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Laws are oppressive. Surveillance is total. Privacy is dead.
You are Carl Stein, family man and newly appointed landlord of a state-run apartment building. Your job is to shore up the shoddy mess of a complex the previous landlord left behind, find new tenants... and observe and document their each and every action for the good of the State.
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Carl is injected with a sleep-suppressing serum and provided with hidden cameras to allow him to monitor, document, and report on his tenants' each and every move, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In between his responsibilities as a landlord and the requests of his tenants, Carl will also need to make sure to take care of his family, ensure the bills are paid, and deal with any unexpected complications along the way while stalwartly upholding the law of the State. Any and all infractions must be reported, no matter who is at fault! To do otherwise incurs severe fines... but is it always the right thing to do?

Beholder is best described as a mix between a building management simulator, Papers, Please, and This War of Mine. As expected of a game than draws heavily from Papers, Please, Beholder features many more complications, bills, and deadlines than can be met with good and honest gameplay, requiring Carl to engage in theft, blackmail, and potentially even the planting of evidence and subsequent arrest of tenants in order to make ends meet.

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Beholder 2 was released in December 2018 with players controlling a department officer within the Ministry itself.

Not related to the iconic Dungeons & Dragons monster or the Video Game series based on it, Eye of the Beholder

Needs some Wiki Magic Love.


This game provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Carl does not need to be in front of his monitoring station in order to observe his tenants through the surveillance cameras. This saves the player from having to trudge back and forth between monitoring room and apartments while deadlines are constantly looming.
  • Adult Fear: Carl's 6 year old daughter Martha falls victim to a deadly illness very early into the game. Carl and Anna are afraid they won't be able to pull together the money for her extremely expensive treatment and care. And it's entirely possible you won't.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
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    • You do not need to be in the monitoring room to be able to observe what is happening through your surveillance cameras. This saves wasted time in a game where there are always looming deadlines.
    • The game saves every time you finish a quest and allows you to load these saves at any time, allowing you to try again if you miss a really crucial deadline or don't have enough money in time for a bill.
    • If a fine has been issued and you haven't paid it before the timer expires, a prompt will appear to give you one last chance to pay it just in case you managed to make the money in time but were not quick enough to get to the payment screen.
    • While talking with NPCs time freezes so that you do not have to rush through the dialogue to avoid wasting time.
      • This does not extend to the menus for writing reports/profiles or buying items, however.
    • The game features forms with many fields that must be filled out 100% accurately otherwise you will be fined - but you are able to double-check the info you have entered is correct by using the various information menus during the report-writing process.
    • "Trainee mode" roughly slashes the cost of most quests, fines and bills in half making it much easier to complete the game in the way you'd prefer.
  • Anti-Villain: Carl, if you play him that way. While it is his government-mandated job to achieve all tasks allocated to him by the ministry and report any infractions, that doesn't mean he can't try his best to be a good person.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The default attitude of most of your tenants. Some will warm up to you if you help them out, others will try to throw you under the bus if you so much as think of breaking the law.
  • Asshole Victim: The tutorial section of the game involves profiling and reporting Jacob Manishek, one of the tenants left over from before Carl became the new Landlord. All the tenants make it clear he is a giant asshole, with your daughter saying he pushed her down the stairs and your son saying he swore at him for standing in the hallway outside his room. No one misses him when you bust him for manufacturing drugs.
    • Manishek's Asshole Victim-ry gets turned up to eleven when you play the Blissful Sleep DLC. In the DLC, you learn that Jacob was a chemistry teacher for gifted students, and had a wife and son. He lost them both when the Schimmers' daughter was hit by a car, and she was revealed to be the Manisheks' long-lost daughter Zlata, who they were told died at birth so the Schimmers could adopt her and have a child of their own. Zlata needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative, and so Jacob's wife Louisa volunteers. Jacob forbids it, saying that Zlata isn't really their kid, and why should they help the Schimmers? As the landlord, you can help Louisa by reporting Jacob and having him arrested, allowing Louisa to go to the hospital and save her daughter. Louisa learns that she has the "traitor gene", and so does Zlata and her son, Marcus. Louisa flees the country with Zlata and Marcus, leaving Jacob without so much as a goodbye. Jacob returns from his false imprisonment to find that he's been fired from his job, and that his wife has left with his children. He is understandably completely shattered by this, and it leads him to becoming the man we see in the main game.
