If a totalitarian government tried to force you into a job, would you comply? How far would you go to protect your family? Would you spy on friends and neighbors – turning them into the police? These are the questions you must deal with as you make your way through Beholder:Complete Edition on Xbox One.
Beholder from Curve Digital and Warm Lamp Games is a strategy game set in a dystopian future where you play as Carl, a landlord to an apartment complex. Part of his job is to spy on his neighbors to see if they are up to any illegal activity. In the world of Beholder, illegal activity constantly changes. One moment smoking is illegal, next it may be illegal to keep apples in your apartment. The game perpetually keeps you on your toes throughout your play through with its many variations. You’ll need to stay on top of all of these changes if you want to make it through the main campaign in one piece.
Somebody’s Watching Me…
So, how do you spy on your neighbors? The game gives you many options. You can peep through the apartment door keyhole, giving you a very slim view of the room, or you can install cameras in their apartment while they are off at work (cameras are the better option, but they cost money to install). While you are in their room, you can also riffle through their belongings to see if they harbor any specific contraband. You then take notes on all of your finding – creating reports and character profiles.
So what do you do if you catch your neighbor in a heinous act? You have two choices: You can either report them to the government or blackmail them. This is where some of the strategy comes into play. If you blackmail a tenant, you will have a decent stream of money for the short term, but you’ll soon lose the respect of the other tenants. This makes it harder for you in future missions when you may need their cooperation.
If you decide to get the government involved, you will evict the tenant and send them to jail. This will keep the respect from the remaining tenants, but you will no longer have access to the evicted tenant for future assignments. These difficult choices make up the main hook of the game.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Beholder: Complete Edition is it’s art style. The entire game is made up of black and white, minimalistic characters and the dreary world around them. While it can be captivating as times, it can come off as somewhat boring. I wish they would have include a little more detail into the characters themselves, since the world around them seems like such an interesting place.
As far as audio goes, the music cues are great for alerting you when something big is going down in the complex. You’ll recognize the sound of the police coming before you even see them at your doorstep. Background music is passable, but nothing out of the ordinary. The game does feature voice acting in small doses, but for the most part, you’ll be hearing muffled mumbling and crying from inside the apartment walls.
While the setting and story for Beholder: Complete Edition may seem interesting at first glance, it does become somewhat stale as the game goes on. Part of the issue is that your interactions with your housemates never goes that deep. When you do spy, blackmail, and evict those living in your complex, you never really get a sense of guilt for doing so. I will say that Carl’s relationship with his family did keep me sympathetic to his plight, but the game puts you in such dire straights with nearly unresolvable issues, that eventually I just felt myself giving up on certain missions, as I saw them as unobtainable.
Another issue with the game is it’s lack of variety. Since I played through the game multiple times to see the varying endings that were available, I noticed that the game does not change. You always have the same tenants, same illegal activity list, and same missions. You can play through the game’s short 6 hour campaign, but once you discover all of the game’s solutions, you may not see yourself returning to this world again anytime soon.