Observation is a sci-fi thriller uncovering what happened to Dr. Emma Fisher, and the crew of her mission, through the lens of the station’s artificial intelligence S.A.M.
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Sounded like an interesting concept at first and, as somebody who reads a lot of science fiction, this seemed like something right up my alley. Unfortunately, the game is absolutely painful to play and the payoff isn't worth the time, money, or effort spent. The controls are slow, stiff, and make it extremely difficult to navigate the ship. This is made even worse by how frequently you'll be travelling around the ship, trying to manipulate your movement to get a good view of all the puzzles you need to solve. Combine this with obtrusive visuals (computer static, low brightness, and very unappealing and same-y design) and the actual gameplay was a slog to get through.
I'd rather not get into spoiler territory, so I'll just say that the story was similarly disappointing. It really seemed as if it were designed more to mindfuck the player with weird and cryptic imagery rather than create any real depth or explore any interesting questions. It's all presentation and no substance.
Observation is a spooky but clichéd sci-fi tale where you play the part of a space station's computer while all sorts of cosmic shenanigans go down.
Nice premise and atmosphere but this game is ruined slightly for me by having too much aimless dickin' about and an environment in which it's far too easy to get lost and disorientated.
Give it a go if you can get it cheap, though.
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.
Ooof, Observation. I've been looking forward to playing this one for at least a year, after I tried this developers previous game Stories Untold (review shortly after this one!) and have kept my eye on it. I bought it on the EGS a few months ago and figured Halloween is a great time to sit down and play it!
I kinda wish I hadn't. The game is set in the near future, and you are an AI of some limitations, on a space station a few miles above Earth. The game opens with the 'incident', where power is lost and one of your crewmembers boots you back up, and you need to work with them to get shit figured out. This is initially very interesting as you have to work from limited camera work and interface with other systems to get things done, but this also leads to the games main issue - the cameras move slow as SHIT and what you need to do is always an open question.
The game will give you goals frequently, but tell you almost nothing about how to complete them. Turn this on, set this to locked, open the doors, etc. You then have to 'wander' the camera around each area to try and find WTF the game is talking about and then figure out how the hell it wants to do shit. I had to look up at least 5 puzzles because I had no frickin' clue what the game actually wanted me to do. There's also a pretty severe lack of reactivity and believability with some of what the characters do. There's one scene where you're some doors to keep a character somewhere... there are FOUR exits to the room, and it takes a full 30~ seconds for you to deal with each. Why didn't they just leave?!?!
The story has some interesting and shocking beats to it (We're above Saturn!), but ultimately leans heavily into the MYSTERY of it all, and I'm usually not a big fan of that. I like the unknown and the mysterious, but when 95% of a horror/sci-fi thing goes completely unexplained and unaddressed, I'm just left disappointed. What is the marker? How did we GET to Saturn? When/Who/How was the original message sent? How are there so many of us? What is this 'planet'? How did SAM evolve? How did Fisher evolve? Why are some copies evil? What is happening to SAM at the end? "BRING HER" "BRING THEM" what does any of that mean? Not all of these questions need answers obviously, but SOME of them definitely do to feel meaningful. I didn't even know what to think or feel at the end, it just LOOKED cool, and nothing else.