Observer - Cyberpunk Silent Hill

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by CT Phipps, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    OBSERVER by Polish developer Bloober is a game which I was very intrigued by but didn't get around to playing until December. The fact it starred Rutger Hauer and was a cyberpunk horror video game is something which makes me feel like I was missing out on something seriously good. On the other hand, it was also a game by the same team which made Layers of Fear, which was a game with almost minimal interactivity. Somewhat like the video game "Myst", it was accused of being a Walking Simulator where the only purpose of the game is to go from Point A to Point B in order to experience the story.

    Well, this is true. It is a walking simulator and the number of puzzles you have to solve are fairly minimal but that doesn't mean it's not an amazingly entertaining game. The atmosphere of the game is incredible, the writing is excellent, and there's a lot of atmosphere that works wonders. The game has quite a few problems and there's places where it drags because of the design but it's still definitely something that I enjoyed from start to finish.

    The premise for Observer is it's post-apocalypse, well, post-second apocalypse. After the Nanophage devastated the Earth, the East and West blasted each other to ribbons. This resulted in Poland being one of the few civilized places on Earth. Daniel Lazarski, a sixty-something police officer, works for the Chiron Corporation as an Observer. They're cyborgs who can pull the memories out of subjects in order to relive them. After being contacted by his son for the first time in decades, he decides to link up with him at a spectacularly crappy apartment complex in the slums where he discovers a series of murders have taken place.

    For the most part, the game consists of Daniel wandering around the apartment complex talking to individuals locked in their apartments via intercoms and investigating clues. This is more riveting than it sounds as it provides the "lull" between diving into people's memories and allows you to calm down after the terrifying parts.

    Many horror games don't give you interludes between the scary bits and thus suffer diminishing returns. This isn't a survival horror game but it is a horror game with the the feeling of terror coming from the implications of the events around you. Sadly, there is a couple of portions of the game where survival is necessarily a problem and these are actually the worst parts of the game. It's weird because I normally wouldn't come down on a game which promoted stealth but it was jarringly out of place in a game which was otherwise simple exploration.

    The cyberpunk world of Krakow is beautifully realized, though perhaps beautifully isn't the right word. The Stacks are a horribly dirty, dingy, and crumbling environment with overflowing toilets and birds hanging around every spot they can. Water drips in through holes in the walls and it's obvious the place is barely hanging together. Yet, even so, Augmented Reality advertisements and lights are everywhere. It's a nice symbol corporate technology hasn't improved anything but simply been added a a patch over very real problems.

    The real heart of the game isn't the parts exploring the complex, though, but the "mind diving" where you experience the memories of dead or dying individuals. This is extremely hazardous but Daniel has no choice but to do it. What follows are psychedelic Silent Hill 2-esque journeys into the fears and regrets of each candidate. My favorite would have to be the Helena mindscape as we see a seemingly well-adjusted office drone and housewife's terrifying neuroses given life.

    So what are Observer's flaws? Well, bluntly, the controls handle like ass. Opening a door was sometimes an enormous pain in the ass and while it's nice to be able to open things by inches, there's no real point since nothing is going to grab you. The few times there are stealth selections in the game, they come across as jarring and consist solely of hiding and crouching. I think the game would have been much better with a simpler, "Push X" to interact with objects. While the darkness and screams are part of the game's appeal, it's also sometimes too dark to know where to go.

    In conclusion, this is still a great game but will be frustrating for some. Observer is built around a minimum amount of assets but is beautiful, scary, and well-designed from beginning to end. Sadly, the controls aren't great and the limitations of the game are obvious.

  2. SuAside

    SuAside Testament to the ghoul lifespan

    May 27, 2004
    As a big Blade Runner fan, I bought it at release.
    I think it was certainly worth the cost, but the replayability is rather small.

    I wish they had cut down a bit on some of the mindscape stuff as some of those sections became quite lengthy, but overall I quite liked it.

    (That said, don't be fooled by the trailer. The "wow" moment you get from the flying car over the tattoo shop was fucking perfect, but is never repeated.)
  3. Hassknecht

    Hassknecht I guess you're through, huh? Admin Orderite

    Aug 16, 2010
    I moved SuAside's answer to this thread and deleted the other one.
  4. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    Thanks man!