Observer Game Review (2017)

Kraków, year 2084. World War III has turned the world into ruins, and the digital plague epidemic, which happened almost after the war, has taken thousands of lives. The Fifth Polish Republic is under control of huge international corporation “Chiron ”, and it’s almost entirely replaced by a government in a country where citizens are being ranged by class and living in ghettos. In one of these ghettos, right when the district is blocked on a quarantine, old policeman detective Daniel Lazarsky arriving: he just got a strange message from his son he hasn’t seen in a while, and it comes from the house with the murder has happened, — and it seems like there’s not the only one under these roofs…


This is the game made by Bloober Team, worldwide famous for their psychological horror “Layers Of Fear”, a schizophrenic story of the artist who’s going back to his old mansion to remember where his wife went and how the empty canvas in his working room is connected with it. After this story they’ve released a small DLC of “Layers Of Fear” about the artist’s young daughters and her traumatic childhood, then — same name movie’s inspired “Blair Witch”. Next project — “Layers Of Fear 2” playing with themes of art and silent movies, and the most recent mystical story, “The Medium”, about the girl capable of moving between our reality and supernatural one. The game I want to tell you about was released after “Layers Of Fear” and has a lot in common with it. We can say this studio had invented their own formula of quite simple but immersive, entertaining and in some parts really horrific gameplay experience.

It’s really easy in “Observer”. We’re in the body of an elder detective, performed by Rutger Hauer (do you remember the replicant pursuing Harrison Ford’s hero in “Blade Runner”?), exploring huge buildings with isolated people, talking with those who are ready to get in contact, looking up to suspicious objects, popping pills and getting into the dead victim’s brains to look inside their subconsciousness. Here’s where the most insane action begins: every victim’s inner world is different from each other, everyone has their own fears and demons, and we can’t forget the psychic’s of the Observer himself. He’s fighting for his own sanity and worries about his son that he’s afraid to be found dead; also there was some tragedy in his life we don’t know about yet.

“Observer affects observing…”

— this graffiti Daniel Lazarsky sees on dirty and almost ruined walls of ghettos of C class citizens. What does it mean? Who made it? Is it a dark foreshadowing of the events that will come next or is it an old and tired detective’s mind games with themselves? You’ll never know what dark secrets are hiding in this god forgotten place… 

As the more we move on the plot the more we notice that the nightmare is tangling with reality, digital implant’s glitches mixing with analog paranoia, and you can’t tell what’s true and what’s your mind games. We’re our own filters, our mind slightly changes what we see before we’re able to reflect it, that’s why two different people can make completely different conclusions from one fact (or we can make an example of ‘info bubbles’ in social networks). 

Yes, sometimes this game looks way too similar to “Layers Of Fear”, especially in one segment more close to the end (and there’s at least one easter egg in this game), but it’s completely fine! If you’ll ask me, I don’t mind lurking around in an old creepy mansion that looks like a schizophrenic’s worst nightmare again. I think “Observer” is much more deep and artistic in visual style than “Layers Of Fear”, it works better in visual narrative where you get the story not only from voice diaries or email logs, but from the environment itself.

It’s so depressing.

You can feel the hopelessness of the citizens living in dust and dirt, spending their lives in four rooms and virtual reality helmets. Some of them crippled, some of them poor, some of them mentally unstable, — and you have to talk with all of them to get a picture of who murdered the person on the second floor and where you can find the killer. Remember, you’re still a detective, right?

There isn’t too much to explore, the building is huge but has its limits, plus there are also a few more locations (none of them are bigger than the main crime scene place), and most of the objects you can interact with are easily noticeable if you look around closely. The game has its own dark, slow and twisting atmosphere that urges you to walk slowly, take every object you can to look for the clues, and move to the next ruined part of the house. But don’t lose your concentration, there’s quite a few jump scares and some visually shocking (or disturbing, to say the least) scenes. 

You can’t call the visual completely flawless, but oh boy, it’s really impressive, especially these retro-futuristic interiors with some Soviet flavor and strong sense of George Orwell’s 1984. Special effects are just great too, you can literally feel yourself as an old cyborg losing his sense of reality when his graphic chip goes glitchy. If you can afford it, I’d recommend you to set the highest graphic settings possible, so you won’t miss any details of the atmosphere. 

But what about the story? Oh, it’s good, good. 

If you’re expecting some huge plot twists, It’s-Not-What-It-Seems-moments and mind-blowing finale with a moral choice that will make you think twice — you’ll get it, I promise. And even if you won’t be fully satisfied with the main story, there are several side quests you can take if you want, and some of them are perfect or emotionally impressive, to say the least. 

If you like old noir vibes, dark, William Gibson’s style cyberpunk thrills and depressive atmosphere with slow and thoughtful tempo, if you like being scared and interested in solving mysteries, — you’ll definitely like “Observer”. It came out in 2017 but still looks great, but if you want to experience it in full Mona Lisa Overdrive, lucky for you there is a fresh remaster of this game on Steam. 

Are you ready to deep dive into a digital nightmare?


How Can You Tell What’s Real?

A perfect mix of “Blade Runner”, “Ghost In The Shell” and, in some ways, “Inception” & “Insidious” (yes, I know how it sounds). Highly recommend getting “Observer Redux” in your gaming library — it has updated visual, improved gameplay and even some new quests (I don’t know how they did it since main voice actor has gone)