The recently released Beholder by Warm Lamp Games is an indie strategy game of espionage, informing, stealth and resource management. In Beholder you play as a newly installed state-run apartment building manager named Carl. As Carl your foremost duties are to your wife and two children and of course to the all-important totalitarian government you work for. After the previous landlord is carried away by state police in front of your eyes, you (Carl) are given the position of landlord and all the ensuing upkeep and maintenance duties. However, this game isn’t an atypical ‘landlord simulator’ type game—your true test lies in your ability to successfully spy on your tenants, gather evidence against them and then report them to the authorities…or not. One aspect of Beholder that I find very enjoyable is that you are given quite a bit of freedom when it comes to making choices about what you do with your tenants. Although you risk losing your job, house and family, you don’t always have to report your tenants to the authorities. But ultimately whether you’re a ruthless landlord or an empathetic one, the choice is up to you, and even more exciting is that the storyline unfolds differently depending on your decisions giving several endings to the game.
As a government spy, you must infiltrate tenants apartments while they are away, explore their rooms and furniture looking for evidence and even install video cameras to watch over them while you’re away. Although espionage is the name of the game in Beholder, you also have to deal with managing multiple resources, including money, reputation and even time. Occasionally you’ll be forced to make tough choices, which will test your decision making and force you to make tradeoffs. For example, when one of your children needs books for school or an expensive surgery, you’ll be faced with making decisions in the short run for quick cash or pursuing riskier uncertain paths to raise the funds all the while facing a timer. But don’t worry about any down time in this game such as sleeping. While all other characters sleep regularly, Carl on the other hand has been administered an experimental drug that takes away his need of sleep—giving you a whole lot of extra time to eavesdrop on your tenants.
In addition, the game itself offers a lot of freedom and personalization in gameplay because of the different choices the player can make as I mentioned earlier. For those familiar with decision making in The Witcher games, the interactions in Beholder offer a similar play style. Multiple different choices mean that the actions you take have differing consequences as well—many of which are delayed until progressing further in the game. This means that completing future objectives may be difficult due to conflicting past choices. In this way choosing whether to be loyal to the state or help one of your tenants can offer both pros and cons that need to be weighed. Not only that, but the totalitarian state isn’t the only thing you have to watch out for. If you double-cross some of your tenants they are equipped with handguns which deliver quite the unexpected justice.
In terms of the graphical design in Beholder, it is simply gorgeous as well. If you’ve ever read George Orwell’s 1984 you’ll feel right at home in this dystopian world. The hand drawn art style is unique in this factor and along with the music, I really felt immersed in this ominous setting. In addition, at first I thought one drawback of the game might be that all the characters are simple black silhouettes with white eyes. But as I began to play the game more, I discovered that the characters all have different distinguishing characteristics and behavior which add depth to the story and even had me empathizing with them. In addition, the resolution and graphics remain clear and detailed even when zooming in and out of the screen, which makes exploring the fine details in the cartoon style art really exceptional.
The only real drawback I can think of in Beholder was that at times after completing an objective or quest, I felt unsure of what my next step was in the game. There is a bit of downtime where you sort of wander around the premises looking for clues or waiting for people to stop sleeping so you can sneak into their apartment, which can feel kind of boring. However, I found that this was a good time to organize myself and take a look at my resources in order to form a strategy for accomplishing my next objective. All in all I think that if you enjoy having your organizational, decision making and strategy skills put to the test while also integrating stealth style gameplay, then I would definitely give Beholder a try. All things considered, I happily give Beholder as solid 9/10!
Watch the Beholder Gameplay video:
Beholder is available now on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux for $9.99 and supports English, Russian, German, French and Chinese. Beholder will be available at a 20% release discount through November 16, 2016.