Beholder: Complete Edition is clearly inspired by dystopian works such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, it places you within a totalitarian state as the appointed landlord for an apartment building. There are a lot of moral choices which appear throughout the game yet every single ‘problem’ can be dealt with in various ways. This means that ultimately the way you deal with issues is more about your personality and mindset rather than the game asking you to do cruel things.
One such dilemma, will you buy/steal a gun for a lady whose abusive ex-husband is stalking her so she can kill him yet probably end up in prison for the rest of her life? Or, do you ignore her request and find out that her ex has hunted her down and killed her in cold blood? This game is all about morals, choice and the ‘impression’ of free will – just who can you trust and what would people do for money? So, come with me into the dark, gritty world of Carl Stein as I see if Beholder (be)holds up or not…
Beholder: Complete Edition begins with our main protagonist, Carl, being assigned the role of Landlord for a small 8-room apartment block which has been taken over and ran by the state. Being Landlord is merely a cover as the government actually placed you there to spy and gather evidence on your tenants as they innocently live out their lives, unaware of your alternative agenda. However, you must also balance the needs of your family and the tenants if you wish to remain trustworthy and loyal in their eyes. As I briefly mentioned above, you can approach many of the situations in various ways as there is usually a ‘good citizen’ route (where you please the state and earn brownie points with them but become less trustworthy with the public) and a ‘morally correct’ route (these will usually please the tenants but the state won’t like it if you come up for review and have let too many people slip by).
Your goal, in the main story, is to become the model citizen by reporting everything or at least using various liberties to push towards the greater good (the state will allow a few ‘good deeds’ if it ultimately results in the state getting what it wants – everyone conforming), or safely escaping with your family from this nanny state. Beholder: Complete Edition takes place over a very, very long timeline but can be cut short at any point due to the vast amounts of choices and outcomes. Luckily, on PS4 it has about 30+ autosaves so everytime you complete a mission, it saves. This allows you to easily go back and try something new if you died or see ‘what if’ for various situations if you want to try something new. The game also includes a lengthy DLC but I’ll talk about that at the end of my review as the mechanics are the same but the story is different.
In order to complete your assignments, you are given a few mechanics and this is where I found Beholder: Complete Edition very interesting and original. Your main objective is to spy on and profile your tenants, which you can accomplish in various ways. The first is to simply stand by their door and peek through the keyhole – this isn’t the best way but it’s free and you do sometimes catch them doing things they shouldn’t! Alternatively, as you interact with the citizens and please them you earn ‘Reputation points – these can be used to ‘purchase’ security cameras and repair kits. By placing cameras within the tenant’s rooms when nobody is home (three different sizes of coverage based on cost) you are able to see what the tenants are up to no matter where you are in the building. The final profiling/spying method is to rummage through their belongings when they are out of the room – just don’t get caught!
Once you find items, via looking through their gear in their room, you will see that the majority of the items are standard and non-important; however, some will prompt you to press triangle – this adds the item to the users ‘profile’ card and means that it is either important or an illegal activity. So you want to find as many of those as you can. Once you have some profile items, you can send the state a profile card with the information you have found. This is one of the first moral choices – you can tell the state what a person’s profile is and get money for it; however, if any of those things become illegal (as things are made illegal every day) and you fail to report that person then it goes against you and you can be fined as they have proof from yourself beforehand that the person is doing something that is now illegal.
As well as sending in profile cards, you can also report a tenant for illegal activities which results in the cops coming and arresting said tenant or blackmail the tenant into paying you $2000 so you don’t report them to the cops. Blackmail ensures you get a nice payout but it does remove the illegal activity (until you see them doing it again) and it pushes the tenant. If you push them too hard then the tenant will either take their own life or find a way to eliminate their blackmailer (you).
As you progress through Beholder: Complete Edition and you get to know your tenants, you uncover separate stories and missions you can complete in order to help others out. One such example is the first mission which involved having to evict a beloved tenant. Without giving away any hints, I have found three possible solutions so far. You can find another tenant a particular girlfriend (there are a few but it has to be a certain one) then break off his wedding to get cruise tickets to give to the evictees so they can escape. Alternatively, you can house a sailor and have him smuggle the couple out as long as you complete his side missions and he is happy with you as a person. Finally, you can spy on them until they do something wrong and report him, have the police come along and lock him up for life.
