Observer is a game released on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One. You can get the game on Steam if you want to play on the PC. Observer is a survival horror game made by the same developers that brought the world a fantastic horror game, Layers of Fear. But is the game as good as Layers of Fear? Does it live up to the high quality its game developers have shown us in the past? In this Observer game review, you will find out.
What is the story behind Observer?
Observer is a horror game played from a first person perspective. The story takes place in a semi-dystopian future, where a huge corporation controls the people in an iron vice, ‘Chiron’. You play as Daniel Lazarski, a special detective who can hack into people’s minds and re-live their memories through nightmarish visions.
Although the world of the people’s minds is terrifying, and you are also losing your grip on what is real and what is not throughout the game… You must partake in continuing this horrifying method of detective work to continue discovering the truth.
Your mission is to investigate a strange string of murders that is occurring within an apartment complex. After receiving a cryptic call from your son who lives in the same apartment complex, you have even more reason to investigate the place. On your investigation and search for the truth you will discover….strange and frightening things.
The gameplay of observer is fairly simple and split into two main parts. One is the reality section. In this section you exist outside peoples dreams and things are (mostly) real. You have two different ‘vision’ modes that you can use to analyze crime scenes and objects. Analyzing things reveals extra information about these objects that give you clues on how to continue progressing. The other vision similarly is used to detect things, you also have a night vision too.
You also need to collect medicine called syncrozine, which helps you stabilize your mental condition after entering someone’s memories. Speaking of entering memories…
The second main part of the game centers around entering into the minds of people and searching their memories for clues. You can enter the minds of those who are alive and those who were recently killed. In these memories, you traverse an ever-changing and morphing world often filled with scary things and ominous messages that hint to the things the people knew.
The games strengths are focused around how well the game sells the environment. The immersion brought about with stunning graphics and an extremely careful attention to details by the developers really does shine. You will feel as if you are truly present in this strange futuristic horror world.
Another strong point of the game is that you have multiple choices and decisions that you can make. There is no true linear path and you are free to explore as you wish. This leads to multiple branching endings within the story, because of this, your decisions also really matter. In Observer, you are not just there for the ride, but can truly choose how you want to play and progress.
There are also negatives to this game though. The first weakness of the game is undoubtedly…the voice acting. Although the legendary Rutger Hauer voices the main character, often the delivery of his dialog falls…flat. This is especially problematic because the game is a horror game, to be able to achieve its goal of being scary to the player, it needs to be very immersive. The lack of emotion and sometimes off-putting remarks of the main character seem… unnatural, and work against the games objective of being scary and immersive.
This problem is further increased by how chatty the main character is. Silence and lack of dialog are sometimes very important to a scary game, as the over exposure of the presence of dialog can work to reduce the scariness of a scary game. Instead of making you feel as if you are the main character, the game seems more like you are overlooking the experience of the main character. This is a very big difference and makes the game feel less immersive and scary. Which is a real shame because the visuals are extremely amazing.
Another thing the game does wrong is how it diffuses the tension far too quickly. Often scary games have moments of ‘rest’ where the player is taken out of a horror scene or moment and can relax for a breather. These moments simply happen…too often in Observer. The game has more neutral moments that it does scary ones. It can be understood near the beginning of the game, as you are slowly being introduced to the world and the narrative is still being set. But rather than continually building up tension and only giving few moments of rest, half the game Is basically looting and running around looking for things to do or figuring out where your next destination is.
When compared to Layers of Fear, the Observer is simply…nowhere near as scary. Since the Observer is marketed as a horror game though, this a major problem. A scary game should at the very least…be scary.
It is important to note though, that there are some truly terrifying moments within the game but…That’s the problem. There are far too few moments like this.
Another problem with Observer has to do with its many endings. Everyone’s experience of the game is different, since the game has different conclusions. A problem with this though, is that some of the endings you can obtain… are extremely lackluster. You can obtain endings to the game earlier than should be possible. These endings make you miss large portions of content. And as you can imagine… This reduces the enjoyment of the game immensely.
A lackluster ending can leave the player with a bad taste, and can even ruin their entire experience. Its good that decisions matter and that they can alter the events of the game. But Observer does this in a way that is frowned upon… Simply because you just end up missing on so much content. The narrative of the game also ends up feeling a lot more dull and hollow. Something that the game should avoid happening at all cost.
Should you buy the game?
Despite the very large flaws the game has, it might be worth it to buy the game if this is your first horror game. If you find scary and squeamish things particularly something you avoid, but despite that want to give a scary game a try, then this game is a very good entry level horror game. The game isn’t very scary or grotesque, and you can find many moments of relief that will let you recollect yourself. If you find yourself to be a casual player with not too much time on your hands, then this is a good game for you to try. The game isn’t very long and is a very visually amazing experience.