Beholder Articles RSS Feed | Beholder RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Beholder: A Terrifying Orwellian Nightmare Tue, 31 Jan 2017 04:21:49 -0500 Angelina Bonilla

There’s a question we frequently ask ourselves that we don’t often get a chance to answer.

“If I lived in an Orwellian society or a dictatorship, how would I react to their outrageous demands?”

Now we have a chance to answer this question without living in an actual oppressive dictatorship -- thanks to Beholder, an Orwellian style strategy game developed by Warm Lamp Games and published by Alawar Entertainment. 

You’re tasked with being the new superintendent of an apartment building, and it’s your job to not only keep the apartments up, but to observe your tenants to see if they’re doing anything illegal. This seems like a normal job, but the problem is that you live in a harsh, totalitarian dictatorship. Everything you report about the people in your apartment building can lead to their detainment, all while you’re caring for your family on the sidelines. 

Image Provided in Press Kit.

The way you play Beholder is similar to a point-and-click adventure game, in that it’s entirely controlled by your mouse. Movement, setting up cameras, talking to people or buying contraband; all of this is done with the mouse. Recently, they updated the game to make it controller compatible, but a keyboard and mouse are still the best way to go.  

The entire game is on one screen, and while the environment slowly changes depending on who stays or leaves, you’re going to be on the same screen most of the game. Admittedly, this does get a little stale after a while -- especially during periods where you have to wait and press fast forward. It’s reminiscent of the Sims games at a few points, because you need to wait for someone to do something or leave their house in order for you to interact with them. Sure, you could be watching them, but they’re not always doing something scandalous or illegal which means you may find yourself getting weary of the game after a while. 

The artwork and the music do a good job of creating a dark, moody, deceptively mundane background that you’ll often not expect sudden brutality out of. But you’ll be getting it in spades, considering how often people get beaten in this game for minor insurrections.

Image Provided in Press Kit

Throughout the game, you wander around the apartment building, figuring out stuff about your tenants -- not just through normal means like talking to them, but with cameras you install on their ceilings to see what they’re doing when the lights go out. Then you can look through their keyhole to spy on them directly... and if you’d like even more dirt, you can go into their apartment and rummage through their belongings. From there, you can gather up clues that you can make reports on to the government.

This helps you build a profile of just what kind of people they are and if they’re violating any of the strict rules. Every new piece of information you get gives you a small paycheck, which you need for helping your family stay alive. In Beholder, unlike other games of its kind, you directly interact with your family members and they can give you quests throughout the game. These can range anywhere from buying books for your son, to getting chocolates for your daughter, or repairing the TV. As time goes on however, the needs of your family become increasingly more difficult to care for and you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to keep them alive.

These sacrifices will change the way you treat your tenants – for example, you can plant false evidence on them in order to make a report of their wrongdoing, then have them framed. You’ll often have to choose between your family or your conscience, and the choice ultimately depend on you as a person.

Now, if you don’t want to do that, you could always help out your tenants and do quests for them in order to assure their safety, but that doesn’t guarantee the safety of your family -- or even the tenants themselves for that matter.  The political landscape is constantly changing. So in one minute you may find yourself in everyone’s good graces, but within the next you may find yourself in a chaotic coup against the government.

No one should try to play this game within a single session, because there’s a chance that you’ll make mistakes...lots of mistakes. This is a very easy game to ruin everything in, and since there’s multiple endings and an achievement in place for the main character dying, there’s a high chance that you’re going to be starting over from previous saves quite a bit. 

There are times where you’ll feel as though nothing you do is right and you can get stuck in a fail loop fairly easily, even when playing on the easiest difficulty setting. If you want to be a “good person” and work for the best ending, you’re going to have to go out of your way to do so.  It can get a little grating at times because certain quests won’t pop up when you need them to. And sometimes in a two person household, when you knock on the door in order to get the attention of one, the other one will come to the door instead and you can’t talk to the other one. These are relatively minor issues, but they’re just awful to deal with.