  • Being Good Sucks:
    • The game's economy revolves almost entirely around profiling, reporting and blackmailing tenants, as well as stealing their valuables or selling them off after you get the police to drag them away. Trying to be a good person and avoiding any of those activities will result in you being fined, jailed, broke, killed or left without a family.
    • One of the earlier tasks provided by The Ministry is to evict Klaus Shimmer, a kind old man who used to own the apartment complex who now lives with his wife in one of the apartments. The Ministry implies that getting him arrested might be preferable, but Carl may elect to find another way... Acquiring the documents and means necessary for him and his wife to leave the country completes the task but will result in a hefty fine when the man you retrieved the documents from reports you to the authorities.
    • Providing the increasingly large amounts of money necessary to keep your family alive and happy will bleed you dry, leaving you with less money to complete quests provided by tenants. The opposite also applies. Keeping everyone happy is extremely difficult.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: You're the new landlord of the apartment building, which involves monitoring and reporting on all of your tenants, 24/7 to ensure they are following the law.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The country is spying on its own citizens, and you're helping it do so.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Some of the game's dialogue has not been translated entirely accurately, with some awkward grammar in places and some outright misleading sentences.
  • Bomb Disposal: One quest toward the middle of the game involves finding and disarming an explosive planted somewhere in the apartment building.
  • Bribe Backfire:
    • Some NPCs may offer to you money to keep quiet about an infraction, or to break the law for them. Carl can choose to report them to the police anyway, whether he takes the bribe or not.
    • Bribing Mark Ranek, the archivist to retrieve Klaus Schimmer's absentee papers so he can leave the country will later result in a hefty fine when he reports you to The Ministry.
  • Commie Nazis: The game takes place in an extremely fascist, communist state with extremely strict and sometimes arbitrary laws enforced brutally by a militant police force. Things only get worse as the game wears on.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Near the end of the game Carl is called by The Ministry to let him know an inspection is coming and if he's not up to scratch (received too many violations) he will be detained. Shortly after this call a suited man appears near the apartment entrance who will imply that a sizable donation to the military or state might make them overlook some of your violations.
  • Crapsack World: Somewhat averted. While the state itself is a bleak hellhole of Orwellian surveillance with ongoing border wars, the outside world is shown to be a lot brighter and cheerful.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: Regardless of how you ended the game Carl becomes one of your new coworkers at the Ministry during Beholder 2.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: All crimes are shown to be equal - breaking any of the directives issued by the State involves having the police kick down your door, beat you, and drag you off to jail. Murdered someone? Beating and jail time. Possessing an apple? Beating and jail time. Singing within three meters of the Ministry building? Singing in front of the Ministry building? Beating and jail time.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The State outlaws the manufacturing of drugs... but only after the miners' trade union leader's son almost dies from an overdose. The newspaper implies that criminals forcibly injected him with narcotics, but the resistance's propaganda suggests that he wasn't actually a victim.
  • Dystopia: The game takes place in an dystopian surveillance state.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: New government directives are issued every day with increasingly arbitrary laws. Even when performing The Ministry's tasks to the letter, Carl will be hard pressed to make ends meet with the meager pay they give him for profiling and reporting tenants, making it necessary for him to steal, blackmail or trade in illegal goods to keep things ticking over.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The game features multiple facets to its endings with degrees of happiness depending on how well you did. Keeping your entire family alive and happy is hard enough, and only constitutes one facet of the ending sequence. Carl might also just be able to start making things in the country take a turn for the better.
  • Evil Is Easy: One of the best ways to earn money is to blackmail tenants, retrieve the hush money and then have them arrested anyway. Carl can then sell off all their possessions for massive profit, making many of the monetary tasks much easier to complete than if you tried to complete them honestly.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Profiles, reports and blackmail letters all require the player to fill in a number of fields and ensure they are 100% correct otherwise they will face a fine - in the case of a blackmail letter, the tenant will ignore it at no penalty.
  • Fictional Country
  • Friend in the Black Market: Nathan Kehler, a finely dressed man in a top hat who occasionally appears outside the apartment building. He trades in all goods - legal and illegal.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: There are no "correct" choices in the game, only consequences to bear for making them. The vast majority of the choices available to the player are moral dilemmas, burdened by financial constraints.
