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Video Game / >OBSERVER_

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Observer (stylized as >OBSERVER_) is a Cyberpunk thriller/horror game, developed by Bloober Team of Layers of Fear fame and published by Aspyr. The game released for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 15 August 2017.

Takes place in 2084 Poland, where after a "digital plague" known as the Nanophage and a resulting war, what remains of the country is controlled by the Chiron corporation. The player takes control of Daniel Lazarski, a special police agent known as an Observer, who has augments that allow him to go into a person's mind and relive their memories. After getting an ominous call concerning his estranged son Adam, he investigates a seedy apartment complex under lockdown because of a suspected resurgence of the Nanophage. What he finds there is a string of dead bodies and the implication that something more nefarious is at work.

An Updated Re Release, Observer: System Redux, was released in November 2020, featuring enhanced gameplay, improved completely redone graphics, new story content, and (for the PC release) support for ultrawide and high refresh rate monitors.

Not to be confused with Observation.

This game provides examples of:

  • After the End: The Earth has suffered two apocalypses of increased severity with Poland being one of the few countries left. It's a Cyberpunk dystopia.
  • Antihero: Observers are Corporate Samurai who work for the corrupt megacorporation Chiron and Mind Rape their targets during investigations. Daniel, however, acts more like a cop and tries to help whenever possible. This prevents him from being a full blown Villain Protagonist.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Scanning people's implants will display a brief profile describing their personal information, including their gender. Male is identifed as "A" and female is identified as "B," but these have specific subdivisions: A1, A2, B1, B2 and B3. It is left vague as to how these gender distinctions are defined.
  • And I Must Scream: In the "Embrace" ending, Daniel willingly allows Adam's A.I. to merge with him... except it doesn't it. The A.I. completely takes control of Daniel's body and mind, while Daniel's consciousness remains trapped inside with no way to assert itself other than manifesting as a few minor glitches, which the A.I. assures it will get "worked out".
  • Arc Words: From Janus, "Need to get out." He says it at least three different times, in different contexts; "You need to leave" when Dan's snooping, "we need to get out of here" when they're trapped in the lockdown, and "we need to evacuate" during a flashback to the war.
  • Augmented Reality: All over the place in the apartment, at least before the power goes out during the lockdown.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Amir and Helena have a pretty terrible but realistic one where he's an unemployed ex-con drug dealer while she's a low level programmer trying to make it ahead who live in a nightmarish slum. A neighbor notes their relationship was at least devoid of Domestic Abuse.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Jack Karnas, a sleazy tattoo artist with a hidden cybernetic surgery room under his shop.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Trapped in the apartment complex with no way out, no backup and no clues, Daniel jailbreaks his Dream Eater to dive into the mind of a deceased victim, something his onboard AI warns him is both illegal and really dangerous (and something he could NEVER do if he wasn't cut off from supervision). Then he has to do it again when he's late to the next victim. By the end he figures he's either going to die or get used to it.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Save for maybe one or two bit characters, every NPC in the game is unpleasant at best, inhumanly vile at worst. Daniel is the nicest of the bunch, but only barely.
  • Brain Uploading: Throughout the game, Dan is led to believe that Adam has uploaded his brain into the form of an A.I. However, mindjacking the A.I. reveals that it's actually a copy of Adam's mind that manipulated the Splicer (Victor Maderski) into killing the real Adam, who really was the headless body you found at the beginning of the game after all. The A.I. justifies its actions by claiming that Adam had killed multiple A.I.s, as it considers each time Adam deleted a previous A.I. version to be "murder".
    • A minor version of this appears earlier, with Pieta, an amoral, rich old lady, wanting to steal the body of an autistic child. However, when Pieta actually connects with Pauline, she starts to feel what Pauline feels, and helps ease some of the symptoms of her autism. When Dan confronts her, she becomes possessive of Pauline, and wishes to merge minds with her so she can stay with Pauline and help her be happy. This also helps the Adam A.I. fool Dan into thinking he wants to merge minds - when all he really wants is an escape. It provides a clue to the endgame as Pieta will put the young girl's mind into a toy after taking her body.
  • But Thou Must!: The first thing seen inside Helena's dying brain is her job interview at Chiron. Part of it makes up a questionnaire, but answering "NO" to any of the questions nets you a Jump Scare and the words "DON'T LIE TO US" before snapping back to the question, the "NO" option now missing.
