Observer — Review

Observer is a Bladerunner and cyberpunk inspired world that has echoes of past pop culture. It’s the stuff of nightmares for some. It’s a dark and familiar world, filled with dirty rainy streets, lots of neon light and augmented beings everywhere.

This is the platform from which developers Blooper Team have tried to create something new and exciting in a genre that doesn’t get enough love and attention in my opinion.

Observe is set in the year 2084 and is a mirror of our possible future. You play Daniel Lazarski, an augmented detective working in the slums of Krakow, Poland.

In this world, a digital plague killed most of the augmented people and a global war took care of the rest. From the ashes of conflict and bloodshed, Poland emerged as one of the world leaders thanks to the mega company Chiron, part of the 5th Polish Republic.

After the fallout, Chiron became the titans of industry and well, pretty much everything. This is where Lazarski gets his jobs from as his augmentation allows him to hack people’s minds dead or alive, seeing distant memories and other visions. All of this is in aid of solving crimes and mysteries and this is where Lazarski gets his title of Observer.

The majority of Observe takes place in the tight slums and back alley apartment blocks of Krakow. The game has you interact and talks to residents, examine crime scenes and deciphering clues on various objects.

A lot of the narrative and crime solving is done through exploring distant memories that are beautiful in their own right, but also extremely creepy. The environments these sequences take place in are so well crafted that you almost feel like you’re in the mind of a mad man.

This all leads to one of the best cyberpunk stories I’ve seen in years. Observer is far from a rehash of tired tropes and typical dialogue. The apartment block where a lot of the game takes place is really where you start to see how Observer is making its own unique entry into the cyberpunk genre.

As you slowly unravel past events with the use of Lazarski’s augmentations by scanning crime scenes and finding clues or evidence it becomes apparent this game is all about the little details.

Lazarski has an augmentation known as Dream Eater, which allows him to observe people’s minds. It’s in these sequences that Observer presents you with some truly extraordinary and quite scary sections that drive the narrative and tell the story.

You enter somewhat terrifying and nightmarish worlds, with insane, madman like level design. It’s a strange sensation that leaves you almost mentally exhausted from playing them, but after finishing them, you still want to know more.

Exploration and discovery are also areas that progress the story in Observer. From bloody apartments and the eerie narrow corridors, it provides a level of tense gameplay that will have you creeping around your own house after. There’s a mechanic that allows players to open doors in the game an inch at a time and this also adds another element of suspense that I really liked.

There are certain sections of the game that I personally wasn’t particularly fond of, however. Instant fail areas that are somewhat cat and mouse like where players are forced to engage in them. They were somewhat jarring to me and they didn’t seem to fight with the overall story and impression I got from the game. Thankfully there aren’t that many of these sections and the ones that are in the game don’t last longer than a few minutes.

Observer is a game full of suspense and tension. Whether you’re scanning a list of all the tenants before you’re caught or scanning the various occupants for information, the game does an excellent job of making it all seem relevant and pushes you further into its illusion.

As you walk through the different environments hallways will creak and crack, making you jump. You’ll hear all manner of strange noises coming from behind apartment doors that compel you to investigate them. There’s no shortage of uncomfortable and twitch settings throughout this tale.

The audio in this game is one of your biggest enemies as at times it can be truly disturbing and wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie. It’s ominous and dread like soundtrack all but enhances an already tense experience by just sprinkling a little extra dread into the environment as you creep around.

Every scene and piece to the overall puzzle seem to have relevance in Observer and not a lot of titles can say that. You’ll engage with interesting characters that have some rather crazy dialogue that ultimately makes you want to find out more about this world and its immersive lore.

You’re slowly putting together the puzzles of a huge jigsaw through the many interactions and memories you hack. It’s full of crazy surreal moments and awkward surprises that almost made me question if the game was actually designed by a mad man. It’s strange to say this but somehow it works and Observer pulls it off.

Every character in this world is convincing and detailed to the point that you can’t deny this is a reflection of our world and where we could very much be heading.

Observer has tackled a niche genre that hasn’t had the love it’s needed for some time. Blooper team has certainly put their mark down and show us how they intend to become the pioneers of alternative cyberpunk games. This game might be haunting and highly unnerving at times, but I loved it.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.