It’s late. You’re sitting on the couch staring at the TV. The phone rings. You glance away from the dim screen over at the clock hanging on the wall. You reach over to grab the phone and hold it up to your ear. “Hey, Em.” The voice on the other end sounds tired. “He has cancer. It’s … terminal.” You close your eyes as the words, sinister and cruel, plague your thoughts. Terminal Cancer. “I need you to tell your brothers for me.” You hang up and sink further into the couch. The feet of the analog clock continue their calculated trek around each number; time stops for no one. Time is precious, and terminal cancer does not care.
We All End Up Alone is to be a narrative-driven game that focuses on the life of someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer. “Instead of watching someone else fight, We All End Up Alone invites you to live the experience and fight the disease yourself,” reads the game’s description. Before you draw the comparison, it’s unlike That Dragon, Cancer, where you play the passive role of spectator, watching the ups and downs of a family dealing with their young child’s illness.
Instead, We All End Up Alone will be about “blending everyday life management and exploration gameplay.” You’ll choose how to spend energy to keep stress low and morale high—during the day you can give yourself medicine or socialize with a friend or a loved one. When the night comes, you’ll explore the dreamlike world of your unconscious to fight your fears or the consequences of your actions.
According to the Steam Greenlight page, the actions you take during the day and night cycles are connected and the choices you make will affect the story. It’s too early to tell exactly how the choices you make during the day affect the nightly dream state you enter, as there isn’t a lot of information provided. But one example is, if you talk to a friend who is “too tiring” and run out of energy to take your medicine, there will be repercussions while you sleep.
Although still in production, there is a playable demo provided by creator Nice Penguin. It’s short, but gives some insight on how the rest of the game (when finished) will play out. In my own experience of the demo, two days before my doctor’s visit, I took my medicine, talked with a friend, watched TV … and then fell asleep. The first night I ran from artistic renditions of the illness, jumping and dodging where I could before I succumbed and woke up to a new day. It’ll be interesting to see how We All End Up Alone portrays cancer, and how playing from the perspective of someone who is battling it might offer something different. Despite the subject matter, the game doesn’t appear to be sad, but rather introspective.