that the game reminded me a lot of Papers, Please; a game I really enjoyed. Though it has some issues of its own that need fixing, Tech Support: Error Unknown is a surprisingly fun dive into the “exciting” world of tech support.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Dragon Slumber and Iceberg Interactive for the review copy of Tech Support: Error Unknown used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In Tech Support: Error Unknown you play as a person who has been recently hired by Quasar Telecommunications as a tech support specialist. In your new job you work from home and use a special operating system to communicate with customers. In your job you are required to help customers with their tech issues and hopefully resolve them in a satisfactory manner. After a couple days on the job you are contacted by Indigo, a “hackitivist” group that is trying to bring down Quasar Telecommunications due to their lax attitude towards customer privacy and overall greed. You are also contacted by the police who are investigating Quasar and Indigo. Which side will you choose to help or will you just decide to help yourself to as much money as possible?
Tech Support: Error Unknown is one of those type of video games that are hard to truly describe as it doesn’t really fit into any of your traditional video game genres. The basic gameplay loop involves having customers contact you and you trying to solve their problems. You will interact with customers using a chat menu which has generic messages that you must choose between to try and help them through their problems. Most interactions involve asking them about their problem and how it happened, offering some solutions which may or may not work, and finally either getting them to send in their phones if they are under warranty or trying to upsell them with solutions if their phone is not under warranty.
This seems simple at first but the game adds other factors into the mix. In the early game most of the solutions involve choosing the right options from the menu to fix their problems. As you progress in the game though you will have to email customers additional details or even remotely activate their phones to solve certain problems. In addition you can hack into people’s accounts to blackmail them for money. Every couple days the game adds a few more tasks that you are responsible for doing which leads to more and more complex tasks.
Like with real customer service, customers are really impatient. If you don’t help them with their problems quickly, they will get angry and hurt your ranking/reputation with the company. At the same time this is your job and you are paid for how many customers you can help/upsell. Early in the game you are only forced to handle one customer at a time. You can voluntarily handle more to earn more money. As the game progresses you are eventually forced to handle two or three customers at a time. Having to juggle conversations with multiple customers at the same time requires a lot of multitasking.
While it is kind of hard to describe Tech Support: Error Unknown, I enjoyed playing it. I never really thought I would like a game where you pretended to be a technical support specialist as the premise doesn’t sound like it would make for a very interesting game. The idea of guiding customers through a checklist to figure out what is wrong with their phones probably doesn’t sound all that interesting to a lot of people. I have to say though that I was genuinely surprised by how addicting the game can be. While playing the game an hour or two would pass and I was none the wiser. The gameplay is pretty simple but there is something really satisfying about it. The gameplay really starts to pick up when you try to handle multiple customers at the same time.
Tech Support: Error Unknown, does have a learning curve though. I would say that I am generally pretty good with technology but I have no tech support experience. While I played the game I usually had a good idea of how to solve customer issues but the game still has a learning curve as you learn how to use the interface that communicates with the customers. The game gives you really basic responses. At times it is hard to know which response you are supposed to give. When new mechanics are introduced the game only somewhat explains them. This requires you to learn them on the fly. They are pretty easy to figure out on your own, but Tech Support: Error Unknown could have done a better job explaining them. With the time crunch to help customers as quickly as possible, the game feels a little overwhelming at first. As you play the game though you start to adjust and things become easier which allows you to deal with multiple customers at the same time.
Due to the fact that you are mostly just starring at a computer screen, you wouldn’t think that there would be a lot to the game’s atmosphere. I actually think the game does a much better job in this area than you would expect. The gameplay makes it feel like you are really working in tech support. The game does a good job creating the illusion that you are using a special operating system. At times it really feels like you are using a computer inside the game. While I have never worked in tech support, I think the game does a good job simulating the customer aspect as well. The customers sometime feel like robots repeating the same scripts over and over again. They seem to react realistically to the choices you make though. Customers will get angry when you ask them to perform basic tasks (thinking you are insulting their intelligence) or make them wait too long. If customers don’t like what you are telling them (even if you are right), they will swear at you (you can turn this off) and possibly even threaten you. Then at the end of the day you will receive customer reviews. They are usually positive when you do a good job, but there will be customers that give you negative reviews no matter what you do.
This comparison is not perfect but while playing Tech Support: Error Unknown I was regularly reminded of the game Papers, Please. I played Papers, Please a while back and I loved it. There was something really unique about the game that I had never really seen before. Tech Support: Error Unknown seems to have taken a lot of inspiration from Papers, Please. The setting and tasks you are completing are totally different as being a border agent shares little in common with a technical support specialist. The gameplay between the two games share a lot in common though. The whole gameplay loop and the new orders you get most days made me feel like I was playing Papers, Please. I could see fans of Papers, Please really enjoying Tech Support: Error Unknown.