Beholder is a deeply terrifying look at the concept of an Orwellian nightmare through the lens of a video game. It’s not a game you’re supposed to feel good about after playing, but rather a game that makes you think about why humanity does these things to each other. This is not a game for everyone, but if you’re willing to explore the desperation of being trapped in an Orwellian society, Beholder is the game for you.

A copy of this game was provided by the Publisher.

Top 8 Games From 2016 You Might Have Heard Of Sat, 07 Jan 2017 18:08:25 -0500 Angelina Bonilla

2016 has been a difficult year for many of us, and I’m here to bring in some positivity in the form of talking about some stupendous titles that I believe don’t get the love they deserve.

This list is for those games whose names aren’t trumpeted from on high as the most amazing thing ever created in 2016. Ordering this list was actually pretty hard because I do recommend everything on here and view them all as great in their own right. I just recommend some marginally more than others.

8. Anatomy

Anatomy is one of those games that are only straightforward in its vagueness because, while there is a story, it leaves far more up to the player’s interpretation. It takes place in a house where you have to listen to some audio tapes and wander about the house while it gets progressively stranger and stranger. It uses the glitch style to make it seem like the house is collapsing in on itself, to the point of actually crashing to desktop.

Anatomy relies on auditory horror just as much if not more so than visual horror, which for someone like me who has sensitive hearing, makes it a unnerving.

It’s not a traditional title in the slightest; in fact, it’s part of a genre called alt-games that goes directly against traditional game making rules in order to tell a story without those limitations. You may find yourself wondering what in the world just happened hours after playing it, which to me, more than qualifies Anatomy to be on this list.

7. The Curious Expedition

Ada Lovelace, Charles Darwin, H.P. Lovecraft and Marie Curie go on an expedition. No, this isn’t the beginning of a guttural bar joke; this is actually the premise of the game The Curious Expedition, where you have famous explorers, scientists and other figures from throughout history competing to gain fame and fortune. You, of course, lead their expeditions. Allow me to make no bones about this: everything is out to prevent you from reaching your goal, including your own party members.

There’s a sanity meter you must keep an eye on, and if you don’t you’re at risk of dying out in the middle of the jungle with a bunch of cannibals who formerly part of your expedition. Inventory management and party management is also essential in order to make it through alive. Once the expedition reaches that Golden Pyramid though, your long arduous journey feels just as rewarding as beating a difficult boss in Dark Souls. Everything that’s done in The Curious Expedition ultimately changes things slightly, whether it leaves you without an important item, money or maybe even inflicting an egregious wound on you. How the journey goes is entirely based around the actions taken, which adds seemingly dozens of layers to this game. The Curious Expedition is deeply complex and difficult, yet an unforgettable experience.

6. Hiiro

What an intriguing title Hiiro is, one that immediately caught my attention when I was browsing Steam. It’s an ambient exploration game with some puzzle mechanics that has you scouring the world for missing artifacts of the realms that have long been forgotten. After being set loose on the world, there are very few limitations put on our tiny red hero. If you can jump, climb, swim or walk there, then you can search the area, leaving no stone unturned. Add in the magical music by Jon Tabriz and Ben Harvey and you may find yourself with an existential journey to unearth all of the mysteries.

The artwork is rather cute and, while judging by all the skeletons you can see that this world used to have some colossal creatures lurking about, now you’re just here in a serene environment just jumping up and down in their rib cages.

Imagine getting lost and yet instead of feeling like you need to get back, you find yourself wanting to learn more about this place you’ve found yourself in. It invokes a real sense of discovery.

It’s not meant to be a game you completely devote yourself too, but one that allows one to put aside all the worries of the world and just journey across the expansive land of Hiiro.

5. Beholder

There are several titles that emulate the late great George Orwell’s work in some way, but I find myself most allured by Beholder.

Between the ink blob art style or just the way you go about observing your tenants, it adds a layer of intrigue to your work as a superintendent of the apartment building.

The observation of the other characters is in the forefront of the game and its fascinating system, even if it is effectively being used by someone who is the villain of the story. Our dear protagonist can be a villainous one and it certainly changes Beholder’s dynamic.

