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I admire developers that include politics in their games, especially when it comes across as being something meaningful to them. In this volatile political climate in the present day, introducing politics in to a game could result in disaster. Regardless of your own political views Beholder is a title that can be enjoyed by all and reminds us that Privacy now-a-days is just an illusion. The question you need to ask yourself is, will you work for the state or rebel against it if your life depended on it?
Beholder is set in the early 80’s in a dystopian world ruled by a totalitarian state. The game puts you in the shoes of an apartment landlord who has been hired by the state to spy on its residents and report any tenant that is opposing state laws and plotting against them. The minute you are told that you have been injected with a drug that allows you to never sleep, alarm bells should be ringing. However, you take the job, as you need the money and you soon find out that you don’t always need to stick to the law. All your choices have consequences no matter how small or big those choices are so it would be wise to read the dialog between characters. So far I have been arrested for embezzlement a handful of times, fell out with a tenant who is a doctor meaning he left and couldn’t help my sick child and I’ve also let said child die due to not raising enough money for treatment. That’s only a few of the things I’ve experienced in the early part of the game.
The game itself all takes place all in your apartment building. There is an easy and simple tutorial that will have you up and running in no time. You will learn how to install cameras, how to use your journal to profile and report tenants for illegal activity and blackmail them if that is your thing. You progress through the game by doing quests from the various NPC, the state and your own family. Since time passes normally a lot of your quests are timed, like having 230 hours to evict one of your tenants by any means necessary. I could have just got the said tenant jailed, but I liked him so I decided to steal tickets from another tenant to help them move. There truly are a few ways in which quests can be accomplished. The game doesn’t use real time, it’s much quicker, but if it’s still not quick enough for you, you can speed things up. You will be going through a fair number of days per hour of real time though so things don’t drag in.
You will be wondering the type of quests that you will come across? In my time of playing the game so far, there has been a range of various quests. It goes without saying that your main objectives are to profile tenant’s and report them if there is wrong doing. By completing quests though, you will earn both cash and reputation points. The latter is used to obtain surveillance cameras of which there are three types. The real kicker is that if you make a mistake in your form filling, you will be fined, and if you do not complete an NPC quest in time you will lose reputation points, as well as the rewards you could have got. It didn’t take me long where I had to come up with sums of money that goes in to the tens of thousands, I won’t spoil you what it was for though. As you are the landlord you will be asked at times to fix furniture and TV’s which also come at a cost. In fact, at one point there was rioting outside the building with explosive thrown at it causing some major damage.
The NPC quests in the game fall in to the usual category for RPG type titles, but almost all I have played so far can be done in various ways and depending on the way you go about things it can save you money. For example, I had to find aspirin for my daughter and I could have easily bought some off the dodgy bloke that comes and stands outside the building at certain times. However, I spoke to one of my tenants and they needed a cardigan, so I bought the cardigan from the dodgy bloke, which saved me money and got the Aspirin from the tenant. Money saving tactics never stopped there, I soon started steeling from apartments to give things to people to help them out. I did eventually get caught but I did bribe the cops. On another quest, I acted as a dating service only to be hated by the man I helped after telling him the woman isn’t who she claims to be. The deeper you go into the game the more intriguing the quests are, from taking tenants after a phone call from a mysterious source, to try to sway a lottery winner on what to do with his winnings.
The graphics while simple brings strong emphasis on the overall volatile political climate and the totalitarian state. The hand drawn blacks and greys show a poor outlook in life and even the way some of the characters are drawn speaks to you about their personality. You can force tenants to commit suicide. You can tell how tenants are felling by the thought bubbles above them which is great when you are spying through their letter box.
The Good Things
- I really dig the strong political message of the game.
- Love the multiple ways you can attempt quests, that do play out differently.
And The Bad
- Slight difficulty curve early in the game.
- Only one apartment building but will take you a while to get all the endings.
- Beholder is certainly quite a unique game in how it portrays a world that we are slowly moving towards where privacy is just an illusion. Even if you are not politically motivated there is something just so addictive on spying on your tenants and playing god with their lives. While you will always start with the same three tenants, after that, things really do change depending on your choices. Your choices will also reflect in the tenants that come to stay. The artwork and graphics also emphasise the bleak living conditions when surviving under a totalitarian state. With multiple endings that require certain choices to be made there is some replay value in there.
Beholder could very well be predicting the future where privacy really is no more.