I like playing games that are a little bit different.
As much fun as it is playing the latest instalment of Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, sometimes I want to just kick back with something a little more left-field. A game that’s smaller in scale, but tries to do something unique. Beholder: Complete Edition, out now on PS4 and later this week on Xbox One, is one of those games.
Becoming a state appointed landlord of an apartment building may not sound all that interesting, but it’s the strings enforced as part of your new career that make Beholder an engrossing and thought-provoking experience. You see, in Beholder, becoming a landlord also means that you’re expected to spy on your tenants for the totalitarian state. How you do that is up to you, but the powers-that-be would prefer that it if you didn’t get caught. The safest way to do it is to install one or more secret cameras in each of the apartments under your management, though peeping through holes in doors or rifling through tenants belongings while they’re out also work a treat. Whatever you do, you need results. Otherwise, you may find yourself thrown out like the previous landlord.
Thankfully, Beholder lets you concentrate more on interacting with and spying on your tenants than it does actually managing the apartment building. From time to time you may have to perform a bit of maintenance to keep your tenants happy, but the majority of your attention will be placed on the frequent tasks imposed upon you by ‘the Ministry’. You may be asked to find a reason to evict one your tenants, for example, or may even be asked to simply place some propaganda flyers in the hallways. But opportunities do arise to work against those who consider you to be not much more than a helpful tool.
Depending on the choices you make, you could end up working as part of the Resistance, assisting in their efforts to make the state a safer place for everyone. What they ask of you will place you in great danger, however. That’s the whole point of Beholder, though; testing your mettle.
There are essentially three parties vying for your loyalty in Beholder: your family, the Ministry, and the Resistance. Sometimes to meet the needs of one of those parties you’ll have to do something that upsets another, but as they say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. In any given playthrough you’re likely to try and balance the needs of all three to satisfy your own selfish agenda, and should you survive the year in the new position you’ll have your performance assessed by the Ministry. Well, unless you’ve done a runner. Which may sometimes be the best option.
A full playthrough of Beholder is likely to take between three to five hours; though your progress can be cut short by either being murdered or fired, as I found out. It’s an enjoyable way to spend your time too, but cracks do begin to show when you start to play for the second or third time.
Repetitiveness is one problem. While you have a decent deal of freedom with regards to you go about dealing with tasks in Beholder, you’re still dealing with the same tasks in the same order. Consequence can be an issue too. Sometimes, certain outcomes seem destined to happen no matter how hard you fight to prevent them, breaking the feeling of control that you have of the events and people around you. Maybe it’s a purposeful move by the developer to convey the fact that sometimes life is an uphill struggle, but it can be disheartening nonetheless.
There are also some minor errors in the game’s dialogue; lines that seem to be missing and such like. They’re not that frequent and don’t cause too much trouble, but you sometimes may find yourself confused by a conversation moving straight from “How much will it cost?” to “That’s expensive!” without a figure even being mentioned.
Aside from some minor setbacks then, Beholder is a curious game that blends multiple genres with an original premise, and the result is largely captivating. While your avatar, Carl, may only be a black shape on the screen, you’ll begin to feel for him and his plight. You’ll possibly become sympathetic to many of your tenants too, making it hard when you’re given orders to work against them. It may not always give you the freedom and results that you desire, but Beholder does better than most at making you feel like your decisions actually matter.
Comprised of the base game and the Blissful Sleep DLC, which offers up even more scenarios as the previous apartment building landlord, Hector, Beholder: Complete Edition is a unique and thought-provoking package that should pique the interest of any gamer that isn’t averse to a bit of strategy. It may not stand up so well to many repeated playthroughs, despite it having multiple endings aplenty, but while it lasts it’ll have you on tenterhooks as you go about your duplicitous operations.