He’s employed by the state which means it’s expected to follow their rules for the sake of his family. Problem is, the rules of the state may go against your own moral compass and that’s where conflict of the story really begins. One might think that it lampshades that being a pawn in the state is a bad thing, and you should always do the right thing by helping people, but in Beholder, that’s not always an easy thing to do. The choices are not black and white, but multi-layered decisions that change the very fabric of your experience down the road. Beholder is a sobering reminder of what a grand scale Orwellian world actually is and reminds the player that for every choice you make there will be consequences.

4. Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander

Nobody knows how hard it is to manage a human alliance on the verge of extinction like the players of Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander. Not only do you have to manage your fleet and colonies, but also your alliances with aliens, all while also fighting a mysterious evil menace who wants the human race’s assured destruction. No pressure right?

Halcyon 6 is all about creating and then managing a system for resource gathering, battles, exploration and questing. There’s plenty to do and you’d be hard pressed to find a single dull moment that can’t be used for something.

The battles are turn based, which gives you a chance to carefully plan out the next move with your hand picked captains. Then you can level them up once they gain enough experience, which you only get from battles, quests or various jobs around the base.

There’s a risk reward system where the bigger the risk, the greater the reward and you’ll find yourself taking more dangerous missions as time goes on. Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander can be difficult, but nobody said that running a Starbase was going to be easy, even if it is just a game.

3. Seasons After Fall

To describe Seasons After Fall would be like describing a symphony; it’s difficult to put into words, especially in regards to the sheer beauty that is the artwork and soundtrack, which consists of a string quartet cheerfully playing as the Fox scampers across the scenery.

It is reminiscent of the pure wonder one might feel while watching the Disney film Fantasia the first time, except you get to control what’s happening on screen.

The seasons are controlled by the fox so you get to see the four seasons of winter, summer, spring and fall in their entire splendor in this natural grove. With this power you use it to platform using the environments itself to get to where you need to go. There are even some small environmental puzzles that make you rely on these abilities in order to move the plot along. 

The fox, or more so, the creature possessing the fox is the protagonist and the entire game is narrated to let you know what’s going on.  Even with that though, there’s actually an expressive nature to the tiny fox that lets you know what's going through its mind. Tail wags, ear twitches or even small barks can make it seem as though it’s talking; not anthropomorphizing it, but giving the players a chance to understand just what its feeling. Seasons After Fall is a beautifully composed platformer that, after being in development for 8 years, we can declare to be an overwhelming success.

2. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

Take a moment to imagine yourself in a world where your only job is to pick up other people’s trash in order to make money, and the one time you decide to have an adventure, you’re immediately cursed. Welcome to Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor. After the opening scene it puts the player in a routine: wake up, pray to the goddess, receive payment, find nourishment and then start burning trash.

Once the day is done you return home and write in your diary about how your day was. There is of course more to it, like memorizing the trading schedules of all of the colorful denizens or doing small quests on the side. It’s a strange title that relies on the fact that you, much like the janitor, want to see this through to the end.

You aim to escape from the mundane life into something grand, but it consistently puts you one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes you'll be robbed by the corrupt government or all the prices in the market go up. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor forces the player to look at their life as this Janitor and by the end of it, they might ask “Am I just another cog in the machine?” To be able to deftly portray that in a video game makes Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, one of the more provocative titles I’ve played in a long time.

1. Oxenfree

Oxenfree is a title that surprised me this year, one that I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. I certainly didn’t expect to do an analysis about it either yet here I am, giving it my number one spot. Oxenfree is about a group of teenagers that go to an island for a night of debauchery as per tradition, only to get wrapped up in some supernatural dealings with creatures from beyond the grave. The majority of it is based around the relationships the player builds between all of the main characters. It places a heavy focus on character interactions that, while many games implement them, few do in such a meaningful way.

The conversations, for the most part, feel natural and like you’re actually the one responding, since you can interject and cut people off, or even just walk away from an uncomfortable conversation, not responding at all.

There are other features in this game beside the relationship one, like with the radio communicating with the spirits or channeling Alex’s from other worlds, as well as trivia with various puzzles thrown in, but it blends in very organically.

Each character, no matter what your opinion may be of them, ends up having a nice character arc that allows you to learn about them, who they are and if what you’re doing affects them in any way.

