Observer is a futuristic survival horror game set in the year 2084, in a world where humans are augmenting themselves with cybernetic implants. A digital plague has caused many deaths, resulting in a sort of dystopian future.
Observer is set in Poland, where the corporation Chiron has taken control has created a Fifth Polish Republic, a police unit known as Observers. Observers are detectives who have the ability, and license, to hack victims minds to help with their investigations.
They also have the ability to scan environments with Electromagnetic Vision for electronics, and Bio Vision to scan for biological evidence, which you’ll be using throughout the game.
You play as Daniel Lazarski, an elderly man still working as an Observer, where you’re suddenly contacted by your son Adam who seems to be in danger. Naturally you make your way to the location given to you to investigate only to find a crime scene in his apartment.
After discovering some clues about what’s going on, the entire building goes into lock-down, where no one can escape. This sets up an intriguing mystery that you feel compelled to solve.
The setting for Observer is a strong cyberpunk one, mostly situated in an apartment building. It feels like a mixture of Blade Runner and The Matrix. It’s very futuristic with all the bright neon signs, holographic images, and basically all kinds of advanced technology scattered all over the place. At the same time though, it’s all fairly bleak, but this adds to the atmosphere.
I’d say the game’s setting and atmosphere is the absolute best part of this game! It’s so immersive and it pulls you right in from the start all the way to the end. It’s certainly not a futuristic setting you would want to be stuck in, but makes for a fascinating place to explore.
Just to add to it all, the few characters you interact with aren’t 100% human, as they’re littered with augmentations, and they seem more robot than human.
Speaking of characters, you’ll be doing most of your questioning through the vidcoms on people’s doors. Almost everyone you speak to lives in paranoia and fear as you’ll hear this in their voices, and this is so believable especially considering the game’s setting. The conversations between yourself and characters feel real as well, despite not ever seeing them in person.
The game’s story is intriguing from the very start and the build-up doesn’t take long. This is a great way to start a story because no one should ever be bored or left waiting for something exciting to happen early on.
You’ll be moving from one apartment room to another, trying to connect the dots in search of your son Adam. When investigating a crime scene, there are two different scanners you can use. The Electromagnetic Vision allows you to scan certain pieces of technology which can help you find new evidence or clues.
You can also scan items not related to the crime scene just for extra information. The Bio Vision allows you to scan anything biological such as corpses, blood stains, etc. Doing this may reveal a connection to someone or something else you’ll need to further investigate.
One of the major events you’ll take part in is the Neural Investigations. This involves you connecting to the target’s mind and seeing what went through their mind. It’s a way of interrogating them without needing to speak.
These moments in the game were among the strangest in the game. You’ll see some real mind-bending scenes which are too bizarre to properly explain. Some scenes, for example, will have you try to escape an unknown monster without being spotted.
This is reminiscent of games like Alien: Isolation and Soma. While they were creepy and tense sections, they felt like more of a nuisance than anything, like it was added in for the sake of extra gameplay. From a story perspective it made sense, and those moments did a great job of making you feel what you were meant to feel in those particular scenarios.
I felt more relieved than anything when they were over though. Don’t even get me started on the awful corn fields section, I hated that the most in this game.
Even though the Neural Investigations were clearly designed to be some of the more memorable sections in the game, I felt they just went on for too long. They explained a lot in terms of the different character’s background and motivations, but they were padded out too much and I couldn’t wait for them all to end.
Like the Neural Investigations, the second half of Observer slowly started to lose my interest. I never felt a real buildup towards the finale and I was starting to push myself towards the end, rather than the game pulling me towards it.
Maybe it was from all the walking around and watching things happen, and not enough of a ‘game’ to play, which tends to happens in these type of games. The side missions were fairly entertaining and interesting, but there weren’t that many to do.
The ending itself was still quite good. There are multiple endings so you’ll need to choose what you believe is the best outcome. It may not have been as mind-blowing as I would’ve expected, especially for a game so twisted, but I was satisfied enough.
By the end of it all, Observer will ask you questions about humanity and existence. I think it does a pretty good job of driving those point home, and it can leave for some interesting debate afterwards. This review isn’t the place for me to go into my thoughts about it, but I assure you it is thought-provoking.
Overall my experience of Observer was still a mostly positive one. It isn’t perfect and could improve in many ways, but I’ll certainly remember it for its immersive setting and atmosphere. The whole mystery was still intriguing to follow for most of the way through, but needed a stronger buildup and killer punch by the end, but just fell a little short for me.