Observer: System Redux Review | Eater of Dreams

Observer: System Redux isn't a simple remaster. Yes, it does have visual enhancements but System Redux is better identified as the definitive version of the original 2017 game featuring new story content and extended gameplay sequences. In other words, it's the game that Bloober Team set out to make when they started production on Observer years before. As for me, while I had played the team's psychological horror game Layers of Fear, I hadn't gotten around to playing Observer yet. So playing System Redux wasn't a comparison of the game's improvements, but rather a wholly new experience.

Observer: System Redux is set in the human-augmentation-filled cyberpunk year of 2084. You play as Daniel Lazarski an investigator who can tap into people's minds using a Dream Eater also known as an Observer. One day Daniel gets a call from his estranged son Adam and when he goes to find him gets wrapped up in several mysteries unfolding within a rundown apartment building and its surrounding areas. I primarily focused on the core storyline at hand but there are several other cases to be investigated in the game and all offer just a little bit more information on the dark and unforgiving city outside. Though Observer only shows a thin slice of its dystopian world, the information given is still pivotal and the added level of replayability pushes the number of hours you can sink into the game well past the roughly 6 hours it takes to finish the main case. A big part of why the game works so well is its writing. Small and cursory interactions with tenants through the monitors on their doors are just as intriguing as the ones with named characters. The often labyrinth-like halls of the apartment building are full of stories and the times I wandered off the beaten path showed me a glimpse of that. I won't spoil any of the cases as they're much better when experienced first-hand, but it'll suffice to say that there were surprises around every corner.

Whether it's Layers of Fear or Blair Witch, if you've played a game from Blobber Team before you'll know what to expect in terms of gameplay. There is no gunplay involved and the puzzles are pretty open-ended. This means that most of your time in Observer will be spent exploring the apartment building and the inside of people's minds in order to find the next detail in the case while managing your synchrozine levels. Puzzles in real life are pretty straightforward, often just involving interacting with an object or acquiring a passcode, but the dream state is more abstract. These puzzles require a bit more focus from the player though thanks to good audio and visual queues, they aren't difficult by any means. While Observer is labeled as a psychological thriller, I prefer to categorize it as cyberpunk horror. The game starts out innocent enough but the second half of the game has intense horror sequences that, in hindsight, are the best in the game. All that said though, Observer is a game you can easily finish without seeing a "Game Over" screen once. And that only works in favor of the game's narrative.

I was given an early copy of this game and was able to jump in as soon as my Xbox Series S arrived on launch day. While features like ray-tracing were yet to be patched in, the game still looked amazing. The detail packed into every texture made the absence of dynamic reflections and shadows dismissable. And the game ran super smooth, even when I increased the Field of View using the FOV slider in settings. An option I'm very much so looking forward to being in more games going into next-gen. However, halfway into the story, right around the part of the game that contains the Rutger Hauer tribute, I decided to I'd wait for the upcoming RT update. Sure enough, a few days later, the patch came and the difference was almost immediately noticeable. The glow of light sources and the shadows that appear when you walk past them is a wholly new experience and one that makes the game even more visually impressive. However, there are downsides. As immersive as ray-tracing can be when it works as advertised, the moments where it doesn't are jarring. There were few times in the game that had bugged out shadows and reflections. These were rare though and while they are worth mentioning, aren't a huge problem. Where RT does hurt the experience is performance. As I said earlier, the game had no stutters or frame drops before the update, but there were several instances in my playthrough of the latter half of the game where the game got choppy. Both of these problems are ones that the developers are aware of and are looking into fixing but at the time of writing, they are still in the game.

Regarding the sound, the game has no problems to report. The soundtrack by Arkadiusz Reikowski is cinematic, engaging, and the right amount of cyberpunk to make my head bob. Arkadiusz makes atmospheric and fitting scores for each project. He has worked with the Bloober Team on several titles in the past, including the aforementioned Layers of Fear, and is working on the team's next big game, The Medium. On the point of sound, we cannot ignore the performance of the late Rutger Hauer as Daniel Lazarski. The characterization of Daniel Lazarski has a lot to do with Hauer's voice which is prevalent throughout the game as the main character monologues and narrates. Of course, I don't want to take away from the rest of the voice cast, which is also great, though none share the same "screen time" as Hauer's titular Observer. All my praise about sound carries over to the sound design as well. And though I can give examples of how all aspects of sound in Observer enhanced my experience I will simply reinforce the message that the game gives you when you boot it up: Play Observer in the dark with headphones on and it will be dope. (I abbreviated.)

In the end, Observer: System Redux is a wonderful meshing of the cyberpunk and horror genre. The story and character are the driving factors for the game and thanks to good writing and excellent sound, the game is an immersive cyberpunk experience. Though ray-tracing adds a new layer of immersion to the game on next-gen consoles, it's not quite flawless and hurts performance too often to be worth it at its currents stage. However, knowing that the team is working on a patch to fix those issues and taking into account the fact that even with the performance hiccups I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, I can confidently say that Observer: System Redux is one of my favorite games of the year and one I can easily recommend to anyone who picked up a next-gen console. Though 2017's Observer is out on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Observer: System Redux, the definitive version of the game, is out now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam and Epic Store. A review code for the Xbox Series S was provided by the publisher.

Post a Comment