Even the antagonistic force, the submarine ghost who are trying to send your souls into the void, you can relate to in some way. They’re written in such a way that you can understand their plight and empathize with them, speaking volumes of the writing overall.

There’s a fair amount that can be read in between the lines in Oxenfree and the experience isn’t over once you beat it; you can play it multiple times with varying results which changes the story, with some continuity being remembered by the characters. Oxenfree is an amazing game and if it was good enough for me to make that long winded analysis on it then it's good enough for my number one spot.

There you have it, the Top 8 Games From 2016 You Might Have Heard Of, a year that was bursting at the seams with great entries in this newer artistic medium of ours. While I could have included much more on this list, I decided to keep it to a top 8 in order to give a nice variety of games and for me to talk about the titles I believe showcased some amazing qualities that were shown this year in gaming.

More games were released on Steam this year than any other year, which means there were tons of games to pour over that we'll be talking about for years to come. Feel free to tell me about your favorite unknown game from 2016 in the comments below.  I hope all of you enjoyed the list this year and let’s hope that 2017 is just as strong for games as 2016.

5 Down-Low Awesome Strategy and Builder Games on Steam Fri, 18 Nov 2016 03:58:11 -0500 Damien Smith


And there you have it. Five strategy and builder games that have so far remained on the down-low. From strategic spying to a zombie genre hybrid, a Power Rangers-inspired game to a modern day Dungeon Keeper, there is a little bit of something for everyone.


What are your thoughts on the list? Are there any down-low strategy or builder games that you think should be on the list? Let me know in the comments below.


Dungeons II


Developer: Realmforge Studios


Publisher: Kalypso Media Digital


Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux and Steam OS


The Dungeons series is pretty much the Dungeon Keeper of modern gaming. You take on the role of the Dungeon Lord as you attempt to take over the world above. You will need to build dungeons and hire monstrous beings to help you wage your war against the heroes of virtue trying to smite you.


With a full single player campaign, varying multiplayer modes and tonnes of dark humour and references from fantasy books, TV shows and movies, there is a tonne of fun to be had with Dungeons II. Sometimes, it is so good being bad.


Get Dungeons II on Steam.


Chroma Squad


Developer: Behold Studios


Publisher: In-House


Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux and SteamOS


Have you ever wanted to play a Power Rangers game with RPG and strategy elements to it? Well, now you can with Chroma Squad. You take on the role of five stunt actors who quit their job to start their own Power Rangers-inspired TV show.


You will need to hire actors, upgrade your gear, do marketing, craft weapons, customs and giant mechs out of cardboard. With wonderful pixel art, a chiptune soundtrack and tactical combat with a twist, there is little not to like about Chroma Squad. 


Get Chroma Squad on Steam.




Developer: Madruga Works


Publisher: In-House


Platforms: PC and Mac


Planetbase is a strategy title with a bit of a difference. You must guide a group of planet settlers trying to establish an outpost on a remote planet. You take on the role of the base architect and manager, where you will have to tell the colonists where to build structures needed to survive.


To survive you will need to get workers to collect energy, extract water, mine metal, grow crops, manufacture robots, and build a self-sufficient base. Just remember: disaster can strike at any time in the form of sandstorms, meteors and solar flares. The fate of the colony is in your hands!


Get Planetbase on Steam.


Dead Age


Developer: Silent Dreams


Publisher: Headup Games


Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux and SteamOS


Dead Age is a real mixture of various genres. You have RPG, strategy, survival and rogue-like all in one. You take on the role of a number of survivors as they attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. You will have to scavenge for supplies, tend to the wounded and protect your camp from groups of infected and hostile survivors.


The game features permadeath, meaning once a character dies it is permanent for that playthrough. The combat features a classic Final Fantasy turn-based system. With a total of six different endings, there is a tonne of replayability to be found too. Overall, Dead Age takes a different approach to the zombie genre and brings an addicting and fun experience. 


Get Dead Age on Steam.






Developer: Warm Lamp Games


Publisher: Alawar Entertainment


Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux and Steam OS


In Beholder you take on the role of a State-installed manager of an apartment building. However, being the manager is but a cover of your real mission. Your real job is to spy on the tenants and report any illegal activities they may be performing.