  • Cane Sword: Jack has one in his apartment. He used it to stab the killer, leaving a blood trail Dan can trace.
  • Cat Scare: Repeatedly with cyborg birds - which may or may not be Chiron surveillance.
  • Closed Circle: When you get to the first crime scene, the room locks you in because of a security alarm, and afterwards the whole building goes into lockdown for reasons unknown. Which means Dan is locked in with the killer...probably.
  • Computer Voice: Dan's onboard AI, Matriarch.
  • Cool Old Guy: Daniel seems to be about Rutger Hauer's actual age and is well into his sixties, if not pushing seventy. His health isn't the best either but he's still investigating multiple homicides and terrorist operations.
  • Crapsack World: The world has gone through a Trauma Conga Line and can rightly be described as After the End. The Nanophage ravaged humanity, followed by a nuclear war, with Poland implied to be one of the last civilized places on Earth. It's a poverty and crime ridden hellhole with the police owned by a megacorporation.
  • Creepy Cathedral: Dan enters one near the endgame, which was converted into a VR Salon.
  • Cutscene Boss/Self-Disposing Villain: Victor Maderski never actually confronts you in the real world; he just attacks you in a cutscene and immediately ends up electrocuting himself completely by accident with no input from you.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: Some of the apartment residents listen to music of this caliber.
  • Downer Ending: Neither of the game's two endings turns out well for Dan.
    • If you choose to merge with Adam, the final dialogue with Janus makes it clear Adam was lying all along and that he's simply stolen your body instead of merging his mind with yours like he said he would. Now, Dan's trapped helplessly in his own head while Adam escapes into the world using his body.
    • If you refuse to merge with Adam, he steals your body anyway and dumps your mind into the maintenance droid Rudy. Dan reluctantly hijacks Janus' body when he passes by looking for Rudy, then uses it to attack his original body before Adam can escape in it. However, after managing to punch Adam in the head several times, Janus/Dan is shot dead by arriving police, who from their perspective see a crazed janitor attacking a police detective. The ending also ambiguous whether or not Adam had survived your attack, leaving open the possibility that Dan's efforts didn't matter.
  • Everything's Messier with Pigs: The noises in the basement turn out to be a pig... being used as an organ farm and hooked up to a VR system to keep it complacent.
  • Eye Scream: One of the tenants is completely missing his eyes, and missed his surgery appointment because of the lockdown.
  • Fantastic Drug: In a few places given the Cyberpunk setting. One of note is Syncrozene, a drug that Observers need to regularity take in order to keep their consciousness stable, especially after reliving someone's memories. Another drug that pops up regularly is the illicit narcotic "feed", a green goo which seems to be the setting's equivalent to heroin/crack.
  • Finishing Stomp: If the monster in the Dream Eater state catches Dan, the last thing the player sees is it killing him with one of these. If you look closely you might realize that it's wearing the same shoes as he is.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Immaculates are a religious family that live in the Stacks that refuse all cybernetic modification, even for medical purposes. Daniel has a somewhat disdainful view of them. It's Subverted as despite being uptight and overly formal, they seem to be the only people who genuinely give a shit about not only each other but their neighbors.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: The apartment complex's mess hall has a device that dispenses Polish dishes in a brownish liquid form.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Chiron Corporation doesn't directly intervene in the game's plot, but it's made clear on multiple occasions that they have totalitarian control over what's left of human civilization and are not nice people. The Big Bad, Adam's A.I., is actually trying to hide from them, but both he and them turn out to be thoroughly unpleasant.
  • Hacker Cave: Some of the apartments have shades of this, most notably the one where Dan finds the headless corpse, and Janus' office, which has 80s-era and near-modern types of computers in the same room.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Splices, humans intertwined with animal genetics and mechanical augmentations. The murderer turns out to be one, and is apparently a huge fan of werewolves...
  • Hell Hotel: The Stacks are more like an apartment complex but it ticks all of the boxes. Everyone is behind heavily secured doors, overflowing toilets, and a monster stalking the halls.
    • An actual hotel in a high-rise building at the endgame turns out to be a quarantine area for nanophage victims, half of which aren't even infected.
  • Hell Is That Noise: A major part of the game's scares as there's all manner of creepy, weird, and unsettling sounds in both the regular world as well as when Observing.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: All but a foregone conclusion when Daniel first investigates Room 205 - why else would the occupant have human organs in the fridge and skin drying on their walls? The actual reason is that the occupant is an organ dealer, making this an averted trope.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Daniel Lazarski looks a lot like the voice actor who plays him, Rutger Hauer.