    • Since The Ministry isn't an omniscient beast that can tell when you've deliberately allowed someone to break the law, you can choose to condemn or spare anyone, for whatever reason selfish or otherwise. The Ministry will only fine you when they know that you've deliberately done something wrong (i.e. someone reported you, you were negligent, or you were caught in the act.)
  • The Inspector Is Coming: The last Ministry-issued task in the game is a warning that a mandatory inspection is coming. If Carl isn't found to be satisfactory, he will suffer the same fate as his predecessor - detained and dragged off to rot in jail for eternity.
  • Instructive Level Design: The first few tasks run you through the process of installing surveillance cameras, searching a tenant's room for information or illegal items, observing illegal activities via camera, and finally profiling and reporting them. The next few tasks and tenant quests involve doing so again outside of an obvious tutorial and also involve interacting with the trader or stealing items.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: All crimes are equal and will result in being beaten up and dragged off to jail by the police. This can be for something as simple as reading a book, or crying.
  • Jerkass: One of the later tenants in the game is all around irritable and outright states that he wants to go off to war so that he can kill people.
  • Just Following Orders: Carl can take this attitude and follow every order and government directive to the letter. This will guarantee that he will pass the final inspection, but there are severe consequences if you are not careful.
  • Meaningful Background Event: A number of these happen on the street outside the apartment between the tasks Carl is required to complete. Your wife Anna can be killed by one of them.
  • Mission Control: The Ministry of Order calls Carl via his office phone in order to provide new tasks or chastise him for failing his duties. Failing to pick up the phone in time is also a violation that incurs a fine.
  • Multiple Endings: The game features multiple endings split into independently assessed parts:
    • First is the state of the nation at the end of the game. This is largely dependent on whether Carl helped The New Tomorrow achieve their goals.
    • Second is the state of the border war, influenced by Carl's interactions with certain tenants.
    • The third and final factor is the state of Carl and his family at the end of the game. This is the most variable factor influenced by whether you were able to meet all of your family's needs and whether you chose to stay in the country or emigrate.
    • There is a secret ending too: peel back the sticker on the top left of any of the resistance's newsletters to reveal a phone number. If Carl dials this number it will prompt him to end the game, presenting an ending where it is revealed that Carl was put into a coma by the original sleep-suppressing injection and cast into a world where he is forced to repeat mundane tasks while trying to reach the center of the universe. The achievement for finding this ending is called No Man's Spy.
    • Beholder 2 reveals the canon ending of the game, and it isn't pretty. Canonically,as the state and Great Leader still exist, it is persumed that New Tomorrow was unsuccessful. Carl and his family did not flee the country,(although whether or not they attempted to do so is left unclear). Additionally, Carl didn't/wasn't able to get medicine for Martha, leading to her death. He was also unable to pay Patrick's university fees, leading him to drop out of university and subsequently become a miner. Patrick's girlfriend and her family are shot whilst they attempt to cross the border, and Patrick himself dies when the mine he's working at collapses. Carl's wife Anna dies after being shot 8 times, whilst Carl himself is taken by the Ministry and kept in stasis to be used as the genetic template for the mass production of Carl clones.
    • If that wasnt bad enough, it gets even worse! We learn about the ending above in Beholder 2 when as part of the main story quest Evan, the protagonist of the second game, uses the above information to force Carl to relive all his failures in an attempt to create better clones.
    • The sequel has multiple endings too. Most of them aren't pleasant.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Playing landlord doesn't sound all that fun, but Carl eventually gets involved in events of intrigue, conspiracy and revolution where he can help or hinder any cause.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: You can play Carl this way, for better or worse.
  • Nintendo Hard: Trying to scrounge together enough money to meet the needs of your family, your tenants, and those of the State itself is nigh impossible, requiring you to either play perfectly or make difficult sacrifices.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Any time you are try to do good by someone, there are consequences.
    • You can attempt to help Klaus Schimmer and his wife leave the country when The Ministry demands he be evicted or jailed. doing so requires bribing one of the other tenants, who will eventually rat you out to The Ministry.