The problem is, your actions will always have consequences. Consequences that you may not be prepared to deal with. With multiple endings, great replayability and good gameplay, Beholder is an interesting and fun title that came out of nowhere.


Get Beholder on Steam




In the modern age of gaming that we are living in, the rate at which video games are released is far higher now than it ever was before. With so many games releasing every single day, many go relatively unnoticed and seemingly appear out of nowhere.


Today we are going to take a look at five strategy and builder games on Steam that have remained on the down-low since their release. Let's give them the love they have always deserved.

Beholder Review -- Holding onto Your Morals or Lack Thereof Mon, 07 Nov 2016 06:00:01 -0500 Jeffrey Rousseau

If I were to ask you: can you maintain any relationship without trust? Your immediate answer would be no. They can't exist without trust. If I were to ask you: could you live without trusting anyone? Probably not. What happens if the country asks you to ignore your morals and suspect everyone? I'm sure all these questions are very uncomfortable and a hard sell.

This is the crux of my experience with Beholder -- developed by Warm Light Games and published by Alawar Entertainment available for PC. Beholder starts simple enough; the ministry of the state summons you for a new job.

You're a new landlord of a building and have to take over things. Being a landlord, however, is a front. Your real job is to gather details on the private lives of your tenants. If they are threats or targets in anyway, you must report them.

This is where the game's mix of genres come into play. First and foremost as the landlord, you have to manage occasional repairs and tenants' issues. This aspect of the game is more strategic and organic. Despite what may be happening, this stays constant. This is also how you'll come close to your building's residents.

The game takes on more of an adventurous tone during  your real job -- when you spy on your neighbors, you have choices. You can set cameras, go through their belongings, question them, and so forth. Circumstances allow for more access to tools and methods.

To Warm Light's credit, playing Beholder triggers a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Honestly,  I don't believe a video game ever made me feel that way. So how do I feel when I'm setting up cameras in the room of an older couple? Not so good. 

Someone's spouse mentions their vice. I wait until they go to work to search through their room. I feel very guilty as I document the illegal contraband. Do I report this? Wait, my daughter requires medical attention. I need the extra money. So I head to my desk and make my decision.

I had to throw away someone's life for my loved one's well being. Did I make the right decision? This question lingers in the back of my mind as new orders arrive. A new case arrives, and it requires me to gain another person's trust and betray it all over again.

What makes Beholder a worthwhile experience is how everything is designed to support its theme. Characters are defined by their black silhouettes. Artistically this makes seeing them as a person a lot more difficult. 

The music is mostly solemn and follows the tone of the game. When you're busying yourself as a landlord/husband, the music keeps the same pace. When you decide to report someone to the police, it changes. The music gets louder and more grandiose as they're whisked away.

Another layer of Beholder is the matter of choice. There is no clear right path or wrong path. In the hours I spent playing, I've seen scenario after scenario result in different events. After spying on someone, he confronts me. At this point, via the dialogue choices, I tell him the truth. In another choice, I forego the truth and choose to threaten him with eviction.

One of these choices resulted in me getting shot in the head. The other choice results in me providing help. No matter what you end up doing, the results will be long lasting. Best of all, it'll be unknown to you. This adds even more anxiety to everything else you're experiencing already.  You can also choose to go against the orders given to you by the government. Be careful, otherwise it's game over.

The game isn't without its issues, but these issues are minor regarding the overall experience. Being a point and click adventure title, at times the game isn't as immediately responsive as you'd like. There's also instances where a target overlaps with another. Another minor issue is how vague certain objectives are initially. However over time, they make themselves clear.

The title offers a lot of replay value as there's no way to know how the repressed people in your building will act over time. Plus, the game holds this "train wreck" factor that's hard to ignore. How bad can things get? How close to the edge are we? 

If you'd like to find the answers and challenge your morals, I highly recommend Beholder. You'll have an interesting time and develop some serious trust issues with yourself along the way.

Beholder is available on Steam for $9.99 and the mobile version is available on the App Store and Google Play for $4.99.