Beholder is a simple game at heart. You’re the landlord of an apartment complex in a country with an authoritarian government, obsessed with control over its citizens. At the behest of the Ministry of Order, you must ensure your tenants, and family, are loyal subjects of the state. If you fail you will suffer the same fate as your predecessor, dragged out in front of your tenants beaten and hauled off to jail.
You do have a choice, though. You can look the other way while doing just enough to keep the Ministry of Order happy. Whether you choose to follow the Ministry’s orders or not, you are provided with the tools to spy on your tenants. The main tools are surveillance cameras. These cameras are bought with reputation points gained through completing objectives and finding out your tenant’s interests. There are three levels of cameras, the first level and the cheapest cover about ten percent of the room, while level three and the most expensive cover close to half a room. These are your main tools, and the more you have the more you see, the more you see the better off you are. Since it does take quite a bit of reputation to put cameras throughout the whole building, the other tools are your disposal are just as useful, and free. Entering a tenant’s apartment is important, however; you can only do this while they are out. Finding times to enter an apartment isn't difficult as most people spend their days at work. Once inside, you search through their belongings to find any contraband, and anything that helps profile your tenants. The last tool is spying through the keyhole, this will grant you a good view into the apartment and allow you to watch the people inside, however since you can only be at one place at a time, you may miss what is going on elsewhere in the apartment.
These gameplay elements combine to make this a management of resources. The resources: money, reputation points, and time. While money and reputation points can be easy to come by, being careless with them will lead to problems later. Money is used to buy repair tools to fix stuff in the building, buy items from the black-market dealer, some objectives require you to pay to complete them, and to pay fines if you fail an objective from the Ministry of Order. Reputation points, allow you to buy cameras, and force people to do what you want, which is useful for certain missions. However, time is the most vital resource of all. Most missions have a time limit, and as the game goes on you may have quite a few missions going on at once. At points, it can feel overwhelming, especially when you first start playing. You can speed time, and pause if you need a break to figure out how to go about completing objectives.
This isn’t a sandbox, there is a set story. The choices that you can make, can guide the game towards different outcomes. While profiling tenants, you get to know them. They’ll tell you about their families, their lives, their work, and so on, which gives these faceless character’s depth, and a reason to care about them. Most tenants will have tasks for you to complete, some are rather menial like finding a pair of glasses, or help finding a girlfriend and the subsequent problems that come from that. These tasks add depth to the world, and are well done. Your family also asks you to help them from time to time. Your son, who is going to college needs help paying for books, and going on a date, however; in one of my games he got involved in some rather unsavory anti-government types and died. Your young daughter gets sick, and the treatment is rather expensive. Your wife mainly asks for money to pay for bills and asks for things to make life better.
As you continue being a landlord, you can’t forget your overall job, securing the will of the state. Everyone is subject to the whims of the state, and violating the large number of directives means going to jail. These directives range from prohibited drug use, and owning of weapons, to owning of books that go against the will of the state, to the absurd eating and storing of apples, to even crying. Yes, in this state you can’t be caught crying. If you catch someone violating a directive, you can report them to the Ministry of Order.
The Ministry will send the police, who will then find the contraband, or the guilty subject, beat them and haul them off to jail. If they live alone, all their belongings are placed outside the apartment, and you can sell them off. Your family is subject to this as well, if you catch them violating a directive you can turn them in. It is the ultimate test of loyalty to the state, are you willing to send your family to jail? In one of my games, not only did our daughter die, are son then died, but he got involved with bad people, and then my wife had the gall to read a book, so I sent her off to jail. This game will allow you to be a massive jerk to everyone, if you are into that kind of thing.
On a serious note, the game does a good job of giving you the feeling of living in this oppressive state. The dark color tones, paired with the music give an ominous feeling that you are being watched. The characters are all in silhouette, adding to the mystery, yet all the characters are distinctive. It is a beautiful example of a game not needing life like graphics to convey a powerful message. Technically the game runs well, and does require a powerhouse PC to run well. I’ve had a few issues getting stuck in an apartment after getting caught, but it seems exiting out and restarting the game put me out of the apartment I was in.
Still, after my first few hours in the game, it did feel repetitive. While there is a lot to do, and it is an interesting concept, it does boil down to the same thing. While the stories are interesting, after a few times I don’t have any desire to try and experience all of them. I enjoyed my time playing Beholder. Everything comes together well, and the initial experience is fun. It is missing that hook to keep me interested in playing for an extended period. That is the only complaint I have about Beholder. It will give you an enjoyable experience, even if it is for a short time. If you’re looking for a game that you can play for a couple days, Beholder fits that bill.