From the very start Observer submerges you in a dark, terrifying cyberpunk world. Forget what you think you know about horror games, cyberpunk and your nightmares; Observer will get inside your head. Bloober Team’s upcoming game Observer is a dark twisted journey of a detective thrown into a seedy cyber underworld. It’s the year 2084 and everyone around you is a survivor, relying on anything and everything to distract them from the reality they now live in post war. It’s a story best described as intensifying nightmares laid across a futuristic landscape with heavy NEO 80’s vibes. Observer is a psychological horror that will pull you in with an amazing narrative and Blade Runner-esque backdrops. It drops August 15th for PC, PS4 and Xbox One and we are hands on with it, covering the first portion of the game today, with a full review to follow next week.
Observer First Hands On Impressions
Developed by: Bloober Team SA
Published by: Aspyr
Release date: August 15th, 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Played on PC)
- Explore a dark, eerie dystopian environment.
- Play as the protagonist Detective Lazarski (voiced by Rutger Hauer) ,an elite neural investigator known as an “observer”as he uncovers clues to find his son.
- As an elite neural detective you posses the skills to hack into suspects minds to find clues.
- Observer relies heavily on strong narrative builds between the people you come in contact with. Choose your replies carefully you never know how a character will respond.
Story & Setting
In an eastern European dystopian setting on a rainy evening your adventure starts. The protagonist, a beat, tired observer receives a mysterious call from his son who he has not seen in years. He traces the call to the slums, a seedy, dark neighborhood where crime is high and horror lurks around every corner.
Driven by his desire to uncover his son’s whereabouts, Lazarski is forced to hack into the minds of unstable criminals and residents of the slums. With the ability to step into someone’s mind to uncover clues comes the risk of being exposed to the fear filled nightmares of others. The gore is at a minimum, instead the true fear draws from the psychological distress and disorientation the protagonist faces throughout the game.
Observer is a non-combat first person narrative. On PC the controls are very straight forward and you use the arrow keys to move about the environment and space bar to pull up inventory. As expected hotkeys can be customized. To interact with characters and objects you must click on them. Though not every object is interactive, you have the freedom to explore almost anything when you hack into someone’s brain.
Your main tool will be your built in VR component that all observers possess. This gives you the ability to scan rooms for clues and also hack other character’s minds, and you can easily switch between these two modes. Ultimately using the VR component to analyze your situation will help you progress further in the story.
This investigative mechanic paired with environmental changes adds to the surrealism and loss-of-control, fear dynamic of the gameplay. There are simply moments that occur that challenge your perception of what is around you especially when you are hacking into the mind of someone else in an attempt to learn more.
Lazarski can use consumables that help him maintain his stability or sanity during his brain hack experiences which creates a push and pull experience that must be managed. This is a welcome sub layer to the game so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves as the game goes on. Digging into dreamscapes is not new to fiction mediums but there is a focused journey through here that isn’t common.
Though the gameplay is a bit passive and hugely cinematic the game so far adds a few critical puzzles here and there. Clearing a room and searching it in its entirety may uncover the piece to a puzzle to moving on to the next chapter. With that said, it will be important to leave no stone…or corpse unturned.
Observer so far is a promising and terrifying cyberpunk story. Rich in narrative and one of the darkest, most creative atmospheres I’ve experienced in a some time. Straying away from typical horror game tropes and predictable jump scares the tension instead builds for you and the protagonist and is sure to keep any brave gamer on edge. Stay tuned for our full review next week!