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Observer is a fantastic brain-hacking horror adventure, my thoughts

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I managed to complete the brain-hacking horror game Observer in two sittings live on our Twitch, here’s some thoughts.

Disclosure: Key provided by Aspyr Media.

If you want to see the entire playthrough that I did live on our Twitch channel, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here on YouTube.

Observer paints a very bleak future for human kind. After the “NanoPhage” (a digital plague) wiped out thousands and a major war between the East and the West, the world has become pretty dark. The only winner was Chiron, a huge corporation that seized power, with no one left to oppose them. It’s set in 2084 Poland and you are Dan Lazarski, an Observer, someone who literally plugs into the brains of others to gather evidence.

Honestly, I wouldn’t say it was actually all that scary overall. There were a number of moments that made me jump, sure, but overall as a game it wasn’t the type of horror experience I was expecting. If you’re after something to completely terrify you, this probably isn’t it. However, if you go in expecting an adventure game with horror elements then it will probably satisfy you. Most of the horror is psychological, with the use of some fantastic audio work that leaves your mind to wander into the unknown.

Visually, it’s a wet-dream for sci-fi fans. Mixing in retro-futuristic devices that could have been taken out of an 80s film depicting the future, with reality-bending overlays. It’s like if you mixed the technology from the Aliens film and merged it with Virtual Reality interfaces.

It’s a clever story too, with your character’s own fears and memories leaking into the minds he’s currently hacking into. It creates some truly incredible scenes, both disturbing and thought provoking, not to mention confusing.

The game does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes, keeping you guessing and wondering just what the hell is going on. It perfectly blends the lines between what’s real and what’s not. The story is done exceptionally well for the crazy setting they created. Thanks to playing as Lazarski, who gradually starts losing his mind, things get more than just a little weird.

The level design and environments are incredible, it offers up an experience I truly think I’ve not had with any other game. There were moments of sheer panic when the walls around me started crumbling away, when I turned and found everything had changed and with items that phased in and out of existence as I moved around. It’s constantly mesmerizing and elements of it are terrifying, as everything is so constantly unexpected.

I think Rutger Hauer did a fantastic job of portraying Dan Lazarski. His delivery was near-perfect on every line. The sounds he made when you wake up, all confused and delirious after hacking a brain was some fantastic acting. My only complaint is that the voice-over was often a little on the quiet side compared to the rest of the game's audio, so having subtitles on did become a necessity.

One part of the game did annoy me, which was the way you picked dialogue options and interacted with the environment. It was often hard to tell exactly where the mouse pointer was to pick an option. You get what looks like a single white pixel, which was a bit annoying.

I should note, that the game does have two major issues in the Linux version. The mouse often becomes hard to move. I’m unsure if it’s intentional or not, but it seems the mouse behavior is extremely strange. Often it’s as smooth as silk, other times it felt like I was fighting my mouse just to look around.

On top of that, performance wasn’t great. Even on Medium settings, I often saw massive FPS drops, sometimes in really important situations, and it wasn’t pretty when it did that.

It took just short of five hours to finish. To me, the length was pretty perfect, unlike some horror and adventure games that drag on and put padding into everything they can, Observer told exactly what it needed to.

In terms of audio, story and graphics it’s close to a masterpiece in my eyes. Not quite due to quiet dialogue, performance and mouse issues, but close. I enjoyed almost every single moment spent in it. Honestly, I would say it’s the game I’ve enjoyed the most this year so far.

I would really love to see more stories made from this universe—fantastic.

You can find the Linux version of Observer on Steam.

10 Likes, Who?
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kydros 2 November 2017 at 2:41 pm UTC
so many terror games for linux, but the other genres almost nothing
Xpander 2 November 2017 at 2:44 pm UTC
Mouse de-acceleration issue seems to be on Windows also from what i gather. it happens in some places of the game and yeah its really hard to fight with the mouse then. other times it runs super smooth.

Performance drops are the worst, even a SSD wont help here, those still happen in places where it drops down to 30 fps and loading new textures or so.

5 hours to complete? hmm you didn't do any side missions?

i have played 8 hours so far and i think its still quite some time before the end
buckysrevenge 2 November 2017 at 2:54 pm UTC
I used my Steam Controller to play the game (with the right pad and gyro set to the mouse) and it worked really well. I didn't have any problems with dialog selection since it changed the highlighted item with a simple up/down movement of the analog stick. There was only one time where I had problems where my character died and the menu that came up thought I was using a mouse; it was only then that I experienced odd mouse cursor movements like you were describing. The game ran smoothly on my system on high settings with no major fps problems
micha 2 November 2017 at 3:08 pm UTC
Really happy that we got this one. Enjoyed it so much!
Shmerl 2 November 2017 at 5:17 pm UTC
Aspyr never properly explained, why they don't want to release it on GOG.
scaine 2 November 2017 at 6:50 pm UTC
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So far, this is an incredible game. I haven't had any mouse issues, but on two occasions, I haven't been able to move at all - a quit to menu and reload fixed that. I think it's when I pause the game for long periods?

My only gripe is that the FOV is pretty low. I think it's meant to create a more claustrophobic experience (and if so, well done, that worked), but I felt a bit constrained by how zoomed in everything was.

And yeah, I'm on 8 hours, still have a way to go, I think, maybe a couple of hours. More if I can bring myself to head back down to the basement again
Spoiler, click me
(to find the organ harvester dude)
... might just leave that one to my imagination though!!

Great game. Loving it.
stud68 2 November 2017 at 7:21 pm UTC
Anyone fix AMD support yet?
Alm888 2 November 2017 at 8:51 pm UTC
ShmerlAspyr never properly explained, why they don't want to release it on GOG.
It seems Feral and Aspyr will never release anything outside of Steam just because.
This, coupled with the fact that their "ports" are of outrageous quality nearly makes these two companies my personal sworn enemies. Their actions are more harmful than beneficial to Linux ecosystem (IMO).
Shmerl 2 November 2017 at 9:01 pm UTC
The "just because" doesn't make any sense to me. They are supposed to be sensible companies, so the fact that they refuse to explain the reason suggests there is something fishy going on.
Zelox 2 November 2017 at 10:09 pm UTC
Great game ^^

Last edited by Zelox at 2 November 2017 at 10:09 pm UTC
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