With that, I would say that there is a possibility for every playthrough to be different – would you morally rather pay for your daughters medicine to keep her alive or pay for your son’s education so he doesn’t have to drop out of school, work down the mine and ultimately grow to hate you and possibly even resent you enough it leads to him murdering you? There are so many various solutions and choices to be made that I’ve played it through 3 times and each time different things have occurred around the same storyline. One other thing to note is the ending – I’m not going to ruin it but the ending is down to how you lived your life and worked with people – did you help the state? Did you help the people? Or did you do a bit of both and now must try and save up money so you can escape before you meet your untimely demise? Because of this – there is plenty of replayability value within Beholder: Complete Edition.
Graphically, Beholder: Complete Edition looks great – all the characters are merely shadow-like people with defined white features such as their eyes and accessories. As you look around the house you see that all the furniture is broke and gritty, the environments are worn down and the lighting helps make the apartments seem so realistic in terms of how you would expect a building of this purpose would look in real life. The main character is great though, Carl is a fat blob who waddles around as you move – it’s kind of comical, light-hearted and always a joy to move from one place to the next. I’ve seen some people critique the game for this aspect and deemed it as inappropriate due to the nature of the game; personally, I didn’t see an issue with it as there were a few laugh-out-loud moments as I played the game. If it was dark all the way through then it would become depressing and I don’t think that’s ultimately what the developers were going for.
Sound wise – there is no talking, it is all text with the odd mumble so you will be reading quite a bit. The sound itself is great, the music gives an eerie tone as you patrol the apartments and even the propaganda van which you encounter later on is as annoying as it would be in real life. The only thing I would have asked for here would have been voice acting but for a small indie title, I can see why it isn’t there. Maybe if they do a sequel then they could consider some voice acting?
The complete edition comes with the ‘Blissful sleep’ DLC. At the beginning of the main game you see the previous Landlord, Hector, being dragged out by the police with vague information on why this was. This DLC allows you to play as Hector in the 14 days leading up to him being forcefully evicted from his role and offers a big insight into what was actually going on. This story begins with a new legislation being passed that anyone who hits the age of 85 must be permanently put to sleep – Hector received a ‘happy 85th birthday’ card from the government in the post and proceeds to tell the ministry that they are wrong. They insist they are never wrong and Hector has 14 days to comply, otherwise, they will come and take him by force.
You now have 14 days to do what you want – interact with current tenants, learn about the backstories of people you meet in the main game, look after a cat or willfully allow them to take you away earlier than planned if you have given up on life. It is all up to you. This DLC lasts about three to four hours if you play through it properly to the end. This is a great piece of content as the main game is about six to seven hours long and this one also has a load of moral and game-changing dialogue options and side missions. The fact we get this DLC for free with the complete edition really adds to the value and longevity of the game and increases the recommendation from myself.
My playlist of the first hour (2x 30min videos) – may not be playable on mobiles:
Beholder is a rare breed of game. It’s a dark, gritty theme with the odd comical moment and a hint of strategy all crammed together around moral, game-changing options and outcomes. I love it! If you have played Papers, Please and enjoy that style of gameplay, imagine that along with a hotel simulator and a TellTale game and you kind of get Beholder. The game has a lot of replay value, not just for trophies but also to see how people react to different options and how different choices play out. I can’t recommend this game enough whether you are a casual game who will just play it in short bursts or if you are going to play it non-stop until you get to some form of ‘ending’. Also, before you go out or go to sleep today, best check your apartment for hidden cameras, just in case!
Beholder: Complete Edition£11.99
- Lots of choices that actually change the gameplay and ultimately the endings
- Dark and gritty with a hint of humour to balance
- Lots of reasons for you to replay
- Contains the DLC for free with give you another 4+ hours gameplay
- Nothing is impossible - if you evict a key-person for a mission, there will be another solution available
- No voice acting other than a few mumbles
- Gameplay can get a little repetitive as you start with all the mechanics