Available On: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed On)
Developer: Bloober Team
Genre: Survival Horror
Official Site: Observer
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Where To Buy It: Steam, PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store ($29.99)
The news has been rampant lately with news of artificial intelligence more so than ever before. And after the latest debacle with the FaceBook AI creating a language of its own, it is fair to say that people are a bit on edge. The latest steampunk, survival horror game from the team behind Layers of Fear, Observer, plays brilliantly on this fear. However, the games technical issues will make you want to avoid computers altogether.
Observer takes place in 2084 in Poland. A digital plague has swept the globe, killing thousands in its wake. In this post-war world, drugs, pest, and bionic upgrades ravage the few human beings left on the planet. As an Observer, Daniel Lazarski invades the dreams and memories of his targets in order to solve cases with the Dream Eater. As the building goes into lockdown with the potential threat of a virus, the situation, and your sanity, begin to quickly spin out of control when you discover the first in a line of murders. Can you survive the lockdown and solve the mystery at hand?
To begin, let me just say that in the horror genre especially, it is hard to find something that doesn’t feel like it has been a million times already. One of Observer’s biggest strengths is that it feels new and fresh. Not only is this concept interesting and somewhat untouched by the horror community, but it also feels like this world could actually occur in a not so distant future. This hint of potential reality really does quite a bit to send home the terrifying ramifications of certain aspects of the story. It is like Blade Runner meets Layers of Fear with its technologically advanced society and a hint of madness. The ending of the game was one I didn’t see coming, which also usually isn’t the case. However, to be honest, I spent a fair amount of the game wondering where the story would go anyway; so, I was ecstatic to see an interesting ending.
While I would argue that the game isn’t as scary as some of Bloober Team’s past projects, I would also argue that Observer creates fear in a different way. While there are a few jump scares and unsettling situations, the true terror in this game comes from the implications of the world itself. And the developers truly play on this aspect. However, you tend to lose some of this on the console edition of the game due to some severe technical issues.
Nothing ruins a spooky moment or a well-placed jump scare than technical failure. Especially when you get to the point where you are so frustrated with the technical issues, you stop caring about the environment itself. I am totally capable of forgiving a few dropped frames here and there, but this was a constant battle throughout my entire playthrough. The problem got so bad that my game froze bad enough and I had to force quit the game three times. If it wasn’t for these issues, Observer would have received a higher rating overall. Aside from the issues visually, there were some issues with audio cues as well. There were a handful times when an event would occur and the audio clearly connected to it would happen a few moments later. This, obviously, is more than enough to ruin a dramatic moment.
These issues aside, Observer’s instructions can just be a bit vague or confusing. I spent a lot of time wandering around hoping to run into whatever my quest marker would be. The confusion is definitely made worse in some of the Dream Eater segments where the environments continuously glitches around you (intentionally). This effect makes finding your way in these segments almost impossible, and even I had to turn away from the screen a few times due to the flickering screen. While the effect doesn’t land well in the game at all, I feel like this would have been really cool if done a little better.
At the end of the day, Observer really has something cool and unique to offer the horror community. However, the technical issues really bog down the true potential behind the project, and I would love to play through it again after a few upgrades have been put into place.
Verdict: Observer has an excellent concept with a truly unsettling world and environment to back it up. However, the game falls short in a handful of other areas. The glitchy environments and the dropping frame rates make getting around almost impossible. Through my playthrough, the game froze three times to the point where I had to force quit the game. Conceptually, Observer is fantastic; I just wish everything else about the game worked as well.
- Interesting concept
- Nice twist at the end
- Unsettling environments
- MAJOR frame rate issues
- Sound issues
- Glitchy environments made the game hard to play
- Lack of direction