Saturday, 20 January 2018

Review: Beholder - Complete Edition

New home, new job, new prospects. All of this should be pretty welcoming and a potentially exciting change for a family, but it's not it's cracked up to be in Beholder. Whisked off on a train ride to a brand new home and a 'promising' new career in a Cold War-esque 1984, we soon realise that Carl is yet another pawn for the Ministry, the games totalitarian government, to use as they see fit.

Injected with a serum that supresses his need to sleep, Carl is set to work as his new apartment block's landlord. Not only is it his duty to maintain the wellbeing of his residents, and condition of their properties, but he's in charge of reporting tenant's personal life and activities. 

After making my way through the tutorial level, it became clear that Beholder isn't a simple building management game. In fact, it's the exact opposite. The Ministry are constantly phoning in brand new missions, and new government directives are decided daily. Time limits are set on various tasks, and it's up to you to decide on how these should be completed. Perhaps you'll turn a blind eye to a residents law breaking (trust me...most of them will be breaking the law, as pretty much everything comes under Ministry scrutiny), or become the whistleblower and send the police to wheel them away. Mess up, and face the death of yourself and your family. Send off reports, type up profiles on each tenant, and blackmail them for a little extra cash. It's really up to you how you decide to play it.

Earn money, and unlock each apartment. The game reaches peak diffculty when all are unlocked!
Not only are you acting as the voyeuristic, whistleblower for the Ministry, but Beholder also reminds you that your family need providing for, too. Carl's wife will repeatedly ask for grocery and bill money, his son asks for an obscene amount of money to help with his studies or trips abroad, and at one point in one of my play-throughs - his daughter needs emergency medication to stop her from dying. As I mentioned above, managing all of these different aspects is incredibly difficult, which makes achieving a 'good' ending challenging. 

The balancing act though, is a pretty addictive one, even if it sometimes seems to fall more towards one side (the bleak endings), than the other. If you're like me and love being the 'good guy' in choice-style games, then you might not be too satisfied with many of the directions your choices can end up. For instance, I desperately tried to save a pleasant couple, who were clearly being set up to fall by the Ministry. While the Ministry wanted me to plant evidence and get them evicted, I set it upon myself to help them escape into safety. Unfortunately, though - their maiden voyage didn't exactly go to plan. The Ministry often call up with the outcomes of several of your missions, and in this case, the couple didn't make it out alive. 

One of my endings. Oops...
A good heart doesn't really serve you well, here. The majority of the time, you'll end up making less money when trying to make your family and residents happy, then if you were to obey the Ministry's wishes. Filing reports or resident profiles earns you some pretty good cash, if you're able to take a good rifle through an apartment and find incriminating evidence. risk the lives of your residents, the ones who might've been pretty decent human beings all along. It's this sense of morality that Beholder handles so well. The choice element of Beholder, (even if most of the choice's outcomes are, like the concept of this game, bleak), is definitely a strong point. Being able to weave the game into the route you want to take lends to the addictive nature.

What makes this game even more difficult is that there are just far too many objectives on the top-left of the screen at one time. The majority of them are timed, and it's incredibly hard to work on everything at the same time. I found on my second play-through, it was slightly easier on the 'easy' difficulty, but that overwhelming feeling didn't take long to sink in...even if I was earning a bit more money than the first time. 

I'm sure some people would find this game a little too bleak to return multiple times too, especially to check out the even darker DLC (which I'll go into a little more detail about below...keep reading!). However, there's subtle hints at dark humour at times which help to balance out the doom and gloom...albeit, not by much. Try reading the 'Government Directives', for example.

Eesh. Hide your grandparents.
Beholder could easily become repetitive, and in some respects it is, but the sheer volume of orders that come in for you to complete at any given time definitely keeps you on your toes. 

Beholder: Blissful Sleep DLC

The Complete Edition is packaged with the DLC Blissful Sleep, a brief DLC that took me around three hours to play through. This time around, you're playing a new character who has just been told that he's due to be euthanized under the 'Blissful Sleep' program, now that he's hit 85. Sent to the same location as the main game, he takes the landlord position once more as he works to get his final affairs in order.

Apart from the new character (and his fluffy cat), there's not much that different this time around, other than some slightly different missions, such as collecting DNA samples from select tenant's belongings. For future DLC or sequels, it'll be interesting if we could explore this distopian world in different settings.

Beholder is a fun management game. Each mission has several directions you can take, and although it's tough, it's quite fun to try and manage several missions at the same time. However, the game falters at times, as it often feels that your decisions are forced into a particular direction. It's evident that the state are the ones who have the full control, so it's a little disheartening when none of your own efforts really go anywhere. This makes going rogue and turning your back on their directives often near impossible. A slight tweak in balancing would've worked in it's favour. 

Aesthetically, the game's bleak dystopian setting looks great. The melancholy soundtrack is equally as gorgeous, and there are some truly interesting characters to interact with. I found that it's an easy game to sink some time into. I soon became addicted to completing missions in the set time frame, and trying to keep everyone satisfied. I tried a 'good guy' playthrough, and an 'obedient Ministry servant' playthrough. Playing in favour of the Ministry made me feel like a truly horrible person at times, while being the decent landlord was a tough slog. I recommend giving it a go on both, as both scenarios offer different experiences.

Score: 7.5/10

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