Observer: System Redux$30 USD/ R500 ZAR
- Rutger Hauer delivers beautiful lines
- Setting and atmosphere are truly "next-gen"
- Great mix of Lovecraftian and Dystopian aesthetics
- Excellent writing
- Dreameater sequence monsters feel out of place
- Apartment block residents can only be interacted with through intercoms
- Side quests and massive explorable locale makes the plot feel loose
Observer_ originally released in 2017 as a little indie noir mystery title destined for greatness. The title only released on PC, but it quickly grew in popularity over time. It has become a bit of a cult hit. While I never finished the game (time and work shifting priorities), I finally got to it when Observer: System Redux made its way to the Vamers inbox, and the experience was all the better for it.
Observer: System Redux is a “next-generation console first” remake from Bloober Team and Aspyr. It focuses solely on bringing the 2017 title to the standards expected from next-gen titles. The game has been reworked from the ground up with brand-new models, textures, sounds, and even newly added side quests. It even features fleshed out dialogue for established quests, starring none other than Rutger Hauer in the pilot role as Daniel Lazarski – a hardened private detective type who is seemingly enlisted by the game’s version of the police.
As the game opens, Daniel learns that his desperate son may be close by. Upon further investigation, Daniel finds a dismembered body and a set of clues leading him on a new mystery to solve – one that might very well be personal. For the most part, Observer: System Redux is a cross between classic whodunnit and puzzle games. With this in mind, the brunt of the game takes place in this single apartment building, with Daniel tasked to find more clues as to who or where the murderer could be. As such, he must canvas the building for witnesses and learn how to get along with the various occupants. The way Daniel can do this comes in many forms, from talking to different residents and answering them in ways that would make them favour him, or by hacking into and surfing the few computers dotted through the building, or completing side missions these residents allude to.
Much like classic puzzle games (Myst and Egypt come to mind), there is very little hand-holding in the game. Instead, players must actively remember or take notes of their own to keep up with everything. Fortunately, the game is rather short, despite its added quests and fleshed out dialogue. A game of this nature gets old fast when it is stretched out too long, and Bloober Team seems to have found a good length with Observer: System Redux. In terms of gameplay, the bulk is spent slowly walking around and talking to residents through doors, whilst slowly exploring a dark and ominous apartment building. Occasionally, the game will also offer up a reprieve from this bleak world through a minigame called With Sword & Fire; whereby all residents now have colourful and unique personalities to offer a different styled pace.
Weirdly, almost all interactions with the inhabitants take place through closed doors, by using weird Lovecraft-inspired camera intercom devices. Despite this, there is an incredible amount of attention to detail paired with some immaculate animation quality for all of these encounters. The caretaker and receptionist, for instance, are wonderfully written marvels and the few creatures that do roam the halls outside of Daniel’s apartment are horrendous, but in a good way. Although unique, I do feel the intercom system does take away from the overall immersive quality of the characters. Perhaps a future title could see Bloober executing things differently in this regard by injecting a little more personality into the already wonderful residents through additional animation. Regardless of my qualms in this regard, there is no denying the wealth of entertainment on offer for players who like murder mysteries.
Another facet I think could have been executed a little bit better comes via the overall plot itself. The story of Daniel and his son is great, but while the residents themselves are wonderful and rich in detail, I would have preferred if their stories were a tiny bit less involved. Hand-crafted side quests are always nice, and dedication to extra dialogue is a wonderful element that games hardly ever showcase anymore. Even so, I just feel like Observer: System Redux could have been a tighter experience without some of it.
Further expanding on Observer: System Redux‘s changes, the title was developed with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S in mind. Therefore it looks pretty darn great. Its entire aesthetic is based on a very dark and very messy Lovecraftian Cyberpunk dystopia. It is most certainly not for everyone, but fans of both those genres will feel right at home here. Further enhancing the atmospheric feel of the game is Rutger Hauer’s deadpan beat cop approach to his vocal delivery. His acting and the visuals provide a stunning entry in this genre of gaming.
What does feel quite odd and a little out of place are the Dreameater sections of the game and the creatures Daniel comes in contact with throughout the experience. While they look and sound like they fit in the world, their very presence is jarring. This is especially the case considering the first two hours of introductions and [literally] zero hints that random creatures even exist in this world. They almost feel like they were only added to the game to make it more challenging for players to get to their intended destinations, more so than making them narrative additions. A really odd decision considering the studio’s great delivery of everything else in Observer: System Redux.
Observer: System Redux is a decent game. The combined Bladerunner and Lovecraftian elements will have any fan of relevant genres giddy thanks to its incredible implementation. While a few elements may irk some, the overall experience is wonderful. Dialogue and world-building expertly craft a narrative experience perfect for murder mystery games. Better still, the game has heavy Myst and/or Egypt vibes in its execution and should be perfect for anyone who is a fan of classic point and click adventures. The attention to detail in this game is particularly incredible too. While it may not be a masterpiece, the fact that Observer: System Redux is one of Rutger Hauer’s final works only adds to his legacy and makes this title worthy of playing.
|Time Played||~10 Hours|
|Platform||Xbox Series X|
|Acquisition||Review code courtesy of Aspyr|