Observer has been drawing a lot of interest lately- not just because it features a former Blade Runner acting talent, but because it also features a decaying cyberpunk setting and some scary technological possibilities. This particular post isn’t an introduction to the possibilities presented by the game which should be releasing very shortly, however it is going to cover some of the interesting connections that this game has with other series- whether through a shared genre or aesthetic or other items of interest.
In fact, if you look at the surface of what the game promises to offer you’ll easily be able to make a few small leaps and arrive at the conclusion that it could be perceived as similar to many other horror or thriller based products and projects. In my mind there are similarities with such games as Murdered: Soul Suspect, Obscure (or ObsCure 1 and 2), and Deadly Premonition. Most of these assumptions of course stem from what the game seeks to provide on paper and what I’ve seen of it thus far, not what the final product may be in and of itself. Be forewarned as I am sure there are going to be relatively minimal spoilers of some sort or another here about one or all of the aforementioned titles.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a prime example of a game that sounded very interesting and yet ended up being more of a bore than a thrilling experience. This happens a surprisingly large amount of the time despite there constantly being as many new and original game ideas as there are grossly overdone ones. However, just because it wasn’t the greatest experience out there doesn’t mean it cannot be used as a fundamental learning point and also comparable to some degree to the upcoming Observer.
I think the main way I would tie together a game that focuses on a recently deceased detective battling evil demons and attempting to recreate the circumstances of his murder in order to discover the true nature of his killer and a cyberpunk title that has elements of horror and seeks to explore fear itself is relatively simple. The main comparison here is that both characters are inevitably having some sort of out of body experience or perhaps warped perception of reality- one through death and the other through literal hacking of the human code, that also happens to revolve around emotions such as fear.
As much of a bore as Murdered has been, it is still a really intriguing concept for a game and something that if done altogether different in several aspects could’ve been made into a tense and enjoyable experience rather than a relatively forgettable gimmick-riddled one. I think Observer has the potential to fill a relative void where games like Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem and Murdered: Soul Suspect have gone before. It may be set in a different societal setting and have many different elements and yet the base novelty of tapping into fears screams similarity and as such they should look to the past in order to provide more traction for a gripping future and experience.
For those of you who haven’t heard of either ObsCure or ObsCure II before- being that it could ironically be considered a fairly obscure title, allow me to explain a bit about the series first. Effectively, it reminds me a lot of what Resident Evil 4 was and remains as an experience and also to some degree in narrative focus as well. In both titles you follow a group of teenage characters seeking to survive a mutant epidemic brought on by strange experiments with flowers and evil characters going after the secret to immortality. Sometimes these mutants can be weakened or even harmed by sunlight and other light sources so it’s also a lot like what Alan Wake became as well. Boy, we really are going down the connection rabbit hole here.
Long story short, I could see potential similarities to this particular series in Observer through chance encounters in hacked fear servers or perhaps even seeing grotesque and horrific visages and enemies as well. If you got to literally look into someone’s mind and peruse their fears then you’re undoubtedly going to come across some Dead Space looking necromorph crap or something sooner or later- well, at least for the sake of video games and entertainment that is. If it was all deep water and dark spaces then it would be fairly accurate but not exactly as entertaining or interesting after all.
I think it would be pretty awesome to see a similar sort of fear mutant or enemy type added to the mix that hunts the player like some sort of Amnesia-like antibody, seeing as they are after all an intruder in another person’s mind. Having a degree of literal hacking countermeasures play out in some sort of wicked scary scenario would add both intensity and entertainment value to the game for sure. In fact, I’m very interested to see how the game handles and plays on a base level so that I can see what kind of adversity besides warped perception and mind-bending logic might get thrown the player’s way.
Last but not least is arguably the most well-known and well-received title on the list considering it’s relative cult-classic status despite the lack of actual polish on the project. Deadly Premonition is…interesting, to say the very least. It’s something of an X-Files project and is equal parts camp and horror- although typically you can also categorize most of that horror as weirdness and grotesque images. I really hope that Observer manages to tap into some of the Twin Peaks kind of weirdness and subversion without going too far off the deep end with the camp and other odd vibes.
It’s perfectly okay to provide oddities and horror hand in hand but not every game is trying to be Until Dawn and also provided Ash vs The Evil Dead levels of camp and hilarity without any remorse. In fact, if Observer has any camp whatsoever beyond perhaps the occasional easter egg or allusion to Blade Runner and replicants I’ll be dissatisfied for the most part. It is in many ways a child of many similar ideas and projects and yet I think the best and most original ideas are ironically the ones born of many similar themes. Observer even has unique elements of such odysseys as Heavy Rain- it features a man also searching for his son and the possibility of a truly horrible end for everybody involved to some degree.
When your core gameplay and story revolve around tapping and hacking into personalities and dreams and illusions like something akin to Surrogates (2009) then you’re bound to have the potential for weirdness and striking visuals as well as inexplicable supernatural (or in this case technological) involvement. So from my personal perspective I am most intrigued to see how I can categorize this game in the wide expanse of the horror genre and where exactly it’ll fall on a spectrum that includes titles like Dead Space and Battle Toads.
Alright, that last part was a bad joke. Regardless, if you wish to, comment or otherwise give me a piece of your mind. I’m no Daniel Lazarski so I can’t hack my way in, have no fear. Cheers.