Many who have stepped into the Cyberpunk realm have either successfully managed to illustrate the cruel yet fascinating world in a remarkable way, or have failed due to lack of direction. As a child there were many television shows, anime as well as film, that jumped to the opportunity to paint their perfect picture of what cyberpunk looked like. We had greats like Blade Runner, which Observer is directly influenced by, along with the incredible and impactful stories of Akira, and Ghost in the Shell. All of these examples still resonate in today’s social environment because they laid down the fundamental ingredients that helped to develop what has now become one of the most iconic genres we’ve seen in recent memory. Of course, there are a plethora of genres out there that hold their weight, but none can really come close to the creativity and depth that is the cyberpunk genre. The reason for that is because unlike the others, cyberpunk delivers this uncanny realism that can now be seen in our current state of life, and perhaps within the next 10 to 20 years it may all feel too real. Observer takes that realism along with the psychological aspects to create a deep, dark and menacing thrill ride that cannot be duplicated.
What to Expect
Sci-fi horror fans can now rejoice and celebrate because Observer delivers with an emotionally driven story, a haunting yet spellbinding tale of a man who must deal with his turbulent past in order to rewrite an uncertain future. You have subtle hints of Resident Evil with remnants of Layers of Fear scattered all throughout the game, with eye popping visuals that are compelling yet eerie all at the same time. It’s psychologically enchanting because there’s just so much to absorb as you play through the game. Every interrogation only adds more to the already thick plot, and Rutger Hauer’s voice pierces your eardrums with his soothing yet intimidating voice. Much of the game consists of scanning the environment for clues, many of which can be obtained through speaking with Tenants or using your special techniques (which will discuss more of in detail later) to track down the truth. If you pay close attention as well, you may actually find some light in this game with regards to small bonus games.
You star as Detective Daniel Lazarski who is of course played by Rutger Hauer, the celebrated actor from perhaps one of the greatest movies to have ever been released in history, Blade Runner. In the distant future of 2084 where a violent outbreak known as the Nanophage has ripped through the flesh of humanity and sparked a deadly war, which has costed the lives of millions. Those who have managed to survive now turn to drugs, neural implants, or just about whatever they can get their hands on to erase the painful past. Daniel is an elite neural detective known as an Observer and his duty is to hack and invade the minds of suspects to gather important information. On duty, he receives a strange message from what seems to be his estranged son, a well known engineer who works for Chiron Corporation, and now he’s to look for clues as to his son’s whereabouts in the dark and gritty C class sector of Krakow.
Observer isn’t a long game when you compare it to other titles, but it’s not so much the depth but rather it’s overall delivery that keeps you absorbed for the entire duration. From the opening presentation to the powerful voicing, everything just feels remarkably well done and Bloober Team have really nailed everything entirely. To be honest, at first we were a bit skeptic at just how the game would pan out because let’s face it, there are a ton of titles out there that paint a pretty picture but lacks meaning and overall appeal. This really isn’t the case at all with Observer because it’s emotionally riveting and tells a story that people can relate to in some way or another. We’ve all had that dream of being able to read someone’s mind in order to determine whether or not they’re bluffing or telling the truth, and all of that is given life in this game. Using special abilities known as Electromagnetic Vision — which can scan electronic devices and provide hacking uses — and Bio Vision — which is able to scan traces of blood from the deceased, along with other biological evidence — Daniel is able to track down information with pinpoint accuracy and use these clues as tools to further guide him along his journey.
The pace of game is slow and methodical as you scour through every room for whatever traces of evidence you can find, while using a conversation tree to determine the right direction to take to making your investigation a lot easier. It’s all of course wonderfully illustrated while playing and at times really toys with your mind due to all of the crazy stuff that takes place while entering the minds of a criminal. You’re greeted with random flickers of light, distorted vision among many other things, and all of this just adds to that psychological thrill that this game provides. It administers just enough to get you hooked but not so much to distract you from the overall experience. You feel this odd tension when digging deep into the minds of a suspect or victim because as humans, we’ve often feared that anyone who toys with our minds can pretty much manipulate us in any way, shape or form. Observer questions all of these moral connotations of using our most treasured memories against us at will, as a weapon to solving crime. It’s certainly scary to think about because we know that this very moral implication comes with significant repercussions that could end in disastrous ways. With every turn you make further increasing the uncertainty of what’s to come, you find yourself having to backtrack at times to make sure you’ve gathered whatever you felt was necessary to move on. Every mind you jump in comes with a different adventure, each dark and moody in their own respective ways but alluring all at the same time.
The game tests you at times to see just whether you’re truly paying attention or not, throwing in off putting sounds into the mix or exercising your morality by having to make difficult choices on the fly. The imagery used within the game is subtle yet delivers in a powerful way, and the more you pay closer attention to them the more Observer pops out at you. While the gameplay is simple since most of what you do is walk around and scour for clues, it’s just the overall desire to dive deeper that makes everything so mind blowing. Walking into the minds of a victim takes you on this emotional rollercoaster ride as they tell a story of what was once a promising life, only to have it robbed from them in an instant in the most gruesome fashion. This lays down the reminder for all of us that there is no certainty in our lives and so we must learn to deal with the trials and tribulations that it throws our way. Being able to see everything unravel from start to finish is truly a terrifying experience because you know deep down that this could happen to just about anyone, including yourself.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Observer deserves a lot of credit for redefining the sci-fi horror genre because it doesn’t try to sugar coat anything or falsify anything that happens throughout the game. Every experience is pure to the bone and for that very reason it truly eats away at your conscience even more, knowing that this very reality in Krakow could potentially come a reality in the current world we live in. It sheds light on the darker aspects of the mind and gives us a peek at what we all go through in life, up until that very last moment. Rutger Hauer’s deep and persuasive tone is a splendid addition to it all and we can only wish that Bloober Team would make a sequel at some point, because this game is truly outstanding.
Gripping and emotionally powerful story.
Voice acting is top notch.
Psychologically stimulating and at times frightening.
Perhaps make it a little longer so we can enjoy it more.
Honey's Final Verdict:
We hope you found this review to be insightful and provides enough information for you to determine your purchase. We of course can’t read your minds like Daniel does but we can assure you that Observer is a game that will take you on a totally different journey unlike any other, and while the game is short in comparison to other titles it’s deep and provocative story will have you coming back anyway. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to stay updated with our game reviews along with otaku culture of course, and hit us up on Twitch to watch us play all of these fantastic games live!
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!