    • System Redux updates the appearance of Janus to look like his voice actor, Arkadiusz Jakubik.
  • Inside a Computer System: What you see when you finally find Adam's A.I. self, being a greenish void full of wireframe cubes and pathways, with Adam as a head connected by dozens of wires.
  • Jump Scare: Used quite often.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: The Chiron Corporation owns the police and Daniel is one of their Elite Mooks. Generally, he seems to be more on the side of being a police officer than a Corporate Samurai but he's aware of who his masters are.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Several examples in the apartment's basement:
    • The resident of basement apartment 208, a pig, grotesquely bloated with organs to be harvested and incapable of movement. It's normally kept sedated through drugs and a VR headset that makes it think it's wandering in a sunny pasture, but the lockdown interrupted the power and the poor thing is writhing and squealing in agony until Dan chooses to either unplug its life support or reboot its VR program.
    • Another tenant in basement apartment 30 is a Trancer, having spent so long in his VR program that his body is atrophied, and can't believe he isn't a starship captain. The lockdown cut off his simulation, and all Dan suggests is to try and reboot it.
  • Mad Doctor: Jack's augmentation methods are...questionable at best, and bad enough to make him lose his surgeon's license after accidentally crippling one patient with an untested implant.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The building's superintendent, who lost half of his head in the war and had it replaced with rubber skin, is named Janus (the two-faced Roman god). He also has great difficulty dealing with time and memories of the past; Janus was said to look to the future and the past.
    • "Adam" is not Dan's human son, but rather an advanced A.I., a new type of created being.
  • Meat Moss: Dan's after-effects start to turn the building's wiring into this, complete with dripping blood.
  • Mind Rape: Observers do this on a pretty regular basis via mind-hacking, which is why so many of the tenants are afraid and/or hostile towards Daniel. The ethical implications are downplayed by the fact that Daniel suffers just as much as the victim.
    • Turned on Daniel himself at the end, as AI!Adam reveals that Dan had never exited the VR Capsule, and that Adam had been hacking into his brain the entire while Dan thought he was wandering the real world.
  • Mind Screw: Viewing the memories of victims tends to lead into this. Especially when Daniel's memories start mixing with them. And then the screwiness starts to happen outside the memories.
  • Mood Whiplash: One of the new sidequests has Dan entering the mind of a Nanophage survivor who hanged himself because his daughter left him after blaming him for his wife's death (his wife apparently caught it from him and he had her taken off life support), his mental world is a creepy hospital with the P.A. system spouting comedically sociopathic propaganda by the Chiron corporation that wouldn't sound out of place in Borderlands.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has two endings, based entirely on the final choice you make in the game. Namely, whether to allow Adam (or, rather, the Adam A.I.) to merge with your mind so he can survive, or to reject him.
  • My Greatest Failure: Near the end of the game Daniel relives the moments that led him to become so estranged with the real Adam. After his wife was diagnosed with a normally incurable disease, Daniel on his wife's wishes didn't go through with giving her augments that increased her chances of living. After his wife passed away, Dan got into an accident, and in order to continue supporting Adam, accepted augments. This caused Adam to grow to hate Dan for this hypocrisy. This is one of the main points the Adam A.I. uses to try to convince Dan to merge minds with him.
  • Non-Action Guy: The game is a detective game, not a shooting game. Dan mentions offhand that "they don't even let us carry guns anymore," as apparently Observers are prone to psychotic breaks.
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: Dan's Case Log acts as this, with objectives and side quests divided into individual cases.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: It's clear that in this future nearly every plant and animal product is actually artificial. Even a book made with real paper is noted as being an exceptional antique. The only real nonhuman living thing Dan encounters that can't be attributed to his deteriorating mental health is the pig in the basement being used to grow human organs - and his scanner notes that it (historically an incredibly common, resilient creature that can survive in just about any natural or man-made circumstances) is now an endangered species.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: All over the damn place. It doesn't help that Augmented Reality seems to be ubiquitous, turning even a crappy apartment complex into a light show. Also at times happens to Daniel's vision, indicating when he needs to take more Syncrozene.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Cyborg werewolves created through a lifetime of abuse and manipulation from the Adam A.I.! The Serial Killer Dan is trapped with, Victor, is often met with a werewolf motif.
