Observer is a cyberpunk game set in the year 2084, where you play the role of Detective Daniel Lazarski (voiced by Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer) who has the ability to hack into people’s minds and know their thoughts and feelings. The game is set in Krakow, after the Nanophage – a digital plague – has wiped out thousands of people. The game is developed by Bloober Team, whose previous game, Layers of Fear, was an excellent first person horror game, and Observer is even better in significant ways.
Observer’s setting and visual style is one of the most well realised cyberpunk setting I’ve seen in video games. The history of the world – collapsed super powers, Nanophage, mega corporations taking control, augmented citizens, ability to read minds – all of it work as an interesting backdrop to a compelling story. The people are in a depressing state, addicted to drugs and living in fear of the government’s scrutiny.
Daniel Lazarski is an Observer and has the authority to hack into people’s minds using the Dream Eater. Upon receiving an unexpected call from his son, he sets on a journey that takes him through the dark underbelly of the city and the darkest sides of men’s thoughts and fears. Daniel himself is rather personable, and much of that is thanks to the excellent acting by Rutger Hauer. People he meets along the way are also portrayed with conviction and their motivations have meaning in the world they live in. The story hardly ever falters, and is supported by excellent visual design and world building.
A lot of your time will be spent investigating, searching for clues and scanning for evidence. You have an Electromagnetic Vision that picks out useful electronic items, and a Bio Vision that highlights biological evidence.. There’s not a lot of variety, but the presentation is top notch and keeps things from getting stale.
Hacking into a person’s mind is the highlight here, and takes you on some nightmarish trips, surpassing even the horrors from Layers of Fear. Apart from some forced stealth sequences, everything else was absolutely fantastic. Excellent audiovisual design will have you on the edge through most of these sections. The game looks great, both on PC and consoles, though there were a few frame drops when I was playing on the PS4. It’s not frequent, and didn’t hamper my experience in any significant way.
Observer is a must play for fans of horror and cyberpunk genre. The story takes some great turns and stays strong throughout, and the setting is done really well. Excellent voice acting and convincing performances really help sell the story, and the interesting investigation mechanics are thoroughly enjoyable. Apart from the few stealth sections, Observer never has a dull moment.