    • Alloisius Shpak is a lonely doctor in search of love. You can help him find it... but neither option works out. Clara ends up being a gold digger, and Sarah ends up outright murdering him.
    • A propaganda truck shows up mid-way through the game which blasts patriotic speeches 24/7 which obviously starts bothering the tenants (and the player). Carl can find a way to have the truck removed or subverted by the rebels, but will incur a fine.
    • Ignoring the crimes of your tenants for good reasons will still get you fined by The Ministry if they become aware of it.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Carl can be killed or jailed for non-payment of fines, resulting in this. Some of these game overs actually unlock achievements.
  • Noob Bridge: The first big monetary obstacle in the game is Martha falling ill. After aspirin doesn't work, a doctor will inform you that she requires very special medicine which costs $20,000. Shortly after this your son Patrick will demand $15,000 or he will be kicked out of university. Keep in mind that the largest expenses at this point in the game have only been around $1000 which is easily achievable with the most basic money-making options in the game.
  • No One Left Behind: The best ending requires Carl to have saved himself and his family by emigrating to greener pastures.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The archives are described as being full of these - Klaus Schimmer has been trying to retrieve his absentee form from them but has been roadblocked at every turn.
  • Oh, Crap!: Carl and potentially the player when The Ministry calls to report that a bomb has been planted in the building.
    • Again when the bomb is located and starts ticking down rapidly. Carl is advised by The Ministry to find bomb defusal instructions in his mailbox and try his best to identify and disarm the bomb.
  • The Omniscient: Notably averted by The Ministry of Order. They won't notice if you fail to report a crime unless they have reason to know otherwise (i.e. a citizen reported you.)
  • Order Versus Chaos: Carl can choose to side with the State's particular brand of order, or help the chaotic rebels overthrow the government. Or he can stay out of it completely and look out for himself and his family.
  • Papa Wolf: Carl gets this way whenever either of his children are endangered. Especially so when Martha says Jacob pushed her down the stairs.
  • Perfect Poison: An arsenic solution late in the game is the only way to assassinate the general without any risk to yourself or others.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Being able to provide for your family is enough of a struggle without the added weight of needing to address The Ministry's tasks and meet the needs of your tenants. With all likelihood you will need to make sacrifices.
  • Point-and-Click: Carl is controlled purely via point and click actions and menus.
  • Police Brutality: Any time someone is arrested they are beaten several times on their way out to the police car.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Averted. Although you can place cameras observing every area of your tenants' rooms, Carl can never see them getting changed, washing, or engaging in bedtime activites.
  • Press X to Die: Some obvious dialogue options with certain tenants can cause them to murder Carl.
  • Propaganda Machine: The State regularly churns out propaganda in the form of its daily newspaper, posters, and later on, propaganda trucks. The resistance tries to do much the same with its own newspaper, found attached to the back of the State one.
  • Protection Mission: Late in the game Carl is charged with housing and protecting a famous general who is in town to deliver rousing speeches to the local university students. The Ministry informs Carl that there will be severe consequences if anything were to happen to him, or if any of his needs are not met.
  • Rage Within the Machine: Carl, if you so please. Making this obvious to certain characters may incur a fine.
  • Redshirt Army: The State's army is said to consist mostly of young men who are drafted and sent to fight and die on the border with minimal training at an alarming rate.
  • Run for the Border: Some characters describe this happening with increasing frequency as people try to escape the country and its increasingly strict laws. Any who make a run for the border are inevitably gunned down. Carl is offered the opportunity to try this himself.
  • Sadistic Choice: Very often if you're not playing on Trainee mode. Unless you're playing almost perfectly you might need to make extremely difficult decisions, such as whether to save your daughter from life-threatening illness, or pay to ensure your son stays in university rather than having to be sent off to work and die in the coal mines.
  • Save Scumming: Since the game saves at the completion of every quest or task and there's no restriction on loading earlier saves, the player is free to engage in this if they so choose.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The player can choose to invoke this when a number of different characters try to bribe Carl.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: ...alternatively the player can do this instead, and it's probably a better idea. Unless The Ministry finds out and you get fined.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: This sometimes ties in with the above two, but what's right in this game is mostly subjective.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The quest to get paperwork for Shimmer to leave the country is called Papers, Please.
