Beholder PC Review
No sleep management
Great performance and aesthetic
Plenty of freedom and large margin for error
Amusing writing and satire
Occasionally finicky controls
Warmlamp Games’ Beholder truly stands out among late 2016’s releases. A household management game at its core, it twists together elements and themes seen in iconic titles This War of Mine and Papers Please without becoming a clone or “-like;” a healthy portion of player freedom and the removal of punishing player wellness meters encourages experimentation. Still, the Motherland manages to be anything but forgiving.
Beholder has players in the shoes of Carl, a family man, a recent builder manager, and a servant to the Motherland, whose civic duty is to monitor and report the private lives of his tenants to the government. Players must choose whether to spend their allotted funds on college books for Carl’s son or hidden cameras to covertly watch their tenants, medicine for his daughter or preparing to move in a new tenant, whether to warm his home or please the government. If players fail to fulfill their assignments, report their findings, or even miss a phone call from the higher-ups, the police will more than happy to violently escort Carl from the premises on counts of conspiracy or harboring criminals.
Luckily, thanks to some government-lead experimental testing, Carl doesn’t need to sleep or eat, completely taking player well-being mechanics out of the picture. This was, in my opinion, a great decision by developers that really allowed me to concentrate my objectives and the story rather than worry about whether my virtual character felt sleepy. There’s never anything fun about a sleeping mechanic. The cartoony aesthetic and “Motherland” themed satire allowed developers to break from the typical survival meters often there to pursue of a more realistic tone.
As the game progresses, players take on more tenants and receive more mandates they must uphold, widening the margin for error. Early on, for example, possession of a philosophy book becomes illegal, giving players reason to sneak into tenant’s apartments and search their bookshelves. Makes sense. But then, even apples are notoriously contraband, giving players reason to monitor the building’s kitchen. It’s all very amusing but builds into quite the challenge. I almost felt like writing down all the mandates on a post-it while playing. A well organized and easily accessible HUD tabs open for easy access to any collected evidence, observations, or summaries of mandates.
Players can write profiles of their tenants to submit to central to detail behaviors or report illegal actions. Gathering information about a tenant is a matter of experimentation. It can often mean opening a conversation with a spouse or another resident, raiding their armoire or bed, or noticing recurring habits, such as smoking, drinking, or eating. When it comes time to submit a report or profile, players must fill out a form that requires the tenant’s name, marital status, apartment number, and much more. Each entry field present players with a variety of options which can be incorrectly filled and submitted, which consistently results in a fine and rebuke.
In my eyes, Beholder accomplishes everything it set out to do and doesn’t falter for a moment. Really, I tried but could not come up with anything I disliked about it. Sometimes the mouse’s scroll zoom can be a little finicky, I guess, but that’s about it. A competent production in all respects and with a low price tag of $9.99, Beholder is a 2016 must-play.