Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: No Code
Release Date: 05/21/2019
Also Available On
I love horror games set in space as it’s probably the most unknown part of life that we know and is the most isolated and can be quite scary. Observation forgoes the aliens, monsters, and ghosts, and literally gives us an enemy that is the unknown incarnate. You play as the AI of the space station Observation and you help out crew members trying to unravel the mystery as to why their space station broke down.
Playing as the AI itself is rather cool and something completely different in an adventure game like this. You control cameras in a couple dozen sectors of the station as well as a sphere that you can move around in freely. The sphere is not where you spend most of your time in the game, but rather flipping through cameras, downloading data, and solving puzzles. It sounds odd and confusing, but the game really opens up with fun puzzles and an incredibly tense atmosphere.
The entire goal of the game is to follow the objectives the humans give you and this can range from scanning systems to locking down hatches. You can download audio logs and scan documents found on walls throughout the ship for extra story insight, but it’s not as easy as that. Each module in the station has 2-3 cameras and they have limited viewing range. Most stuff comes from laptops which require you to add them to your link list by pressing three random buttons that come up or turning on the powers socket near them. These contain schematics to open doors, audio logs, and some times hints. Your SAMOS has a map of every module and you can switch between cameras here as well as check various systems throughout the ship when an objective allows it.
It seems kind of lame on paper, but the execution of making what you can do as limited as the AI or a computer can be is just so fascinating to play as and explore. Being an AI that can see what goes on with these humans, and you can’t do anything for them, makes for some great tension and puts the entire story into another perspective that really hasn’t been explored all that much. I feel if this game were played normally as a human it would have been boring, but whole new mechanics open up and require you to think differently. While the objectives change frequently and most things are only done once, they are fun puzzles that require a little bit of thinking and reflex. One of my favorite things was going out in the sphere and exploring the space station in space. It was such a cool moment to see that as most games put you in a fighter jet or space just doesn’t look so big an empty. There’s very soft music, and little ambiance so it’s just you and the station in this big empty void with a planet below you. Subtle things like this can really boost a games’ cool factor.
The visuals are pretty good, but the animations are really awkward and animatronic like and kind of creepy. The voice acting is spot on as I felt the character’s pain and sadness through their voice so it really hits it home. My only big complaint is the game is 4 hours long and the story has too big of a cliffhanger. The story itself has a lot of plot holes because we never know why the station was attacked, what these beings are, and why they want the people in the station. Without spoiling the story the ending is just a big, “…and that’s it?” but it does leave room for a possible sequel…maybe.
Overall, Observation is one of the standout games this year due to its tense atmosphere, great voice acting, and overall unique gameplay mechanics that really feel fresh. I wanted it to last longer and I wanted the story to be more fleshed out, but what we get is something really memorable and unique, but sadly most people won’t play this because it’s an indie game and these don’t get pushed like they should.