    • There is a further and possibly more blatant shoutout to Papers, Please late in the game, in which you essential can move in the actual protagonist of Papers, Please and his wife. This comes when you have the option to move in George Dreiman and his wife, Krista-Maria Dreiman. If you talk to George, you learn that he used to be an immigration worker at the border of an un-named country. He's just moved here with his wife, but he's got even more family coming. This family includes his son, mother-in-law, uncle, and niece, who are all family members the protagonist of Papers, Please has to provide for. If you speak to Krista-Maria, you learn that life was very hard back in their un-named country. Her husband had to deal with constantly changing rules, terrorist attacks, and even having to shoot terrorists himself! She complains that they sometimes had to choose between food and heat. Anyone who's played Papers, Please should find this oddly familiar...
  • Simulation Game: The game is a building management simulator at its core with some stealth elements and a story.
  • Sinister Surveillance: As Carl, this is you!
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Carl's actions have surprisingly wide-reaching effects on both people and the country itself in the end.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: A mid-game event involves finding and disarming a bomb planted somewhere in the building.
  • Speaking Simlish: All characters speak in a mumbled nonsense language.
    • Strangely averted with the propaganda truck which plays messages in regular old English.
  • The Stool Pigeon: One of your tenants ends up being one of these. Which one? It's up to you to find out. It's Antoine, the propaganda printer.
  • Stylistic Suck: The entire game is depicted in drab colors, with the characters themselves merely fancy silhouettes with glowing white eyes.
  • Take a Third Option: Sometimes available to clear quests or tasks in non-obvious ways. An early example is finding a way to get Klaus and his wife to safely leave the country, rather than evicting them or having Klaus arrested.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Any time one of the huge bills comes in that you might not be able to afford in time, such as Martha's treatment for $20,000.
  • Time Bomb: Once you find the bomb planted in the apartment you have roughly 1 minute to disarm it as a timer rapidly counts down on screen.
  • Timed Mission: The majority of tasks and quests have a strict time limit to keep the pressure on. Failure to complete them in time will fail the quest immediately and bring about (usually) severe consequences.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The constant debate in playing this game. The law demands that you report any and all crimes committed by the tenants under your care, including those of your family. Being good to your tenants and family is often in direct conflict with at least one of the government's myriad and constantly expanding laws.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: This could be you if you're not good enough at earning money and carefully managing your expenses.
  • Undying Loyalty: One ending requires you to receive no violations and pass the final inspection with flying colors.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nobody pays much attention when people get killed in and around the apartment building. Everyone will just go about their business and eventually the police will show up to clean up the mess.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: A number of examples:
    • Carl can make a point of going out of his way to ensure his family are happy and healthy - perhaps by any means necessary.
    • You can find a way to save Klaus Schimmer and his wife from being evicted or arrested, by helping them leave the country.
    • When your son finds a girlfriend you can give him money to take her out to the theater, and even some extra for flowers.
    • You can provide Martha with toys for no real tangible benefit.
    • You can go out of your way to help out a distressed young lady who seems constantly sad and has trouble sleeping.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Equally possible and usually a good way to make money:
    • You can call the police on any tenant the moment you have evidence of them breaking the law, even if it was for possessing an item from days ago that had suddenly become illegal this morning.
    • You can steal any tenant's valuables and sell them off to the roving trader for quick profit.
    • You can intentionally refuse to let your son go out with his new girlfriend, or try to talk him into working in the coal mines.
    • You can plant illegal items in a tenant's room, "discover" them, and then call the police on them in order to have them immediately removed from the premises and surrendering all their possessions to you. You can then sell everything they owned for a tidy profit.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Seems to be affecting either Carl or the apartment building itself. No single tenant can be truly considered "normal".
  • What the Hell, Player?:
    • The Ministry will deliver one of these if the player fails to complete certain tasks.
    • One in particular is delivered by The Ministry along with a hefty fine if the player fails to report Antoine for being an insurgent, even though he's actually a government agent.
    • A big one if you report any of your own family members for crimes.
  • Wire Dilemma: Defusing the bomb requires you to first identify the type of bomb, and then check the defusal manual for the order in which the wires should be cut.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Jacob Manishek pushes your daughter Martha down the stairs.

Subject: Trope Reader
Verdict: Profile received.
Award: $900
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