Beholder: Complete Edition (PS4) Review
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Alawar Premium/Curve Digital
Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Steam, Mobile
Price: $14.99 (PS4)
Beholder is a game that released a little over a year ago on Steam, came out about half a year ago on mobile devices, and is out now on PS4, with an Xbox One edition coming early February. Within, you play as a landlord over a generic flat of tenants in a dystopian society under a totalitarian regime. Beholder is a game of choices, and determining what is "right" is not always obvious. As a state-appointed landlord, your official job is watching your tenants to determine if they are following the strict orders set forth by the government (spoiler: many are not). You do this by researching and observing by all means necessary. Interviewing tenants to determine motives, sneaking into their homes when they aren't there, installing surveillence cameras, anything that can determine whether someone is an enemy of the state.
Being caught as a traitor of the government can lead to your demise. However, sometimes supporting a dictatorship isn't the right thing to do. A crime may be small. The person may have reasons behind it. The stringent rules of the government may be frivolously pointless and not deserving of the harsh rules put forth. Meanwhile, the fate of your family hangs in the balance. Perhaps they need finances to survive, or they just need more attention than you are currently offering. Your wallet might also tempt you, as you focus on making money. Just like real life, there are a lot of choices to make, and it may not be obvious which one is right.
Many choices lead to a variety of endings. They aren't all clear cut, either. Say a family man is in trouble. If he gets caught, the father is out of the picture and the family is broken. But if you help him escape, you may find word that he is captured elsewhere, or dies in a haphazard accident. Your focus on doing the "right thing" may be video game muscle memory, but it doesn't guarantee a happy ending, much like how a wrong choice in real life could impact you in a way you never see coming. As time goes on, you have to balance all of your needs with requests that come across your desk from the government that have time limits. If you simply take everything that comes, you won't be able to be everywhere you need to be at once. Then comes decisions on what to ignore, and to which end goal you wish to place your focus. Again, not a traditional "save the princess" kind of game. It's up to you to decide what to sacrifice for your beliefs.
The game is laid out in a simple house, cut open like a dollhouse. You traverse the floors through the center stairwell, spying on your tenants and determining whether to turn them in to the state, help them succeed, or even blackmail or bribe them to line your pockets. It is very dark and depressing, fitting of the bleak world it is based in. Characters are mere shadows, faceless in the crowd. It's a really neat way to make it easy to create the characters whilst putting some distance between you and them, allowing you to be ruthless easier. The diorama does get busy at times, but the game takes place entirely in the apartment complex.
While I got to review this title on PS4, I can see how it might benefit from a mouse or touchscreen. You control your character via traditional joystick combinations, but a button press and analog move zooms out and in on different areas of the building, and you do have to constantly scan. This would work well with the "pinch and drag" of a tablet. Meanwhile, going into rooms to plant cameras or search hiding spots causes items to be highlighted, and you have to press around to pick the right item. This would lend well to a mouse and keyboard setup. While the control scheme is serviceable, I can see the other editions of the game potentially having a more logical control scheme.
Beholder is currently $14.99 for PlayStation 4, and is a "complete edition" with included DLC. Buying all of that on Steam is near the same price, while the game is only $4.99 with a $1.99 DLC set on iOS. I'd love to see if the game is severely limited on mobile, but it's up to you to see whether it's worth the extra cash to have it on the big screen. It's great to see a game with choices that feel more natural. It's not like a Telltale game where you come to a point and say "let's do it this way," it's more of a natural progression of choices that may or may not turn out as you expect. While most solutions end with at least one bad thing happen, choices feel a lot more organic and natural. The branching storyline may bring you back to see how things would happen differently, though doing some of the same beats over and over again may deter your desire to play it again. Overall, Beholder is definitely a unique game that offers you a chance to see what you would do when you have to stand up for what is "right."
-Very organic choice system
-Simplistic graphics help the story
-Feels like it'd work better with mouse/touchscreen
-Can get chaotic, and your choices may not turn out as you please
-Repetitive parts hinder your desire to see different paths
Special thanks to Curve Digital for providing a copy for review.