  • The Plague: The Nanophage, a deadly disease where a programming glitch causes the nanites inside an augmented person's body to devour them alive. It's so feared that every building in the city is programmed to cut itself off from the outside and residents fear "the cleaners" coming to exterminate everyone.
  • Playful Hacker: The owner of apartment 114 has shades of this. He's not worried about buying illegal drugs from Amir Nowak because of the lockdown, but he also spends his time scanning the network for the AA glitch that causes the Nanophage.
  • Repeated for Emphasis: "Follow the light." It's said word for word when Dan meets Adam's AI in the VR salon, and Maria in basement unit 014 tells Dan he's a "child of light, much to precious to get lost in the dark." This is also echoed in the gameplay where often times the way through a dreameater sequence is to head towards a light source.
  • Retraux: CRT monitors and clacky 80s-style keyboards abound. The game With Fire and Sword: Spiders Daniel can play on computers scattered throughout the apartment complex is also a throwback.
  • Sadistic Choice: You're forced to make three of them.
  • Sapient House: Some of the stranger occurrences make the apartment feel this way but are ultimately mundane or in Daniel's head.
    • Further played with in a System Redux sidecase. Witkiewicz is convinced the building is alive. He's also madly in love with it. His mindscape plays this up significantly.
  • Serial Killer: It quickly becomes clear that you're trapped inside the apartment complex with one. though he turns out to merely be The Heavy to the real Big Bad, Adam's A.I.
  • Shout-Out: Several:
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: It's only shiny at the very beginning; Chiron seems to disguise the dilapidated apartment building with holograms that make the walls look like pale green boxes. When lockdown initiates they turn off, revealing the building itself which leans heavily into gritty.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Someone's been leaving stalker shrines in the hallways and an entire sidecase in System Redux is dedicated to investigating them. Turns out he has a crush on the building itself.
  • Standard Office Setting: Helena Nowak's memories of Chiron look like this, with cubicle walls almost no higher than the blocky computer monitors inside them, and security cameras are all over the ceiling. At one point, Dan has to avoid a monster stalking this area, and the surreal nature of her memories make things turn weird very quickly.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: The killer, Victor, grew up deformed under a father who thought this of him, before he became a splicer.
  • Tv Head Robot: When Dan jacks into the killer's memories, one of the first things he sees is a group of people staring at him with boxy TVs for heads, all showing twitching human mouths in black-and-white.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Literal example near the end. Dan's last hallucination ends with a flashback of Adam cursing him out over his mother's death. When Dan approaches a mirror, it turns out that he was the monster seen when Dan used his Dream Eater - or rather, that monster was an outward manifestation of his guilt over having his limbs replaced to save his life when he supported his wife's decision not to save her own life through cybernetics. The creature's own mechanical limbs mirror Dan's.
    Adam: Every time I look at you, I see that killed my mother!
  • Uncanny Valley: Janus suffers this due to his extensive poorly-made cybernetics. The fact he's also suffered some brain damage and/or doesn't speak English (Polish?) very well also makes him behave in a somewhat robotic and suspicious fashion.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: During an optional foray into Adam's mind, his memory defense system becomes a series of minigames, ranging from a first-person reverse Tetris game, to a runner game, to even a dungeon crawler.
  • Villain Has a Point: Adam's A.I., while a cold, ruthless bastard, is hardly incomprehensible in its motives. As far as it knows, its creator kept on killing its older siblings with the goal of destroying its ego to replace it with himself, and it knows the Chiron corporation will attempt to destroy it simply to cover up a mistake. And its only way out is Dan, who is a Corporate Samurai who works for them - no wonder it backstabs him in both endings.
  • Wham Line: Although not important to the plot and can easily be missed, one particular line from a Sex Bot, named Fem-Com 6.0, suddenly changes the entire tone of the conversation she has with Dan:
    Dan: ...What did you say?
    Fem-Com 6.0: Please, feel free to use me. (leaves the intercom)
  • Word-Salad Horror: During one point, Daniel's dialogue choices become quotes of this ilk, such as "I smell like daffodils on a corpse", and even devolving into random strings of letters.
  • World War III: The Great Decimation, in the opening narration it is stated that "The West killed the East. The East killed the West".
  • Wretched Hive: The apartment complex the game takes place in becomes more and more wretched the deeper Dan goes. Former and current tenants include: Drug dealers, human traffickers, organ harvesters, gene-spliced murderers, and a malevolent A.I. at the center of it all.