Unfortunately I don’t think Tech Support: Error Unknown is as good as Papers, Please. I think one of the biggest reasons is that the story/atmosphere is not as satisfying. In Tech Support: Error Unknown you basically sit behind a desk and the story unfolds through messages you receive. The story follows the struggle between a company that plays loose with your privacy and a group of hackers that aren’t afraid to bend the law to bring them down. The story is solid but it doesn’t come close to the emotional stakes that Papers, Please had. In Papers, Please you had to make hard decisions between keeping your family safe and helping people that really needed it. This lead to some tough decisions in the game. This is not really the case in Tech Support: Error Unknown.
Another issue with Tech Support: Error Unknown is that you will be repeating a lot of the same tasks over and over again. Later in the game you are introduced to new mechanics which do mix things up a little. Most of the game still revolves around choosing different responses from a menu to get customers to the proper solution. This gameplay is fun for the most part, but after a while it can get a little repetitive. Customers regularly use the exact same script. After a while it gets a little repetitive reading the same things over and over again. Combined with the gameplay only having slight changes each day, towards the end of the game it starts to feel that you are repeating the same day over and over again.
Speaking of gameplay I think it could have used a few tweaks. Most of the time the interactions work well and you can follow a step by step process to narrow down the problem that a customer has. As all of your responses are quite generic though, it is not always easy to know how you are supposed to respond. The response choices are only a couple words long and the game alters them to apply to the current situation. This leads you to occasionally choose a response you think is right that will be changed to something that makes no sense. At first it is hard figuring out how to respond to customers but you adjust to it over time. It never seems to get better when talking with people other than customers though. As you still have to use the generic responses, it is really hard to figure out what response you are supposed to give. For example when talking with Indigo I would regularly get into loops as I had no idea which response I was supposed to give to them to continue the conversation.
While on the topic of gameplay, there are some occasional technical issues with Tech Support: Error Unknown. For the most part the game works well. The entire game is reliant on you using a mouse as that is the only way to interact with the game. Thus you have to click on buttons and windows to perform any action in the game. This usually works well but there were occasional instances where I had to click on buttons a couple times before they would register. I also found it to be hard to handle a lot of windows at the same time. As you only have so much screen space you need to switch between windows but that is harder than it needed to be. You will end up pulling windows, you didn’t want, to the front which will get in the way of what you are trying to do. I wish the game did a better job letting you snap windows to certain areas on the screen so you didn’t have to regularly move them around to see other windows.
As far as how long it will take to beat Tech Support: Error Unkown, it is going to depend on how thorough you are. I would estimate that one playthrough will take most people around five or so hours. That is going to somewhat depend on how you play the game though. First the game lets you retry a day if you don’t like the outcome by quitting back to the menu. Perfectionists may retry a level a couple times in order to improve their score. There is also quite a bit you can explore inside the operating system that has nothing to do with the main gameplay. These things will add time to the game for some players.
Most of the length will come from exploring the different story paths. There are several different ways that you can play the game. As the developers put it, there are several different major and minor endings. With there being three main “factions” in the game, you can play the game at least three times in order to see how aligning with each faction changes the story. I have only played through the hacker path so far (it seemed like it would be the most interesting), but I intend to try out some of the other paths. Players that want to play through all of the different paths will get quite a bit more time out of the game than a person that just wants to beat the game once and move on.
Tech Support: Error Unknown is an interesting game. The idea of making a game out of tech support doesn’t sound that interesting on the surface. The game is surprisingly satisfying though. It is kind of hard to describe what it is like to play the game as it doesn’t really fit into your typical video game genres. The closest comparison I can come up with is the game Papers, Please. In the game you are trying to help customers with their problems while juggling different tasks. This is a lot more fun than I was expecting. Tech Support: Error Unknown clearly takes inspiration from Papers, Please; but it doesn’t quite live up to it. The story and atmosphere aren’t as rewarding. The gameplay encounters occasional issues as you try to deal with the generic responses. After a while the gameplay can become a little repetitive. Nonetheless Tech Support: Error Unknown is a good and unique experience. I think its unique gameplay will appeal to a lot of people but it is not going to be for everyone.
If the idea of working in tech support doesn’t really appeal to you or you didn’t care for Papers, Please; I don’t think Tech Support: Error Unknown will be for you. People who think a tech support game sounds interesting should enjoy their time with the game. While it is not as good as Papers, Please; I think fans of that game should enjoy Tech Support: Error Unknown as well. If either of these describe you I would recommend picking up Tech Support: Error Unknown. I know I enjoyed my time with the game as it is a truly unique experience.