Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Beholder Complete Edition
Xbox One, PS4 (Reviewed)
Originally released in 2016 for PC and now hitting consoles in the form of a complete edition featuring the Blissful Sleep DLC, Warm Lamp Games’ Beholder examines life under a totalitarian government by putting the player in the shoes of Carl, a state-appointed landlord tasked with spying on residents living in the apartment building he manages.
From the get-go, Beholder makes it obvious that Carl meeting the needs of his wife and two children as well as the demands of his Governmental overseers will be nigh impossible without some ethical and moral compromise on the part of the player. Beholder accomplishes this primarily through a dual currency system comprised of money and reputation points. Money can be earned through completing tasks or fencing items stolen from your tenants, while reputation is gained by spying on tenants and reporting their actions and infractions. Many of the more harrowing missions – such as one involving expensive medical treatment for Carl’s daughter – require an amount of money that is difficult to earn without resorting to theft from or detailed reporting on tenants, some of whom are being persecuted by the Government for dubious reasons. Reputation is necessary to buy surveillance cameras which make spying on tenants a breeze but is easily lost if interactions with them go south.
As Beholder begins to ramp up the stakes after a steady opening, I began to lose interest in the heavy-handed nature of the political commentary on offer – siding with the tenants inevitably puts Carl’s family at risk, while the freedom and privacy of the tenants is the price that must be paid to ensure a safe future for them. To be fair, this is more a critique of the pacing rather than the gameplay, which is engaging on a moment to moment basis if slightly repetitive.
Had Beholder released 5 years ago, it would have been hailed as a ground-breaking title for its subversive qualities and biting commentary. As it stands, it is a solidly realised idea that unfortunately falls under the shadow of Papers, Please – a much leaner, older title that is more efficient in conveying many of the same messages. For those that have not played Papers Please, I’d wholeheartedly recommend giving Beholder a try – however, if you sank any significant amount of time into Lucas Pope’s acclaimed debut, this may feel too much like a bloated re-tread, albeit one that is more mechanically robust.
Stephen del Prado