Publisher Curve Digital expands Beholder’s dark reach to console owners via the complete edition, which includes Beholder and the Blissful Sleep DLC. Beholder is described as an experience that became an instant hit with streamers back in late 2016, dishing up morally gray choices for the Twitch crowd for well over a year. Now that the game has arrived on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, does the overall package prove to be as exciting as it’s hyped up to be? Despite some minor issues with the fields of play it’s actually surprisingly endearing.
Beholder welcomes you to the dark side of the government. Where spying and double crossing is as carefree as breathing. The story sees you taking on the role of Carl, a faithfully loyal government salary man that lives in a grim dystopian world over which the State has absolute authority. Carl is tasked with overseeing tenant upkeep as the landlord of a state-run apartment complex, a dream come-true, for him at least. It’s not too unlike the world of Equilibrium as far as the concept is concerned. Taking on the role of Carl your goal is to strenuously investigate and (where necessary) deal with several tenants, all whilst keeping them comfortable and well-fed in the process.
Investigating your subjects on behalf of your superiors is key, as these particularly nosy individuals need to know everything that’s going on at all times. You’ll be spying on your tenants, applying surveillance equipment, and even rummaging through their belongings to seek-out any wrong doing. The interesting kick here however is that your tenants have their own lives, relationships, and routines. That wont stop you from being invasive though, hell it just makes being a prick somewhat more fun. As aforementioned the aim of the game is to ensure that everyone is well looked after at the same time as reporting the movements of your tenants to the higher-ups. This comes on top of juggling your family life, and furthermore the time that it takes for you to sneak around and install hidden equipment.
Beholder does indeed offer some flexibility in how you execute your rules. This is made all the more apparent by the fact that every decision you make can have knock-on affects. Quests will bend depending on your decisions throughout the game. You can choose to be lenient in some cases and help out a fellow in need, or you can be completely ruthless and blackmail your said troubled tenants for your own personal gain. On the flip side you have to constantly keep in mind that you too are under surveillance to some degree. If you find yourself as nothing more than a glorified gofor, the government may slam you and your family with harsh consequences. Should you choose to rule with an iron-fist you’ll lose the respect of your tenants as well as your reputation, which could then result in losing your job. The world of Beholder is a tough one, one in which balance and motivation must go hand in glove to provide poor old Carl with a decent outcome.
The game offers multiple endings and leaves the route to each ending entirely down to how you choose to conduct yourself. Missions will come thick and fast, with each often serving up a different goal with different time restrictions. Missions tend to range in difficulty as you progress through the game, with the government constantly updating you with the latest list of items that have been made illegal. Searching through rooms and spying on your tenants to exploit their misbehavior is only half the task, the other half is ensuring you receive a passable income. You can earn money in a variety of ways, such as passing all important information on to your boss. That being said, Beholder can be very challenging to begin with and takes some perseverance before fluid progress is made. Once you do gel with it, Beholder soon becomes a worthwhile and often rewarding experience.
It’s surprisingly easy to praise a game that heavily leans on privacy invasion, but this invasion doesn’t come without a price. Whilst you can spy on your tenants and rummage through their belongings, getting caught will cost you dearly. In fact it can completely destroy any bridges with your tenants if you’re not too careful, which can then make it harder to obtain specific items later on. Beholder purposely wants you to be a grinch and clearly shoehorns you into making morally difficult decisions. Money that may well make a struggling tenants life much easier is money that you wont be providing your family with. Money that you need in order to pay a bill is money you will only get from doing your job, and again, being a prick. In this regard Beholder is such a wonderful experience as it constantly tries to realign your moral compass. The question is, what sort of person do you want to be?
Outside of spying on your tenants you can indeed take the more direct approach and simply chat with them to gain intel. Much like every other element of the game, conversations can go either way. Dialogue options will offer up different branching conversation paths that can affect either you, the person you’re talking with, or the person you’re talking about. You’ll be rewarded with additional cash if you successfully rat on a tenant, to the point that the cops come and take them away. Sure, it can be all too convenient to stitch-up a tenant but if you make a tenant too desperate, you’ll need to watch your back. This is where you must strike a fine balance. As mentioned above the government will list off a constant guideline that lets you know what’s newly illegal. Tenants may have no clue whatsoever that they have broken a law, and although that cash bonus can be appetizing, it can be just as beneficial to keep these lawbreaking tenants in-house for other reasons or future opportunities.
The controls are as straight forward and simplistic as they come, with only a handful of commands to keep on top of. The visuals suit the theme of the game tremendously well and the presentation just as much. The camera angles can be jarring and the mission time restrictions can feel unfair, but these are small grievances in the grand scheme of things. There’s no denying that Beholder is one hell of an ambitious and in-depth game. Scenario’s are procedurally generated, meaning each play through will be unique in comparison to the last. Throw in the fact that almost all choices and actions can be tackled in a wide range of different ways, many of which house varying consequences, and it’s hard not to appreciate what’s on offer. Not to mention the added addition of the DLC.
Beholder houses a great deal of depth, even for a management sim. It’s an intriguing experience that will constantly toy with your moral compass, if indeed frustrating at times. This game isn’t particularly lengthy, but there’s a heap of replay value to be found within thanks to the procedurally generated scenarios and over ten different endings.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.