Title: Observer: System Redux
Developer: Bloober Team
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
Publisher: Bloober Team
Genre: Adventure Horror
With the launch of the new systems, owners need something to play, but also developers needed to figure out just how far they could push the more powerful hardware to enhance their already released games. While I wouldn’t want this to become a trend, I feel like Bloober Team has really defined themselves as supernatural horror developers. This new hardware could really enhance their narratives that rely heavily on atmosphere.
With the release of Observer: System Redux, we get largely the same experience proved in the 2017 release of Observer as the focus is more on general graphic improvements. The experience stands out in the genre, but whether that’s worth returning to depends on a few things.
Observer: System Redux is set in the year 2084, where a corporation known as Chiron created a police unit known as Observers to keep the citizens in their place. Players assume the role of one of these officers named Daniel Lazarski, who has just received a call from his estranged son that leads him to a bad side of town. It’s here that the nightmare begins as Daniel discovers multiple dead bodies in an apartment building home to Class C citizens.
With the building now in lockdown, Daniel does his best to conduct a proper investigation with little help from the outside. His only resources are augmentations that allow him to gather evidence and the ability to hack into people’s minds to extract information. It’s here that he is sent down a dark string of events in hopes of getting his questions answered.
The narrative of Observer: System Redux is a bit messy if you look at it under a microscope. The lack of direction and open design only lead you to confusion as you collect clues. However, there are very few small discoveries here, with every barrier passed, opening a new set of possibilities. This highlights moments where you feel like you are on the right track to something, only to find yourself in a room with a few secret collectibles, which can often get annoying, especially when your main focus is completing the investigation.
Gameplay requires players to use their augmentations to scan rooms and get a closer look at objects. This isn’t always easy, though, as many of the interactable objects are small and tough to spot for some reason. If you miss a piece of the puzzle, you could be walking around aimlessly for a while. Still, I enjoyed the design if only to force you to be thorough in your investigation, but an indicator so some sort that you may have missed something in the room would have been appreciated.
Observer: System Redux’s main appeal is found in the mind hacking scenes where you find yourself in a David Lynch film. These atmospheric masterpieces present some of the best supernatural work that I’ve seen in a video game. Through sound and environments, you feel like you are in someone’s broken mind opening doors to get deeper to the truth. However, these mind hacks’ complexity becomes a bit too obtuse as some of them are just way too long.
Throughout these sections, you’ll be solving puzzles, some of which are just a little too easy, but others can take a minute. I’m just not really sold on some of the designs of them. I think the maze-like apartments were enough for me and the added layer of these insignificant plug-in power chord puzzles just stopped the flow.
Observer: System Redux is a beautiful game. I appreciated the level of detail that went into each environment, which demands that you spend time slowly making your way through the game. Rushing will only limit your ability to see the best parts the game has to offer. From the crime scenes to simply stumbling on a room of human body parts, each room has a story tell whether it’s explicitly told or not. I would say that this only hurts those who have played the game before as the narrative has changed, so you’ll know what to expect.
Observer: System Redux is an excellent presentation of the masterful environments that indie teams can create on newer hardware. Out the gate, Bloober Team has raised the bar of what we can expect to see graphically, but the gameplay portion of this supernatural adventure limits its overall appeal. Still, I can’t stress enough what a work of art this experience is through its narrative and brilliant sound design.
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