Being a landlord can be a tough job. To make matters worse, the government is forcing you to snoop on your tenants. Welcome to Beholder, where nothing is private.
Carl Stein is just the average landlord who has been hired by the State to replace the old landlord. Part of his duty is monitor the lives of the tenants of Krushvitze 6 by means of security cameras and good old-fashioned snooping.
In Beholder, Carl and his family are moved into a new home. The snooping about tasked by the government is an attempt to catch criminals by any means necessary. Carl can help the state or stab them in the back and help the resistance movement in secret.
There are a number of options when it comes to spying and choice matters, but the story gets lost often. Certain choices and decisions seem to appear out of nowhere without any previous context. Suddenly, I want to flee the country with my family, even though my daughter died and my wife and son have been arrested for reading books? Good luck getting them out of prison.
While there are confusing aspects to the story, the backdrop is immensely powerful in telling the story of Beholder. Fleeing citizens, explosions and propaganda vehicles convey the dystopian message better than any story could. Ridiculous government directives are constantly coming through, such as ordering the arrest of tenants that own apples or blue ties, for example.
Throughout the time as the landlord of Krushvitze 6, it always feels like the government is looming. There are little events and reminders that will make the player want to tread lightly; Carl is no monitored just as much as his tenants. Beholder has a bit of psychological play with the player, leading to the ultimate decision: be a government lapdog or betray them and risk it all. For example, if the government order a tenants eviction, there can be two options: tell them the truth and risk being detained, or plant incriminating evidence in their room and look good to the government overlords?
There are a number of tools to aid the state in its goal to catch criminals. Cameras in tenants apartments, snoop through keyholes and break in when they’re not home. The gameplay is tense; it’s hard to know the tenant will be back to their apartment. Fortunately, a good deal of the stress is taken off once security cameras get placed in their rooms.
The gameplay has a tendency to feel repetitive. While this shows often, the repetitive nature of Beholder is saved due to the fact that most of the actions made are going to leave the player tense and finicky until the designated task is completed.
The art style and graphics of Beholder drive the dystopian message home. What stuck out the most to me are the character models. Characters are portrayed as shadows, indicating that everyone in this nation has been stripped of their individuality in public and private life. The totalitarian government seemingly has complete control over its people and made clear via the character’s appearance.
While it is a fun and engaging title, Beholder doesn’t offer much in replay value. There are multiple endings and scenarios, but for the most part, they have a “seen one, seen them all” vibe. There are a few different endings that can occur without actually completing the game, but the ones at the end are just variations of one overall ending.
Beholder is an engaging title with the intensity dialed up to 11. It’s not something to binge for days on end, but it is a game that could be played through every once in a while.
Beholder is available on Steam.